Monday, April 28, 2014
Over sensitized is desensitized. . .
How this affects worship is another area that has not been fully pursued. We already know that new churches and churches whose worship practices are on the cutting edge of change tend to attract more existing Christians (at least they claim to be) than those outside the pale of Christianity. In part, what attracts people to the churches is the prospect of excitement that feeds into the desire for new, newer, and newest. Often times mega churches wax and wane in size due to the movement of people in and out as they search for that which satisfies their need for new, different, and more. This also means that those congregations in search of these people are constantly re-inventing themselves and what they do on Sunday morning. Their pattern is to have no pattern and the appeal is to those who come on Sunday morning expecting to find something new and satisfied by that which is new and different.
An honest question here is whether we should be feeding people's over stimulated lives or not. I have honestly wondered in my own parish about the constant quest to fill the building with activity, the calendar with events, and provide so many different places for our people to connect. Yes, there is something good in this but there is also something not so good. When the church becomes one of the agents feeding the desensitization of people, it does not matter the good in the content. It will not grow deep but will remain a seed only shallowly planted and subject to every wind, rain, pest, and predator that keeps the seed from growing. Honestly sometimes I wonder if we should not do away with everything on our calendar but worship, catechesis, and Bible study. I would be shocked if other pastors do not have the same uneasiness about the way the church contributes to the over scheduled, over stimulated, and over stressed lives of our Christian adults, children, and families.
One of the great benefits of liturgical worship is that it is predictable, it is not exciting (in the sense of created excitement), and it has a deliberately slower pace to it. This is the worship that is counter culture -- not the screaming bands with loud music and the pastoral monologues like a religious talk show host. The real counter culture on Sunday morning is exactly the Divine Service, the Word breaking into the world and revealing a Gospel to spoken in the world but which is definitely not of the world and its boredom, despair, sin, and death. Silence is key to this. The technological toys of big screen TVs and projection systems work against this very aim. The music designed for personal preference and mainstream appeal mitigates against the content of the church's music in service to that radical Word. Even the pews that connect us with others (vs the individual theater seating which tends to mark our divisions from one another) is counter culture.
What good are we doing Christ and what service are we providing the Kingdom when we simply repackage the over sensitized culture and put a Christian bow on it? What good are we doing those whom we are called to serve by creating the very kind of worship and church that desensitizes them to the Word of God, the Sacraments of life and worship, and the community created for us by our common life as the baptized around the Word and Table of the Lord?
It really makes you think. . . and take stock of what we are doing and why we are doing it. . . I cannot help but think of Chesterton again: The effect of this staleness (boredom) is the same everywhere; it is seen in all the drug taking and drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins or more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded sense….They try to stab their nerves to life… They are walking in their sleep and trying to wake themselves up with nightmares. (The Everlasting Man, p. 291)