“In fact, one criterion to apply to worship in any congregation, regardless of the liturgical style it embraces, is that of historical remembrance and proclamation: Does worship proclaim the whole sweep of divine activity past, present, and future? Does worship induct participants into a cosmology in which God is at work faithfully in continuity with past divine action? Does worship convey a sense of hope for the future grounded in God’s faithful action in the past?”
When consumeristic people come to worship to only glean what will do them well for the following week, they have little patience for how God has been faithful in other people’s lives. They are, instead, looking for the understandable morsel or two as to how their lives will be made all the better, provided that they are treated well, worship is intelligible, and they get out in a timely manner.
But in all seriousness, we seem to miss the interlocking of God’s redemptive work in history and faithfulness in the present day, because we focus on one or the other to exclusion.
“For comfortable North American worshipers and worship leaders today, the great temptation is to slip into expressions of petition, thanksgiving, and proclamation that are nearly exclusively focused on the present moment. Perhaps this is an inevitable result of lives and churches that are content with the status quo. Our songs, prayers, and sermons emphasize God’s immediate goodness and even the vitality of our intimate experience of God. For us to live into the riches of fully biblical worship, our prayer, praise, and proclamation should be carried out as if we stand before a cosmic time line of God’s actions, fully aware of divine faithfulness from the creation of the world to its full recreation in Christ. It is this vast and specific awareness that grounds our hope when days are difficult and that leads us beyond the immediate concerns of our little egocentric worlds.”
The burden is on us, as pastors and leaders, to look to the task of spiritual formation that intersects our people in the workaday of their lives Monday through Saturday, and to pray that God would do a work. We need our hearts changed first, and then theirs as well, so that we do not come merely to consume and discard, but to contribute and display the work of God to all who may see.
Blockquotes from “Former Prophets and the Practice of Christian Worship,” Calvin Theological Journal 37 (2002)
- People Retention vs. People Formation (davidfridenhour.com)
- Regarding the notion “We better find out what they think.” (davidfridenhour.com)