Eccumenical Worship Lessons

March 31, 2014

Conspiracy theorists, start your engines.  Hopefully, the title was enough to get you to read this, lol.  Before you accuse me of being in cahoots with some sort of Illuminati, Jesuit conspiracy theory seeking to bring all churches under one roof, calm down.  I’m still an Adventist pastor.

Seriously though, I’ve been on a bit of an eclectic tour lately.  Sarah and I have been wanting to check out how other people in the area worship.  So a few weeks ago, we visited a Greek Orthodox Church.  Last Friday night, we brought in the Sabbath at a conservative Jewish Synagogue (I even got to wear a kippah! [That’s the little cap on the head if you didn’t catch it.]).  Yesterday (Sunday), I got the unique chance to speak for the first time at Southern Baptist church.  These experiences have really made me look forward to, actually more like long for, Heaven.

To think that each one of these individual congregations could each be trying to express their worship to the same God really got me thinking about how we think about the point of worship and especially our contribution to the community of faith as Adventists.  This really came out at the Baptist service where the person giving the Welcome said something to the effect of, “We’ve welcomed you all here this morning, but have you all recognized that God is really our guest of honor today?  Have you welcomed HIM here today?”  Then everyone clapped and stood up as if the King of the Universe were actually there.

All worship services focused on what God had done:

  • The Greek Orthodox church focused on God’s sacrifice in the Eucharist.
  • The Jews focused on God’s care and deliverance for his people with the Sabbath.
  • The Baptists focused on God’s providence with his works.

Side note: So what is the focus of an Adventist worship service?  Yes, while theoretically it should be the Second Coming and/or the Three Angels Messages, what does that look like in practice?  I don’t think that, as a denomination, we have that figured out yet collectively.   From my own experience, I’ve noticed that in many of our churches, our worship services are dryer than Wheaties with no milk.  It’s ironic that a denomination that emphasizes the connection between the mind-body-spirit like Adventists do would have many of their worship services so cerebral and formal that the experiential (praise/emotional/physical) section of worship seems to go mostly overlooked.

The focus on any real worship service should focus on something God has done for his people; He is the center or the object of worship and not the other way around.  Dangerous things happen when WE become the center of worship.  We can either go to one of two extremes.

A. Wing it for Jesus (too casual)

Have you ever gone to or been a part of a worship service where things seem to come together in real time?  In some cases, people give God whatever happens to show up at worship service without any practice.  They might give an excuse and say, “We rely on the Spirit’s leading,” but what they really mean is, “We didn’t have time to rehearse and we hope this comes out better than we expect.”  I guarantee that if you knew your local senator were going to visit your church, you wouldn’t wing it when it came to worship.  You also wouldn’t wing it if you knew WHO the center of your worship was.

B. The Worship Critic (too rigid)

On the other side of the ditch, you have the Nazi who has to have every detail go off without a hitch.  If the pastor’s sermon goes past 12:30, they’re out.  If the special music hit an off-key note, they squirm in their seat.  If the children are too loud, watch out–you can expect a lecture on the way out about the importance of reverence in the church.  If someone happens to connect with God in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable (like particular musical instruments or a physical expression like standing up and lifting up their hands), you can be sure a letter will be drafted and calls will be made.

simpsonschurchwideDoes your worship service leave people feeling like this?

Both of these ditches view worship as something that is about US and think that our preferences have the highest priority when it comes to what is acceptable and what isn’t.  True worship is right in the middle; we plan, prepare, and strive to give God our best while recognizing that even our best isn’t what He deserves.  Worship is about recognizing that HE is in the house!

Seriously, have you considered what God sees when he looks at all of his people worshiping here in unison, at the same time, in different ways?  Heaven will be full of people that worship different than you here on Earth.  If you want to see what God sees on a weekly basis, consider starting your own little faith tour in your area.  This way, not only will you see the sheep Jesus has that are not in your own fold, you will save yourself the embarrassment of having to admit that other denominations made it to Heaven when you see them there!