What should worship look like?

Any thoughts on the following exert from a recent article by Skye Jethani:

In Exodus 34 we are told that Moses covered his face with a veil so that the people would not be frightened by his appearance. In truth, according to the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, Moses covered himself with a veil so the people couldn’t see that the glory was fading away. Whatever transformation Moses experienced in God’s presence on the mountain was temporary, and the veil hid the transient nature of this glory from the people. His mountaintop experience was genuine, glorious, and full of God’s presence-but it did not bring lasting transformation. This is the critical part of the story we seem to have forgotten.

Moses’ experience is all too common among Christians today. Through the influence of our consumer culture we’ve come to believe that transformation is attained through external experiences. And, as we’ve already seen, many churches have engineered their ministries to manufacture these experiences for crowds of religious consumers. We’ve come to regard our church buildings, with their multi-media theatrical equipment, as mountaintops where God’s glory may be encountered. One pastor, explaining why his church opened another location across town, said “We decided, if you can’t get the people to the mountain, bring the mountain to the people.”

Ascending the mountain every Sunday morning, millions of Christians want to have an experience with God and this is precisely what churches promise. And not disappointed, many leave these experiences with a sense of transformation or inspiration. They feel “pumped up,” “fed,” or “on fire for the Lord.” No doubt many people, like Moses, have authentic experiences of God through these events. Others may simply be carried along by the music, crowd, and energy of the room. Whether a result of God or group, what is beyond question is that many people depart feeling spiritually rejuvenated and capable of taking on life for another six days.

The problem with these external experiences, as Moses discovered, is that the transformation doesn’t last. In a few days time, or maybe as early as lunch on Sunday, the glory begins to fade. The mountaintop experience with God, the event you were certain would change your life forever, turns out to be another fleeting spiritual high. And to hide the lack of genuine transformation we mask the inglorious truth of our lives behind a veil, a façade of Christian piety, until we can ascend the mountain again and be recharged.

This philosophy of spiritual formation through the consumption of external experiences creates worship junkies-Christians who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that does not fade. In response, churches and Christian conferences are driven to create ever-grander experiences and more elaborate productions to satisfy expectations.

Read the full article here.

HT: Jeremy Berg

 

3 thoughts on “What should worship look like?

  1. Martin Luff

    I agree, Ann. I think Jethani writes a lot of sense.However, I made a comment on Jeremy Bergs blog post on the same subject pointing out that if the occasional mountaintop experience is all that is on offer from church then it is better than nothing!To quote me from that comment:"….he (Jethani) seems to give the idea that the transient worship experience is wrong. In reality, I think we should see it as not ideal – since the ideal would be the deep life transformation gained through discipleship and the genuine ongoing encounter with God’s Word – but then we should supplement it with the transient worship experiences!!!! That was Moses’ reality – so why can’t it be ours?…..But most churches are not set up to encourage deep life transformation – and just offer the worship experience – which I agree with Jethani, short changes the people of God!!! But isn’t that better than nothing at all?"Any thoughts on that?Also, have a look at the discussion developing at Internet Monk on the same topic – link below:http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/open-mic-2

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  2. Ann van Wijgerden

    What I get from Skye Jethani’s article is not that such worship services/ experiences are wrong, but that we shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations from them."The problem is not our gatherings, but what we expect from them," he writes. And I think he has a timely ‘warning’ for both church-goer and church leader:"This philosophy of spiritual formation through the consumption of external experiences creates worship junkies-Christians who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that does not fade. In response, churches and Christian conferences are driven to create ever-grander experiences and more elaborate productions to satisfy expectations."I love stupendous, exhilarating times of worship. Of course! Who doesn’t! And surely being Church together is not a matter of "either-or", but "both-and", i.e. BOTH worship experiences AND getting down to the nitty-gritty of following Christ and personal transformation. Both mountain top and valley floor.Thank goodness Moses didn’t refuse to come down from the mountain.Another mountain top, the one of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13). The disciples had to come down from there too… Hope you don’t mind if I quote from one of my favourite authors, Oswald Chambers (‘My Utmost for His Highest’, Oct 1st):"We have all had times on the mount, when we have seen things from God’s standpoint and have wanted to stay there; but God will never allow us to stay there. The test of our spiritual life is the power to descend; if we have power to rise only, something is wrong. It is a great thing to be on the mount with God, but a man only gets there in order that afterwards he may get down among the devil-possessed and lift them up. We are not built for the mountains and the dawns and aesthetic affinities, those are for moments of inspiration, that is all. We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle. Spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mount. We feel we could talk like angels and live like angels, if only we could stay on the mount. The times of exaltation are exceptional, they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware lest our spiritual selfishness wants to make them the only time."

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