It 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Lord’s supper: passed sideways with little to no eye contact with others, much less conversation about Jesus.
- Singing: This certainly can and does connect us as our voices blend together in worship to God.
- 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?