In the context of an article about “online worship” (a term that itself invites scrutiny), an interviewee mentioned that, having “attended” “church” “online,” he felt he had “been to a scriptural worship.” (There are so many questionable words and phrases here that one can lose count!) The phrase “been to a worship” indicates at least two misconceptions:
- That there is such a thing as “a worship” (“an assembly” or “a gathering” was probably intended), i.e., that worship is a noun—a thing one “goes to”—more than a verb
- That the Christian assembly is proscribed by scriptures to the extent that such a gathering may be deemed “scriptural” or “unscriptural”
Put more plainly:
- Worship is something that may be done or thought during an assembly (or at other times).
- The New Covenant scriptures do not really deal directly with what we do today in Christian gatherings.
During the 90s, I was so invested in group worship that I could hardly find value in anything else. Then, based on personal happenings, I changed direction, opting out of leading congregational worship for a year. I did work on performance material and facilitated a Sunday evening program that focused on one another. Even beyond that time, I was avoiding sermons that seemed programmed or irrelevant. I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, walking out while people were standing, covering by getting a drink or going to the restroom, etc. . . . but I sometimes even struggled to find value in communion.
With respect to sermons, I was taken to task by a well-meaning young man who was understandably concerned about my example. I think he felt I was a trifle misguided, but he was more concerned about the ramifications for others. Part of me felt hypocritical if I stayed in the assembly and looked as though I were really listening to the preacher, but more of it was about the use of time. I had other things to do that seemed a better use of time (e.g., reading scripture or other books, or or arranging music for Lights, a Christian performance group, or planning a small-group worship session or a devotional for the youth group). I was redirecting my energies. I suppose I felt justified because I understood the nature of things more than most, realizing that preaching and listening were not worship and really weren’t very corporate, after all. My conception was better than that of most others, although my “absentee” actions were troublesome.
Down the road a bit (literally and figuratively), I “enjoyed” somewhat more balanced practices and feelings–actually having almost equal struggles with both the output and the receiving: I was disenchanted with worship, praying, communing, preaching, scripture reading, and everything else. Church proper actually became a discourager. Then we moved decidedly toward the home group qua church. The pic below is from our home, ca. 2012.
At that point, scripture study and meaningful, lasting Christian relationships were at the forefront, with worship occurring at times. At the time, I was just beginning to delve deeply and responsibly into biblical texts, and I’ve continued on that path. N ow, I find that I’m moderately inspired again by worship, although I sorely miss more participatory activities. And, while I no longer expect good exegesis1 or even consistently “sound” doctrine from preachers, I’m currently inspired every week by a humble disciple who consistently points to Jesus, His Lord when he speaks to the group. (He happens to have a pastor’s job, but that is not why I listen to him willingly and habitually.) Whether the worship content particularly strikes me on a given Sunday or not, the sincere interest in serving for the sake of Jesus is compelling to me. I’m actually more interested in the sermons now than the worship. They are, believe it or not, more participatory and engaging than the worship music! It doesn’t bother me as much to enter the hall late while the “worship” is occurring. I think the constitutes a redirection.
1 On one particular Sunday, a sermon that set out to go “verse by verse” in one chapter also jumped to four other NT books. Five different authors; five different occasions for letters and gospels. No authentic exegesis occurred, but Jesus was honored.