Thursday, May 16, 2019
We just want to DO something . . .
What is interesting is not the Novus Ordo, which is rather tame and ordinary, but the idea that the people need to do something and want to do something in worship. How many goofy and destructive things have been fostered in the spirit of giving people something to do? Strangely, this principle which was behind so much of the movement to make worship more egalitarian and diverse and to give the people in the pew rights and responsibilities of leadership (time in the spotlight) has not been followed by entertainment worship. In fact, the evangelicals seem to violate every principle of participation. Their music is for entertainment purposes, led by professionals (kids, don't try this at home), replete with professional quality video and audio, on a large stage, with a pastor who preaches by entertaining using Scripture as a pretext for saying what he or she wants to say. About the only thing the people in their cushioned seats do is drink their vitamin water or Starbucks and pay for the entertainment.
We invented the ordination of women because our culture found equality to mean interchangability and was offended by the idea that a woman could not do what a man did. We invented the GLBTQ churches because we found it offensive to think that marriage of one man and one woman (clearly the Biblical norm) was the God ordained form of family or that the church should sanction this above others. We invented all sorts of roles (from lay readers to praise bands) to give our people something to do so that they would not be passive before God. And in doing so, liturgical churches struggle to keep folks while the big box non-denominational evangelicals entertain their people to death while the folks just sit there (oh, and clap and sip their drinks of choice, and pay). Could it be that our people did not want to participate? Did the reformers get it wrong? We do everything in our power to erase the mystery and make worship practical and give people a part to play and still they have not packed the pews. Could it be that we presumed a blip among boomers was the coming thing for all generations?
The only churches who have been able to hold their own in the exodus of Christians from the pews are those where distinct roles between clergy and lay are outlined, where mystery is emphasized, and where God's actions are held higher than our own in worship. We thought (even Lutherans) that the key to growth or retaining our people was giving them something to do. We were wrong. It sort of reminds me when a member revealed that his preparation for first communion was the suggestion that nothing all that important was happening, the bread was not very tasty, the wine icky, and you would feel no different after eating and drinking the Lord's Supper. Don't expect too much because nothing going on in worship is really all that important or earth shattering. Yup, that person may be correct but it is not because they have read the Word of God right or know their liturgy. And it is an easy jump from the idea that God is doing nothing to the idea that I am doing something and what I am doing is the most important thing of all.