Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Worship Woes

My friend says he finds it unsettling that women should worship lead, simply because Paul himself denied them such headship roles. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise anyone since it’s a debate that refuses to die (a woman’s role in church, I mean). I can’t say I have come to any firm conclusion myself having disavowed a fair bit of my own traditional roots, but what my friend said next alarmed me somewhat. He said if it was up to him to worship lead, he would give away all the electric guitars and drums but the piano (!), to start with. No one would be up on the stage. As worship leader he would stand with the rest of the congregation - he in the front row, of course - all facing the same direction (like congregants in a mosque) and he would direct the church to sing only hymns. But then he says, “the youths would throw me out of the church.”

I’m intrigued by his comments and I confess I’m not sure if I’m supposed to laugh or cry. I have just started reading Worship By The Book (edited by Don Carson) and I’m going to keep an open mind. Interestingly, the first chapter has Willard asking if worship traditionalists have thought through their presuppositions carefully. Because, as he says, it is not as simple as it appears.

Then there is this article by Philip Yancey. Titled Would Jesus Worship Here? he sees strength and confusion in the internal logic of worship practices across the denominational divide (not to mention diversity of practice even within a single denomination). How strange we must all appear to an outsider seeking clues to our faith, he writes. He wraps up his impressions with the following:
"First, not many people in church look like they're enjoying themselves. Second, Christianity may show its best side as a minority faith. I see more unity and creativity in places like the United Kingdom and Australia, where Christians have little hope of affecting culture and concentrate instead on loving each other and worshiping well. Third, God "moves" in mysterious ways. To visit the burgeoning churches of the apostle Paul's day, you would need to hire a Muslim guide or an archaeologist. Western Europe, site of the Holy Roman Empire and the Reformation, is now the least religious place on earth. In Latin America, while the Catholics preached God's "preferential option for the poor," the poor embraced Pentecostalism.

Meanwhile, the greatest numerical revival in history is occurring in China, one of the last atheistic states and one of the most oppressive. Go figure."


Anonymous said...

Well, your friend might not like Chris Tomlin's version of "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross", even though it *is* a hymn ;)

Charismatic music is not for everyone, I guess. Yes there may be a lot of hype -- well, it feels like hype to jaded & cynical people like me -- but others are fully "into" it and I won't spoil it for them. They are worshipping with their whole hearts. For me, it has been a challenge to learn to worship even when I don't enjoy the medium.

These days I'm asking myself whether my refusal to clap during fast songs is just sheer obstinacy, reacting against the crowd mentality & "atmosphere" that sweeps many away. I'm asking myself whether God might be a bit more pleased if I could simply clap to praise Him instead of feeling that to clap would be to admit defeat on some obscure (but vital) point.


David BC Tan said...

No, my friend wouldn't appreciate a 'rockified' hymn. Hmmm, 'charismatic' music? There's fast songs, slow songs, hymns, choruses, chants, er, singing in tongues... well, there's room for all types I guess.
But worship involves humility I think, and whatever the form or style every encounter with God ought to humble.
The last bit - "obscure (but vital)" point - is a clue writ large isn't it? Wonder what that might be.