Tuesday, April 27, 2010

playing worship hooky

This past weekend I went on a women's retreat with a few friends from my church and a few hundred strangers. I had a great weekend connecting with people, enjoying beautiful scenery, spending good alone time with God, and having other people cook for me. It was lovely.

However... the actual program the retreat offered left me cold. (Literally. As in, I stood outside without a jacket in 45 degree weather for at least an hour because I found it preferable to what was going on in the auditorium at the time.) Here's the question I wrestled with over the weekend and continue to wrestle with now: If we are to worship God at all times, in all we do, and with all we are... how do we deal with forms, styles, and contents of corporate worship gatherings that clash with either our theological leanings or our aesthetic sensibilities or, in the case of last weekend, both?

I felt (and still feel) uncomfortable and defensive about my decision to skip out on parts of the program. On the one hand, I don't like admitting that I felt unable to worship God in spirit and truth in the midst of the offered program. On the other hand, I do believe strongly that how we worship matters, and therefore I couldn't force myself to engage in something that doesn't line up with my understanding of how God has called us to worship Him.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic. What do you do when you find yourself in a corporate worship experience that makes you want to run for the hills??


Colleen Anita Hamilton said...

Usually I feel that I should either sit/stand silently in prayer about the situation, and question with the Lord as to the reasons I feel angry/uncomfortable about the given situation. I ask for him to speak into me and maybe help teach me or express something to me about it. There have been however, a few times I have to leave services for reasons like yours, and felt that God was still a big part in that. There are certain things that will not bother other people that certainly bother me, or you or anyone, and I believe it is okay to leave or not participate in circumstances that you spiritually feel are not appropriate or wrong. I think that the attitude in doing such things is also so important to think about though too. Leaving for legalistic reasons need to be checked, but if you are seeking the Lord and make a decisions as a result of that, I'm usually for it. He knows your heart and the Spirit has been known to lead in and out of many circumstances in my life too. I don't know if that made sense, but that has been my experience.

Haley Ballast said...

Thanks Colleen. Definitely good advice, encouragement and perspective.

One thing I didn't mention in my post that I guess I'll mention here is that I also think it matters a lot WHO you are worshiping with in a given setting. I would react much differently to something happening in a more or less anonymous setting (i.e. surrounded primarily by strangers), versus something happening in the church community to which I am covenantally committed.

Emily said...

I am dying to know what this service was like! I'm imagining: a) child sacrifice or b) ribbon dancers. Or... both?!?

Haley Ballast said...

ahahaha NO, neither of those things... you'll just have to trust me, it was bad. :)

Rachel Ann said...

I struggle with the same thing. Please don't give me a Mercy Me song in service...or Micheal Dub. Gah. Or a worship leader who makes love to the microphone to the point that makes you blush, clear your throat, and say, "Um...do you want me to leave you two alone?"

But a few thoughts:
a. As far as the shallowness of the music goes, I was on a rant once about Christian radio and how lame-o it is and my friend said, "Rachel, stop. That song might be a stepping stone for someone to get to greater truth later on." And then when I thought over her words, I realized that I'd liked a lot of cheesy Christian music in my early days and it didn't kill me and God did, indeed, lead me to greater depth and truth.
b. The danger in situations like this is that your own heart can fall into judgment of those around you/those leading worship. Of course it's bothersome if the worship is shallow, but be bothered only for yourself, realizing that the hearts of those around you may be actively engaged with the Father (does a parent judge a 3-year-old's scribblings? No, but if he or she is 30 THEN the parent will hold him or her to a higher standard and would be a bit bothered if the child brought a scribbling when they ought to bring a drawing. So, if someone is a new Christian or hasn't grown in maturity than the offerings given while singing "I Can Only Imagine" [vomit] are just as delightful to Jesus as those of one singing "And Can It Be").
c. If there's real blasphemy going on from the stage, leave. If it's so showy that you can't get it to it, then I believe the people on stage are sinning and making it worship to themselves. Leave.
d. I kinda got smacked in the face once talking through a similar issue with a friend. I believe in reading good theology and singing theologically sound hymns. So, I like depth. But whomever it was I was talking to about whatever it was (I can't remember the exact thing) said that I was the "weaker brother" in the situation. Deeper, maybe. Weaker...yes, but it took me a while to see that. But think about it - the weaker brother in Corinthians is the one who CANNOT eat the meat because he knows it's been sacrificed to idols and he cannot engage in the worship of something other than God. Deeper. This is born out of a deep sense of who God is and who other "gods" really are. But being deeper, he is also weaker because the deeper knowledge causes him to stumble. Perhaps I'm wrong here with the deeper/weaker thing, but it's something to think about (and we would do so much better talking about it rather than me leaving a mammoth comment on your blog...)

Haley Ballast said...

Rachel Ann, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I was especially challenged by the deeper/weaker point... I think you are onto something. To be honest, I did feel like the weaker brother. Pondering now... thanks.