Indoctrination – part 2

Indoctrination header

This is part 2 in a 2 part series.  If you missed it, you can read part 1 here

What frustrates me about the indoctrinational aspect of Sunday morning worship is that so much of it is often so half-hearted.  This seems most clear to me whenever I’ve sung the song, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever.  I have to note that I have no theological, or artistic problem with the song.  I enjoy the work of Delirious? very much.  My problem is with the way we sing it (and yes, I realize that fortunately the era of singing this one to death is long past).

I could sing of Your love forever, (Repeat endlessly, or 4 times, whichever seems longer)

Oh, I feel like dancing – it’s foolishness I know;
but, when the world has seen the light,

they will dance with joy, like we’re dancing now.

Every time I’ve sung this song, I have had two main thoughts.  The first is about whether anyone in the room is thinking, “I really wish that this worship service would never ever end.  I am just going to quit my job and everything I do so that I can just do this from now on.”  The second thought involves me noticing that everyone is just standing there singing until it reaches the line about dancing, and then they step side to side for a couple measures, so that they aren’t actively lying to God.  If they didn’t do this, someone might stop them after church and say, “Why are you hurting God’s heart by not doing the Worship Two-Step?”

Now contrast that with the scene in Isaiah, chapter 6 where Isaiah is brought into God’s throne room.  I love the first verse, which just nonchalantly says “I saw the LORD, seated on His throne…” right after a detailed description of the timeframe.  It is like slipping you winning the lottery into a diary entry on what happened during your day.  Reading it that way, I imagine Isaiah on an anonymous Thursday afternoon when, BAM, he’s in front of God, and everything goes into overload.

As Isaiah describes the scene in this throne room, he is wrecked.  He’s lying face down on the ground screaming at God that he isn’t worthy to be here.  All he can think about is how his personal dirtiness is so vile in the presence of god.  I don’t sense Isaiah thinking much about this, just falling and screaming.  God picks him up, dusts him off, cleanses him, and starts talking to him as a son.

Bear in mind that Isaiah didn’t come to this little party as a heathen.  He was already a prophet of God.  He was one of the good guys.  But Isaiah suddenly had a new realization of who God actually is, in a deeper way than he ever had, and he could no longer even stand up.

I bet Isaiah would have quite a chuckle as he watched us sing many of our worship songs.  I guess that most of the characters in the Bible would.  David danced around the city semi-naked-ecstatic.  Paul worshipped as he sat chained between soldiers in prison. So did Daniel as lions licked their lips and imaged him as a roast, Wile-E-Coyote-style.  They did all this without even having video projection.

I bet many churches throughout history have worried that they are secretly the church of Laodicea.  I worry sometimes too.  I don’t think we are, but I bet that the church of Laodicea thought they were quite awesome at their worship too.  Jesus was out front banging at the door for them to invite him to the party, but they couldn’t hear him over the sub-woofer.

I hope God doesn’t hear our worship and get really upset at how polished and hollow and arrogant it is.  Sometimes I approach worship so arrogant and distracted.  I hope I never have an Isaiah experience that leaves me wrecked, but I bet Isaiah would have counted it as the best moment of his life.  Maybe in that light, my worship is pretty hollow. -Ryan

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5 Replies to “Indoctrination – part 2”

  1. I have always wondered – how do we know that Isaiah or Davids worship style was actually the right response? Just because the Bible records an event, that doesn’t mean it is always an example of what to do right. Or even wrong for that matter – it could just be what happens. Ever wonder if God just looked at David ans thought “hmmm… that’s interesting. His clothes fell off. You would think a king could afford a better belt…” I doubt it, but I have often wondered how can we tell what is the right thing to do in places where the Bible offers no commentary or scriptural guidance.

    I have also read the interpretation of Isaiah 6 that you give above in a few places – there is even a song by One Bad Pig that follows the same logic. Not sure if that is how I would read the passage. I can see it being possible, but there really isn’t a record of Isaiah falling down, or going into massive distress, or God picking him up, etc. It could almost be read like Isaiah was stained there and had a very loud, awkward outburst like Bobcat Goldwaith: “Oh no! I am ruined!” etc. Then stunned silence as they all looked at each other. Then an angel grabs the coal and decides to shut him up, kind of like a disgruntled older brother: “here! this has touched your lips. Get over it and listen.”

    Something I do get concerned about is comparing our weekly repeating worship time to one time big events in Biblical characters lives. David was bringing the ark into Jerusalem. Isaiah was standing physically at the throne of God. This is quite a bit different than “I’m standing in a room and I know God is here, I even feel something that I attribute as His presence.” Not sure if we should be comparing the two – not sure if it is healthy. According to some scholars, what David and Isaiah would have done on the weekly Sabbath meeting in worship was much more calm than most modern church worship services, no matter how rote they may seem.

  2. I like your logic about the David/Isaiah thing. I still don’t think that is my view of it (completely), but it is a neat thing to think about.

    I think that David’s response was probably not the best, but in my head (just my head) I see David as being just so focused on worshiping God, that he wasn’t even really aware. His dancing did lead to ridicule, which wasn’t godly, but he could’ve been more careful.

    I like that about God, and worship. Our response to worship is ours. God doesn’t say, “You must worship like this…” I know that there are Episcopal churches singing buttoned-down hymns that makes God really happy, just as there are Pentecostals swinging on ceiling fans that bring Him joy.

    I agree that we aren’t reading accounts of the characters daily worship experiences. I guess my point was all about what is going on in our hearts and heads. I believe that Satan is always trying to distract us from worshiping God. I think he must be pretty satisfied with us mindlessly singing a song in church, maybe just as much as if we weren’t there at all.

    I’m sure that David had times where he wasn’t jumping for joy in worship, but it seems to me that he would have known something is wrong with just going through the motions. After all, David repeats a frequent theme of mindless songs and offerings (e.g. Psalm 40 and 50-which is an awesome Psalm to me today).

    I don’t think our heads/hearts are in the wrong place. I’m just trying to challenge us (me) and be a squeaky wheel.

    Great thoughts! Thank you!

  3. Even though this wasn’t a point of yours, you did touch a bit on us not showing up at Church rather than just going through the motions. I know that this is the mindset of many people – it is better to just not go rather than go and do it wrong. I’m not sure I totally agree with this general mindset.

    I think of it like being in a marriage. Occasionally, even the best marriages go a bit sour or stale, or maybe you just feel like it is just going through the motions. Is it better to just say “I won’t go home to my wife for a few weeks until I get my heart straight”? It would probably still be better to show up then.

    Or you could look at eating. Even if all you have is bland, tasteless food – do you not eat at all until you get paid next month and can go to the store and get better tasting food?

    I have to wonder if being in America affects thinking in this area. In America, only THE best counts – no glory for anything less. So maybe only a rapturous worship experience is the only way to go – anything else is just us falling short of God. I don’t know about that. Even showing up still is better than doing nothing. How perfect do we have to be before God accepts our worship? Or better yet – where is the line between acceptable worship and worthless worship? If you are only 49% engaged… does that mean you aren’t enough and God counts your worship as legalistic and going through the motions? Or where is the line drawn for engagement? 70%? 90%? Since we can never be perfect, we can never get to 100%.

    I think the truth is, not only in worship engagement, but also other areas of faith – anything between 1% and 99% is acceptable to God. Just showing up and going through the motions may only be 1%, but it is still better than 0%. As with everything else, God would let us know that we are doing great and we can also do better. Its not either or in the Kingdom – it is both. Otherwise, we have to get in to drawing arbitrary lines – lines that aren’t listed in Scripture.

    Not that I think you agree or disagree with any of this – just some random musings….

  4. Matt,

    I agree with what you are saying, but I am confused as to why you might have thought that I would suggest not showing up as an option. I think that God’s view of our situation is in the direction of “Why even show up if you don’t mean it?” But that is not to say that He means, “So don’t show up.”

    Sometimes when teaching people I go through the struggle of whether I should do it at all if it won’t make any difference. The correct answer is to make it make a difference, not to stop doing it.

    There is only one correct answer to this, because we have no option of disinvolvement. To suggest otherwise would be both unbiblical, and completely counter to my whole purpose.

  5. That’s why I started off with this: “Even though this wasn’t a point of yours” – you just touched on it, and it made me think some random things about a topic that sometimes comes up.

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