Does our Worship Model Breed Disconnection in the Body?

pewspictureIt is certainly easy to idealize the worship of the early church, especially when developing community has been a big push in the last few decades. We certainly wouldn’t want to have to put up with half the things they had troubling them in their day. So I don’t want to idealize them but I think we can learn from them. On one hand they had their divisions. Paul certainly spent a lot of time writing to reconcile these divisions (Romans & Galatians in particular). At the same time, it would seem they had some advantages in being connected in some very real and powerful ways that we are often lacking in today. They had smaller churches, in homes, and I can’t help but think that impacted some of their practices in worship.

When you envision the five acts of worship we typically talk about today in our auditorium setting vs. their gatherings you get two somewhat similar but different results. Does what worship has turned into have some impact on actually disconnecting the body? Or maybe it is more subtle than that…does the way we worship lend itself to less personal/connecting worship than we might come up with if we could just start from scratch and develop another way of doing this?

Here are the five acts of worship (I know that sounds old school but that’s okay) and some comments on the lack of connection we experience in them through the way we do these in corporate worship:

  1. Prayer: Eyes closed, heads bowed. One guy prayers and everyone else listens. Now, prayer does connect us in a spiritual sense but that is more of a by-product than its main purpose.
  2. Preaching: All eyes on one guy, up front. He talks. We listen. Not really any interaction or conversation. This is why we call it the “auditorium” because it is the place we go and listen.
  3. Lord’s supper: passed sideways with little to no eye contact with others, much less conversation about Jesus.
  4. Singing: This certainly can and does connect us as our voices blend together in worship to God.
  5. Scripture reading: Like preaching, there really isn’t any interaction here. But like prayer it still has a connecting byproduct as we are all listening to words from our God to us as God’s unified people.

I am not saying any of these things are bad. I am saying that don’t always connect us very well. To be fair, the sole purpose of coming together on Sunday is not conversation or connection with each other. It is about conversation and connection with God and giving God the glory He deserves. So I am not saying we are completely missing the point here or that we have it all wrong. I am wondering out loud if there isn’t a better way to get more and better connection within the body in corporate worship. How have you seen it done?

Last, maybe it is the other way around and it isn’t that our worship breeds disconnection. Maybe our worship model just reflects the disconnection that already exists. Maybe we don’t really want to have that interaction or fear being vulnerable. What do you think?

9 Responses to Does our Worship Model Breed Disconnection in the Body?

  1. James T Wood says:

    I don’t know that the causal arrow goes in only one direction here. It’s entirely possible (and I think probable) that our individualistic culture leads to individualistic worship and our worship reinforces our culture. In the first century they lived in a communal culture and worship reinforced community.

    Every act of worship can be made more communal, if we’re willing to. But I think we need to be cautious when we correct our worship. The individualistic aspects of our worship aren’t bad, they give people a chance to reflect, process and work on their own relationship with God. The communal aspects aren’t all good, they can drown out the voices of the few for the sake of the many.

    Rather what I think we ought to strive for is a balanced worship that explores and celebrates all the different ways to connect with God. As a person who tends to be contemplative and individualistic, I need to stretch and grow into celebratory, communal acts. Some who are orderly need to explore creativity in worship. Some who are spitfire activists need to explore humble service in worship. We grow by learning to worship in eachother’s style.

  2. I see several things at play:
    • The view that reverence = silence and solemnity
    • The parallel view that smiling and interaction = irreverence
    • The fear of distraction
    • Misteachings about the nature of the Lord’s Supper

    There’s plenty more, but I think this disconnect is something we need to overcome.

    • mattdabbs says:

      These ways of thinking are getting fewer and further between, in my experience. But I am also outside the Bible belt. Hope that doesn’t sound like I am stereotyping when I say that because I don’t mean it that way…there is just a different culture here so what I am seeing won’t map onto every area of the country.

  3. This is a great thought, one that I’ve been thinking about a good bit from an anthropological view. The studies of human interaction, which were hypothesized 20-some years ago, show that the average human is limited to around 150 stable relationships. If, in the Body, we are to have God-mirroring relationship-based ministry, our modern church models are entirely out of hand, and not just the worship services; all of it. There’s too many people per church to connect with each other, let alone collectively connect, swimming upstream through the leadership’s need to constantly “deliver the message,” with God.

  4. Nick Gill says:

    I don’t know where you come from, buddy, but that’s not the Fifth Act of Worship in the Apostle Paul’s KJV! ;-)

  5. Being connected is essential if we are to fulfill Hebrews 10:24-25.

    And let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.

    This is definitely one of the “one another” passages. “…let us consider how to stir one another up… encouraging one another….”

    This is at least one of the purposes of the assembly, as I discussed in a post three years ago. You can read it here. This is in a series on acceptable worship. An index to the entire series follows this post, which is the last in the series.

    Thank you Matt, for encouraging us to consider how we can encourage this kind of connection with one another in our assemblies.

  6. This morning we changed the usual format we use for the Lord’s Supper. I presided, with some short comments. While I was doing that the other elders and their wives took their places at tables that had been set up around the auditorium. I offered a prayer for both the bread and fruit of the vine. We then invited the members to go to one of those stations where the elders served them both the bread and the fruit of the vine. We also allowed time for members to share with one another. I thought it was very meaningful.

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