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In HOPE - Faculty Publications

  In HOPE 7.24 

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David Timms  

Ministry Resource

Our struggle in the area of worship may reflect a poor understanding of who we are as the Church. One resource you may find stimulating as you ponder these issues is The Community of the Word: Towards an Evangelical Ecclesiology (IVP, 2005: 288 pages). The book presents a collection of essays by different authors who cast a deeper net than much of the religious marketing and consumerism that bombards us.

Hope Happenings

Join us on Friday, October 12th for the Celebrate Hope dinner at the Disneyland Resort with special guest Mike Huckabee, Chairman of the Education Commission of the States, former Governor of Arkansas, and 2008 Presidential Candidate. Huckabee is also an ordained minister and has authored 4 books including From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 STOPs to Restoring America's Greatness. Get more details and order tickets through www.hiu.edu .

Hope International University
Fullerton  CA  92831


Worship in the biblical sources and in liturgical history is not something a person experiences, it is something we do, regardless of how we feel about it, or whether we feel anything about it at all. The experience develops out of the worship, not the other way around. Isaiah saw, heard, and felt on the day he received his prophetic call while at worship in the temple (Isaiah 6) - but he didn't go there in order to have a 'seraphim experience.'" -- Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way, p.111.

Worship Experience

We frequently evaluate a church based on the worship experience it provides for us. Did we "get anything out of it"?

We want music that transports us to another realm and sermons that challenge, motivate, encourage, or entertain us. We may even hope for the soft hue of candles to soothe our soul -- and images of beaches, waterfalls, sunsets, and mountains (delivered as backdrops to lyrics and sermon outlines) to help relieve the tension of the week. Yes, we all like a spiritual pick-me-up. 

But our pursuit of "a rich worship experience" makes us self-centered idolaters. Imperceptibly, and ever so subtly, we worship worship and increasingly act as though worship exists for our gratification.

This same spiritual blindness afflicted ancient Israel.

In the northern Kingdom in particular, the "fun worship" of Baal and Asherah (false gods of the Canaanites) gained enormous popularity. People worshiped these fertility gods because they hoped to receive prosperity, fertility, victory, or protection from them. And the sexual license practised as part of the worship found willing and ready adherents.

By contrast, YHWH called people to listen to His Word and obey it, to pray, and to treat others with justice and dignity. Not much hoopla; not much fanfare; not nearly the self-absorbed and self-indulgent worship rites of the local deities.

Today's spiritual hedonism is matched only by the spiritual amnesia among us. We forget the nature of authentic worship when we constantly yearn for "spiritual highs."

Whether we worship alone or in the company of other believers, we need to abandon the quest for a worship experience and embrace the worship opportunity -- the opportunity to renew our allegiance and express our love to the Father; the opportunity to listen for His Word and respond to it. If a blessing rebounds to us, well and good. If not, just fine. 

Many pastors have turned Sunday gatherings into mass counseling (or pep rallies) aided by music therapy. They unwittingly make the congregation the chief focus of worship planning ... because we let them, or demand it of them.

Many of us pew-folk fail to lift our eyes beyond our own needs and desires. Our complaints (or compliments) about worship services rarely emerge from our awe of God, but from the level of our personal satisfaction with the experience.

It will change our lives and our churches when our worship becomes an opportunity to extol Him before it's ever an experience to consol ourselves.




Want to chat more on a topic? Hit "Reply" and share your thoughts.
I'm always happy to explore these issues further.

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You can find back issues of "In HOPE" (2005-2007) at http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/.

David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.