Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Personal Worship Experience vs Corporate Worship

I ran across two excellent pieces today concerning the “personal worship experience” and “corporate worship.” The first is an article from Christianity Today called “The End of Christianity as We Know It.” You can read the article here. The author, Mark Galli, discusses what has become known as the ‘worship experience’ and the similar effects a ‘worship experience’ produces compared to hallucinogenic drugs. It is a good article that exposes North American Christianity’s obsession with the worship experience. Here are a couple of quotes from the article:
“It's a lot of work to fast and pray and worship and deny oneself—and even then, experiencing God is a hit or miss proposition! What's the fuss if we can pop a mushroom and have a nearly guaranteed religious experience?”

“If religious experience is something that a drug can induce even more easily than spiritual ritual and disciplines, it may be time, for example, to rethink what many churches are trying to do on Sunday morning: create a memorable "worship experience."”
“We are shortchanging our people when we make worship mostly about experience or a pep rally to motivate people to good deeds. We practice religious neglect when we fail to witness to them the saving story of God in Christ and train them to be fellow witnesses of that story, so that they might share that story with a world that does not know its left hand from its right.”

After reading this article Dr. Ed Steele, Associate Professor of Music at the Leavell College of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, reflects at his excellent blog Worship HeartCries about ‘corporate worship’ and the ‘personal experience’ by asking the question: What is Congregational Worship?

It is apparent from his post that Dr. Steele has been pondering this subject for a while but the connection to the Christianity Today article must have inspired him to write. Dr. Steele does a fantastic job pointing out that the solution to the ‘personal experience’ is found in true, biblical, corporate worship. Dr. Steele also does a fine job portraying the line between personal worship and corporate worship, a subject that I see too many times being overlooked which, in my opinion, then becomes the root for the ‘personal worship experience.’
Dr. Steele ends with five things that should happen on Sunday morning when we gather for corporate worship:
1. We must teach what biblical worship is and isn’t. There are still many people that believe that “the music is the worship...”

2. Personal worship is indispensable. We must feed daily on God’s Word; we must immerse ourselves in His presence in prayer. There are no substitutes for personal time with the Father.

3. Personal worship is not a substitute for corporate worship. We are baptized into the Body of Christ and are members of His body. There is no biblical idea of a member of the body existing apart from the body.

4. Corporate worship must facilitate worship that centers itself around Jesus Christ as His Body. The focus of corporate worship is not a focus on personal experience.

5. We must begin to learn what it means to live and worship as the Body of Christ. Personal preference is willingly subjugated for the good of the whole body.

There is much more that could be said about these topics but for now I would encourage you to read both of these articles. I would love to see this discussion continue and take a higher priority throughout the church. Please feel free to start that discussion in the comments section!

1 comment:

  1. One of the problems that seems to have become acute over the last 20 years or so is that the word "worship" has come to mean very different things to Christians of different backgrounds and traditions. See, for example, What is worship? | Khanya.