After several dares John K. Elmore has finally sent me some of his thoughts of worship. Of course by his thoughts on worship I mean pages of strong research organized and brought together in a robust argumentative outline. We’ve decided to collaborate on the project, which basically means I get to write essay-sort of posts from his content and proceed to feel smart about it. So bear with the upcoming series of long posts, since they’ll have far better content than I could muster with my time and energy. They probably won’t be up here for a while however, since I’m going to have an incredibly busy month of July. Your prayers are always appreciated.These collaborative thoughts purposefully follow on the heels of the previous posts on worship, especially the two “After the Encounter” posts. They are meant to give “meat” to my argument that we should reject the belief that “worship” is expressional in nature and to give direction and hope to those who are wondering what will fill the void. In proper Chestertonian fashion we will point directly to that which is old (or rather eternally young), the Church and her liturgical life. But before you find yourself mourning your praise song mentality remember that we are not discarding expressive worship, just appropriating it in the larger and truer context of the worship itself. Though the claims herein contain some exclusion, you need not worry that we will condemn a joyful heart for invoking a singing tongue. By all means close your eyes, raise your hands and sing the popular praise song “Here I am to Worship, Here I am to Bow Down, Here I am to say that You’re my God;” and then come and bow down before Him in with His people in His holy temple.
There are two sensitive issues that will be dealt with here; another reason for careful thought and wording before they are posted. The first is that people are very attached to the way that they worship, and rightly so. To judge or criticize different ways of worship makes people feel judged and condemned. Brother John and I both have come from un-Orthodox ways of worshiping, so please realize that we speak of ourselves – I from the sincere democratic formula of worship and the “worship industry”, and he from an intense Pentecostalism. Of more concern are the Ecumenical implications of the argument. You can get almost anyone to allow that there are better places for them to be worshiping, that there is a fuller and richer way out there that they haven’t experienced. What we are claiming is that there is a qualitative difference in the approach to worship, thus making several of the means of methods of worship distinctly wrong. Speaking as an Orthodox Christian; we have more to learn about worshiping in spirit and truth, and much to learn by those who sincerely worship our God. But we must also have the courage to hold firmly to what has been passed down to us, to our inheritance; and part of that is categorically rejecting this duplicitous thing that is being passed around as the fullness of Christian worship. Worship is the act of the Church, the pearl of great price, the Kingdom of God for which we empty our hands of everything else, because everything else is of lesser value.
It is not important for the people of God to point out helpful facts about the history of worship. It is entirely important for the people of God to have the worship of God, something you don’t obtain through research and debate. We are being sold (often literally) an ingenious facsimile, an image with the symptoms of Church that directs our Christian life. It is when we have the genuine article we shall spot the counterfeit. When our mended hearts are filled the holiness of the Spirit that is holy and our words are the True logos we will have no room for anything else. Sensationalism, adrenaline, and even artistic beauty will be washed out in the Beauty of the Saints and their Lord. And we singing, who mystically represent Cherubim, will lay aside all earthly cares as we sing Holy Holy Holy.