Missed opportunities

I know this quote is long, but it’s so good I cannot refrain:

“I think it is important to own up to the fact that perhaps some of our worship habits are a missed opportunity; that we fail to draw on the formative riches of the [historic Christian] tradition and thereby shut down channels for the Spirit’s work. I think we need to be honest that Christians in North America (and elsewhere) have perhaps developed some bad habits in this regard. We may have construed worship as a primarily didactic, cognitive affair and thus organized it around a message that fails to reach our embodied hearts, and thus fails to touch our desire. Or we may have construed worship as a refueling event – a chance primarily to get what I ‘need’ to make it through the week (perhaps with a top-up on Wednesday night), with the result that worship is more about me than about God, more about individual fulfillment than about the constitution of a people. Or we may have reduced gathered worship to evangelism and outreach, pushing us to drop some of the stranger elements of liturgy in order to be relevant and accessible. In all these cases, we’ll notice that some key elements of the church’s liturgical tradition drop out. Key historical practices are left behind. While we might be inclined to think of this as a way to update worship and make it contemporary, my concern is that in the process we lose key aspects of formation and discipleship. In particular, we lose precisely those worship practices that function as counter-formations to the liturgies of the mall, the stadium, and the frat house. We also lose a sense that worship is the ‘work of the people’ – that the ‘work of praise’ is something we can only do as a people who are an eschatological foretaste of the coming kingdom of God. In short, we lose the sense in which Christian worship is also political: it marks us out as and trains us to be a peculiar people who are citizens of another city and subjects of a coming King.” (James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, pp. 153–54)

Category: Of Worship and Work Comment »

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