Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Please Be Excited

When I was a kid, I attended a Lutheran church that was fairly liturgical. I still remember a rousing moment in the communion liturgy where we sung, "This is the feast of victory for our God!" I should note that my mom took me to a Pentecostal Church which was rousing in its own way.

When I was a young adult and God had recaptured my heart, I made my way through a few different denominations. For a while, I was in a nondenominational church, but then began attending an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in San Diego. These people knew how to sing hymns, play trumpets, and (just for the record) eat together. My favorite moment in the service was when we stood up after the offering and sung the doxology. Many voices joined together singing the doxology is a beautiful and powerful thing.

Recently, I attended a church that in PCA circles is considered more traditional. There were responsive readings, confessions of faith and of sin, and things were carefully ordered. And man, it seemed listless. And lifeless. I'm not at all judging the hearts, it just honestly made me sad. For whatever reason, people just seemed to mumble their way through the order of worship -- or was it just me?

And so, I was mulling things over in my mind. I didn't want to stereotype (what we call) traditional worship. After all, I do believe in blended worship which requires 1/3 to 1/2 parts traditional songs and forms. In fact, counting the sermon as "traditional" brings us to about 3/4, but anyway...

Here's my thought.

The challenge of any kind of worship is that people have to really understand, and have some excitement about, what they're doing, saying, and singing. In fact, it's not enough to be enthusiastic - it must be the joy of the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17) based on the gospel, not just the joy of nailing the right note (a joy I will sadly never experience). It is mere tradition if it is not invested with some enthusiasm concerning the amazing gift of the gospel. Pastors, teach your people what the forms mean and generate some enthusiasm about the creeds, readings, etc. And don't just do it by explaining or overexplaining everything. Be creative.

This is a problem whether in a traditional or contemporary setting. Lively music can stir excitement about the wrong thing (the cute worship leader or catchy melody). Revelation 3:1 should scare us all. So, we're all in desperate need of God's grace... to enflame our hearts, and to grant us the ability of sing, pray, recite, and listen with enthusiasm for the gospel: what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do!

But again... Pastors, please, I beg of you. Be excited. It starts with us.

Or better yet, it starts with Jesus. And so, Jesus, I beg you, grant us hearts that are truly roused by what You have done!

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