Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

May 08, 2004

On Worship

You know, it's funny. We had our second PDL meeting last night (remember, don't say the P-word!), and though we all seemed to agree (with varying degrees of intensity), that the book was not everything it's cracked up to be, we had a really helpful discussion of some of the Warren's fundamental points concerning worship. So it's definitely reassuring that some really fruitful conversation can come out of this. I was a little worried that I might have to hide my own dissatisfaction with the book--not wanting to rain on anyone's parade--but another group-member started off the conversation by saying, when I asked what he thought of the book so far (and with a tone of trepidation, as if he thought he might be booed from the premises), "It seems pretty shallow to me." Ah, honesty! How you do refresh us!

Then, after briefly discussing the shortcomings of the book, we were able to move on to the general topic of worship. I found the group's attitude regarding worship to be more mature and inspiring by far than that displayed in the book. Warren likes to keep things "pat" and simple, often to the detriment of his subject. Here are the three things you must know about this or that, he is continually saying, and you can't help but wonder if he has not counted up and carefully organized every need-to-know fact in the universe. But the group members were quite willing to question the text, and in doing so they sometimes found it wanting. For example, when Warren writes, "Worship must be complete" (one of the three things that worship "must" be), implying that an incomplete worship is not worship at all, the group questioned whether we ever really worship God completely, and therefore whether Warren's "must" was not more than a little overwrought.

Concerning all this and more, Nancy Scott, in an article entitled True Worship, writes: "According to Paul, true worship is not a particular practice or a right religion, but rather, it is a posture or attitude of our lives that understands grace; it is living lives that 'betray' our deep, inward belief in God."

Here's another excerpt:
Furthermore, it makes sense that any practice or any experience—whether planned or unplanned—can have a role in growing our faith. It does not have to be "religious," because often God uses the mundane experiences of our lives to grow our faith. We do not grow our faith by observing a particular practice or seeking a certain experience of Him. We do not grow our faith at all. God grows our faith.

Paul's emphasis in Romans is this: we can't gain favor with God; we never could, and we never will. If we understand the gospel of grace, we understand this. The whole point of Paul's explanation of law and grace is that God is committed to us, not on the basis of our accomplishments or practices, but because, in His mercy, He has decided to be committed to us, and He will finish what He has begun.

Our fallenness, however, inclines us to want to make sure we are "okay" with God. Too often, this desire for security motivates our practices. But our faith and our sanctification—the fact of God's commitment to working in our hearts—are the work of God. And the result of His work is seen in our choices, as we live our lives in light of the change deep within us.

This is, I think, a much more useful discussion of worship (and of Romans 12:1-2) than that presented by Warren. When the Kingdom comes, our worship will truly be complete. Until then, as Nancy Scott says so refreshingly, "in the midst of mundane or ceremonial life, as we stumble around and try to seek God, God Himself breaks in and does His work."


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