Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Using Words Correctly

I've got a fairly recent pet peeve. I think it's justified.

I hate it when people who should know better use biblical words in the wrong way. Take, for example, a flyer I recently received in the mail. It reads:

"Living generously extends to the way we worship. When we use our gifts of preaching, teaching, music, drama, and hospitality, we provide an atmosphere that is attractive to others and conducive to true worship. Studies show that most second-time guests return because of the quality of the worship service on their first visit. This places a lot of responsibility on those who use their gifts in support of the worship service."

Where to start?
  • The assumption that worship is a service, not a way of life.
  • That "quality" of a worship service is based on excellence in performance instead of humbly seeking God.
  • The assumption that worship for visitors (at least partially), not Jesus.
  • The extreme pressure this puts on pastors.
  • The commercialization of the Christian faith (the rest of the piece says, "buy our DVD").
  • The idea that a move of God is dependent on our efforts.

I could go on regarding that flyer, but I won't.

Am I being overly sensitive, or does saying things like, "We have such awesome worship at our church" (using TWO words wrong) contribute to some of the problems we've discussed in this blog regarding the faith of our teens?


dean said...

I know you chose not to pick this apart further, but for the record, to my knowledge (unless these are "sub-gifts" that can fit under one of the biblical spiritual gifts), drama and music are not spiritual gifts... they are talents.

While a move of God is certainly not dependent on our efforts, it IS dependent in many ways upon our attitude (as you correctly pointed out, our willingness and openness to humbly seeking God).

The striving for excellence in carrying out a worship "service" isn't an altogether bad thing, since those leading the worship "service" are using their talents, which by definition should be things they excel at. However, the attention should not be drawn to them, but rather to Christ.

I think far too many churches believe they need to entertain teens rather than disciple them, thus the misplaced focus and emphases.

dean said...

... and another thing :-) I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the assumption that worship is something we do for an hour or so once or twice a week, rather than it being a lifestyle... the very essence of our existence as Christians... the giving of ourselves as living sacrifices. It gets way too easy to lead kids into compartmentalizing their lives.

Anonymous said...

you are not being overly sensitive. i agree wholeheartedly that this idea shows our teens that worship is something to observe rather than participate in (for more than an hour a week). Further, it puts the idea of worship into a finite box that includes only music, preaching, choirs, offering plates and powerpoint (or some list like that).

And I agree with dean about entertaining teens. sad that we can think that way about our teens.

Andrew said...

For me it starts out with the incorrect foundational assumption that 'church' is a commodity that we sell. When a worship service is something sold, it is no longer a worship service.

I am often bothered that we have told youth (whether intentionally or unintentionally) is that worship, church, or even the Christian faith as a whole is about what we get from it. We wouldn't accept this motivation for human relationships (I do things for my wife because they make ME feel good?), why on earth have we settled for it in our attitude towards God?

This is just another way of saying what has already been said: a worship service has, in may places, become a presentation. It is now a performance that we watch. The sanctuary has become an auditorium. The altar has been replaced by a stage. And on top of it, we have accepted that a life dedicated to Christ means twice a week services.

So, how does one teach youth the contrary?

Martimus Prime said...

To be honest, I would pick this flyer apart too, because it just seems to further promote he "entertainment" style of Christianity that is rotting our community of faith from the inside out today. All of your gripes are well founded and important to point out.

gavin richardson said...

i think you are right on target. it sounds like they are pulling stuff right out of sally morgenthaler's worship evangelism, which she now claims that she was all wrong with those premises. she doesn't get as many speaking gigs at big churches anymore

dan said...

Christian Smith in his book 'Soul Searching' said that with all the negative press we give teens for their rebellious and outrageous ways, that they are simply reflecting and assimilating what they are seeing in adult society. In other words, 'teenagers are not the problem in society - they are a reflection of it.'

Maybe the same is true of our churches. The problems youth ministry is having is not a failure on the part of the youth; we are all complicit in it, guilty of the same sins.