Monday, March 3, 2008

Intimacy or Community

OK, I've had it "up to here" with all the cookie cutter entertainers disguised as worship leaders declaring that intimacy is the primary objective of Sunday, corporate worship. And then chastising the congregation if they don't have the look of star-crossed lovers in their eyes while they're singing the slow songs or they're not swinging from the chandeliers on the faster songs. And you cannot force intimacy into or drag it out of people in the corporate setting on Sunday morning. Now that I've got that off my chest, here's something I wrote a few years ago on the subject.

A Philosophy of Corporate Worship

Any individual expression in Corporate worship MUST be subject to, subservient to and conducive to the whole. All expression MUST contribute to the "corporate-ness" (the Body) and not detract or distract from the Unity of the Spirit. The result and overriding factor being the edifying of the Assembly. (The word for church in the 1 Cor 14 passages below is "ecclesia" or literally "called out" ones. It means "a community of people called out to meet together in one place.")

This goes as well for the preaching\teaching of the Word of God. Aim to minister to the individual, and you will starve the flock. Aim to minister to the flock, and the individual will be fed as well.

Paul's words to Corinthian church give us some guidelines:

(1 Cor 14:4) He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
(1 Cor 14:5) I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
(1 Cor 14:12) Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
(1 Cor 14:17) For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
(1 Cor 14:19) Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
(1 Cor 14:26) What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
(1 Cor 14:40) Let all things be done decently and in order.

We must not become like the post-Joshua generation in our worship or praises.
(Judg 17:6) In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
(Judg 21:25) In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
(Prov 12:15) The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
(Prov 21:2) Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.

We must not worship the Lord any old way we want to. Narcissistic, existentialist, hedonistic …which describes much of what is called "praise" in the modern "enter-worship-tainment" church.
What happened when folks worshiped the way they wanted to?

Old Testament--
Golden Calf --Exodus 32
Nadab and Abihu --Leviticus 10
Korah --Numbers 16
Uzzah --2 Samuel 6

New Testament--
Ananias and Sapphira --Acts 5

Let me just add here that telling God of our intention to praise Him, or how we will praise Him, is NOT the same as praising Him. What ends up happening many times is we praise our ability to praise, or we are in essence, "praising praise."

Corporate worship is NOT about intimacy. It's a community effort. We are NOT striving to "make out" with God in the corporate setting. Intimacy is…well…intimate. It's for the prayer closet at home. How would it make you feel if a husband and wife in a church service started "making out" and kissing and caressing each other amorously? Most of us would shout, "Please! Get a room!" It's not appropriate in that setting. The corporate gathering is not to be made into our own individual private prayer closet. But this is where folks make spectacles of themselves and the attention is on them instead of on God. And what is intended to be an expression of the freedom of the Spirit instead becomes an act of self-centeredness. (Of course the "spectator" could be just as culpable too, for being distracted, but that's another subject.) It is not a time for individualized expression to the point of isolating and separating oneself from the congregation by doing something "different." We are plagued by the attitude of "I want to worship God the way I want to!"

If what you're doing isolates you from everyone else, you are not contributing to the corporateness of the gathering. +++And intimacy is, according to Webster’s Dictionary, inherently “private, informal and personal.” In other words, it assumes and focuses on a relationship of a specific individual towards another specific individual to the exclusion of all others.+++

"Private, informal and personal" just the opposite of what corporate worship is to be...

public... assemble together
formal... with decency and order
communal... mutual sharing

So then, am I opposed to intimacy in worship? No! Do I really think it has absolutely no place in corporate worship? God forbid!! It is paramount for us all to be intimate with God. It is foundational to the whole corporate structure. But most of the practice of it is for the individual prayer closet, whereas the fruit of it is manifest in the corporate setting. Let me illustrate.

Our corporate worship can be likened to a fruit tree. The roots are the intimacy we all individually have with God. (or the lack thereof.) The superstructure of the tree is the corporate worship itself, the trunk, the branches, the leaves. The fruit is the corporate anointing that feeds the flock. Notice the roots are 1.) hidden, 2.) vital, and 3.) assumed. When intimacy becomes the goal of corporate worship, we end up trying to feed the flock the bitterness of roots instead of the sweet fruit that the bitter roots feed and nourish. And we end up either destroyng the tree or never having one, much less one that produces fruit.

If we allow individualism to dominate in our corporate gatherings, one end-result will be that people will begin to think that the corporate gathering is unnecessary, because the expression is no different than what can be experienced at home, in the prayer closet. Hence many in American evangelicalism do just that...they stay at home.

The importance of the "individual" is essential, but NOT more-so than the "whole." There needs to be a balance re-struck in the Church, especially in American churches, because of "rugged individualism" run amuck. And particularly in the Charismatic world this is out of whack because of skewed theology...specifically the lack of a strong Trinitarian emphasis. It comes as a result of over-emphasis on the "Immanence" of God (intimacy & friendship) and not speaking and singing consistently of the entire Godhead...Father Son Spirit. We need to speak of the "Transcendence" of God and not only of His Immanence. Yes, He is indeed 'in' us and 'with' us, but He is also Bigger than the entire universe!

To "imitate God" is more than to live out a set of moral values and character is to imitate Him in His essence of being as well...His Tri-Unity, Three-in-One-ness...the One and the Many. This is to imitate God "Corporately."


ScottH said...

Ah yes!, I remember being chastised by a certain woman keyboardist at a certain mid-Michigan church. Apparently the congregation didn't shift it into "overdrive boogie." The afore mentioned musician stopped playing and said in a snippy voice,"are we boring you?" I felt like saying,"lady you don't know how much!" Looking back maybe I should've mouthed off. It would've been an honor to get kicked out of the service!

Dennis said...

Don't you know that if you're not emotional then you must not be spiritual!? :P

ScottH said...

Yes Dennis, silly me! I'll be brutally honest,most charismatics are a mile wide and an inch deep theologically. Chris O. replied in an e-mail that if charismatics don't get their act together,they will go apostate!

Anonymous said...

The more I read history, the more I realize that some of the more "extreme" charismatics that I've run into are just like the Anabaptist.

Wm Mallory said...

Anabaptist and I would throw in Gnostics too..

It always troubled me in worship. We are going to have this personal intimacy and visitation from God and we are going to do this in corporate worship setting... Lets all be a bunch of individuals doing our own thing in the same room.... Sounds alot like chaos to me!

srhoyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
srhoyle said...

interesting how "spontaneity" is prized and considered "spiritual" in those churches and "routine" or "planned patterns" are despised.

spontaneous is defined as:

1. Happening or arising without apparent external cause; self-generated.
2. Arising from a natural inclination or impulse and not from external incitement or constraint.
3. Unconstrained and unstudied in manner or behavior.
4. Growing without cultivation or human labor; indigenous.

lotta "self" and "autonomy" in that definition! kinda like weeds.

Anonymous said...

"Intimacy or Community", Sam, I'm going to go ahead and repost this on my blog. I hope that it's ok.

srhoyle said...

Ken...Absolutely, feel free!