Travis over at oldworshipnew is onto something big! The emphasis of the individual, and the de-emphesis of the community when it comes to worship. Granted, the proverbial, I can worship God on my boat, or in the woods is clearly an individual thing… Yet, consider the following comments that are often heard. “Wow, I was really in the spirit at last Sunday’s service” or “Sunday morning sucked, I didnt get a single thing out of the service”. Whether it be the boat, or the above post worship commentary, the focus is on the individual.
This is a sad deal, as worship is not just the individual, but a number of other factors enter in as well. Travis brought up worship being linked to mission, and to accountability. I’ll go a bit further, and link worship to love and engagement of the community. Its easy to say one loves one’s community of faith, but to love and engage them means really knowing that someones kid didnt eat last night, someone else is failing at uni, and yet another is fearful that they find they can no longer drive safely.
A multitude of years ago, I attended a pretty massive church… 900+ folks at each service, and I knew perhaps 4 folks, and only 1 really well, and that was because he was one of my professor friends apart from church. In a whole lot of ways, I had set up my own personal space right in the midst of 900 other folks many of whom did likewise. Sure the sermons rocked, and we did have corporate absolution, the Eucharist, and during the prayers obviously many parishioners were prayed for… but I never knew who they were, much less could I identify them in the church, much much much less could I recognize them out and about in the community at large
There is no question that corporate absolution, the Eucharist, and communal prayers are a big deal (as are sermons that rock). Yet, beyond such matters, I never made any effort to engage with the community. The saddest part is, I could have easily sat back, and done the same thing for many years… well beyond the 3 years I was there.
The thing is… engagement is messy, worldviews get rolled, scriptural assumptions get challenged, and things are neither simple, easy, nor fast. It takes work, sort of like discipleship, or maybe a whole lot like discipleship. The challenge of a sermon is a good thing… but how much more to also accept the challenge of a community. Its as if I was saying to Jesus, ok, cool challenge me in the sermon, but I’ll pass on the part about actually applying it for real in the community of faith. In effect, I was using worship as an excuse to avoid a call to discipleship.