In The Dangerous Act of Worship, Mark Labberton contends that most churches like worship services that are safe. He argues that we have created false dangers about worship that have limited what worship can be, causing us not to worship as fully as we could. Here are the false dangers he sees at work:
False Danger #1: Worship That Is Not Under Control
Worship services are very orderly these days, lasting almost exactly one hour and usually following a very regular routine. I for one like the order and routine of worship, but when that is what becomes more important than the the Gospel message that is said or sung in worship, then there is a problem.
False Danger #2: Worship That Doesn’t Seem Relevant
The desire to be relevant to today’s culture has led to the use of screens, IPads and contemporary music in worship, which in and of themselves are not bad. But when our goal is to be relevant rather than true to the Gospel, then the essential role of worship has been lost.
False Danger #3: Worship That Doesn’t Meet Expectations
We all have certain expectations about what should happen in worship based on our upbringing or tradition or our experience over the years, but that should not shut the door on spontaneous developments or different approaches to presenting the story of salvation. The Spirit moves in mysterious and unexpected ways, even in worship and we should not allow preconceived notions of what worship is to halt divine creativity.
False Danger #4: Worship That Isn’t Popular
We all want to be popular. It is human nature. So when there are not too many people in church on any given Sunday, we can often take it personally. But Christianity is not a popularity contest. Each congregation is there to serve the needs of the people gathered there, if they are many or few. The work of worship does not depend on the numbers.
False Danger #5: Worship That Isn’t Comfortable
Padded pews and a working air conditioning system are all well and good, but they should not be the reason for attending worship. Worship is often meant to be something that pushes us out of our comfort zones and makes us do things we don’t naturally enjoy doing: like talking to people about our faith. The church is not a country club to just sit around and relax in. It is a place to get stirred up for service.
False Danger #6: Worship That’s Unfamiliar
Some people worry that when people are unfamiliar with something, they will reject it out of hand. But that is not necessarily so. People can be more than willing to come into an unfamiliar situation in worship and grow to like it or to learn from it or be challenged by it in a way they had never known possible. We should not dumb anything down just to get more people in the door.
Look for the signs of these “false dangers” the next time you are in worship and work within yourself at least to not let them affect the richness of your worship experience.