One of the most insidious errors we must avoid in church is the worship of worship.
In the contemporary church, music has come to be seen as synonymous with worship.
The problem with this then is that we find it so easy to worship the music rather than worship through music.
I was reading a blog article by a pastor in another part of the country who was lamenting the fact that his key musician was moving on to another church. He was seeing a loss which opens up an opportunity to bring other less tlaented musicians into the team. I'm seeing someone who has failed to realise that he never had the heart of someone who had a key role in his church.
Music is a like a glass doorway that can lead us out of the concerns of the physical world and into the awesome presence of God. In the same way that seeing a beautiful view invites us to step out into the landscape, music in church is meant to invite us to step outside of ourselves and into the adoration of God.
The trouble is that, as in all fields of human endeavour, we can so easily miss the point of what we are doing.
If we focus on the music- the style, the "tightness" of the band, whether we sing it in C or D, when to repeat the chorus, the mechanics of producing the sounds- then we remain inside the room admiring the door instead of stepping through the door.
The difficulty with this is that the people who lead the music in church are generally people who are musically capable and who are rightly concerned with these things. But their concern to get the sound "right" is often far beyond what is needed to get the job done for the majority of people in the church who would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a D7 chord and a D maj 7. Of course the musicians who are tuned to such things shudder when the wrong chord is struck, but most of us really don't notice that much.
So the church is led into this cycle of admiring the door, rather than going out through it.
Of course other traditions have other doors through which they enter into the presence of God.
For Catholics and other liturgical churches the sacraments are the principal means of experiencing God. In those traditions getting the words right and the actions correct are of the utmost importance.Only the most qualified person ever gets to say those words- you can't have just anybody take part because well they might not get it quite right and it wouldn't sound right, and people might not be able to worship (sound familiar anyone?)
In an earlier age, in the Protestant tradition (perhaps not so long ago), it was the preaching of the word that was the doorway. The correct sermon with the right words would change lives. The sermon "Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God" was preached by Jonathan Edwards. He spoke in a thin, reedy voice and hunched over the pulpit, he read a manuscript word for word. He told those who began to sob to shut up as they were distracting the others. This sermon launched one of the greatest revivals in the USA which saw thousands of people coming to the Lord. Strangely enough Edwards would have failed any preaching class.
In churches that maintain the tradition of the sermon being THE doorway, lay preachers are closely supervised and not just anybody is allowed to preach.
Reading the word, llectio divina, in which the Scriptures are slowly digested, meditated on and prayed over, is another doorway.
The arts such as painting, dance, photography, sculpting, poetry, drama, film and story can all lead us into the presence of God. They are all doorways which invite us to step outside.
There are so many ways in which our ever-present God invites us to experience His presence, and I'm sure there are many more that I haven't even mentioned.
If this is the case, why do we obsess over just the one doorway?
How can we go looking for those other doorways?
In the Narnia series, the doorway was in the back of a wardrobe in a disused room.
Perhaps it's time to find the wardrobes that the church has ignored for too long!
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