Let’s Talk Worship: Hype vs. Heart

Posted: June 22, 2011 in christianity, church, culture, multiethnic, theology, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

We have been going through a series at church on the Life of David: Living a Dangerously Passionate Life. Last week’s sermon was on the topic of David the worshipper and worshipping without limits. The question asked was when it comes to worship how far is too far? Does God place a limit to our worship? I mean after being a Christian for 14 years I have seen it all from crazy sock worship to the holy ghost hokey pokey. There are many things that have made me cringe when it comes to Christian worship but I would have to say that when it is true and genuine worship there are no limits to its expression because we serve a limitless God.

That being said I would like to draw attention to the Vineyard emphasis on worship minus hype. From my perspective as an African American I struggle with the perspective and practice of worship minus hype. God deserves hype. In other words if we cannot hype God up and get crazy about God then he does not deserve to be called God. One of the tendencies I see is that because the Vineyard emerged in white suburbia Jesus is seen more as a friend. Intimacy and friendship with God prized and consequently we do not hype up our friends. It seems like empty flattery and disingenuous. It also leads to a comfort and inactivity because after all, our friends will always be there. In other words God can become in danger of being taken for granted

On the other end of the spectrum I think the African American church see Jesus more as king. The one who deserves to be made much of. So we dance and sing and shout because the King has given us victory. It is natural to look to Jesus as king when you are on the edge of poverty and despair. It means that God is someone to be reckoned with and deserves all that we have. It means that sometimes God deserves a praise break At the same time it can turn God into a cosmic vending machine and put the focus on what he gives and does versus who he is. It also can lead to worship that is just mindless activity and no intimacy.

No doubt none of these different traditions would deny the perspective of Jesus as king or as a friend but I do believe that in each one perspective on Jesus is usually overemphasized over the other. And although we may affirm all of who Christ is what we say is very different from what we do and our theology is usually expressed in our praxis.

What do you think? Can God be worshipped without hype? What is the Vineyard missing out on by not celebrating Jesus as king? What is the African American church missing out on by not focusing on Jesus as friend? Do you think this is a fair representation of the two traditions? Is it possible to blend the two traditions together?

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Comments
  1. I wonder if a misunderstanding or mis-appropriation of ‘hype’ has kept some back from evangelism, and power evangelism at that. I know that the Vineyard’s use was towards ‘no manipulation,’ no false hyping…but I think that can be mis-applied or misunderstood so that it translates and affects our public witness in adverse ways….

    I also think in a gathering of church people, we should definitely be unlimited and set free to worship in authenticity, but I suppose there is also the issue of expectations and leading people into worship, while people arrive ready to worship…

    • PS – love the praise break video…the others definitely made me cringe!!

    • mayotron says:

      @Steven I think a misunderstanding of hype can lead to a complacency that I have often succumbed to. It is very easy to become complacent if you are part of the dominant power structure and have the attitude of “waiting for the Spirit to move”. This can make whatever is happening seem like it is intertwined with God’s will: slavery, the abuse of women, poverty, people not knowing Jesus. It is the same thing that William Carey had to overcome when most of the Protestant church was saying that if God would save the people in other lands then he will do it.

      Also I think expectations and leading people into worship play a part. I wonder if there is a fear that actually leading people into worship may degenerate into manipulation?

  2. Steve Schenk says:

    Ramon, this is one of the reasons we need you in the Vineyard.

    Cross cultural Christian dialogue is so enriching because it allows us to disentangle God’s treasure from the cultural vessel it necessarily fills, and then intentionally re-embrace a vessel that has been thoughtfully chosen instead of inherited.

    Your questions as to Vineyard worship and its origins in white suburbia are spot on. As are your observations on the strengths and weaknesses of both ways of congregational singing. We are doing our best to blend various styles which is, of course, a lot more of an indigenous approach that includes they way the various people groups in our neighborhood offer God worship. (We’ve made some intentional stylistic changes from typical Vineyard music, and have a few songs in Spanish and Swahili, but are still working on our Burmese!)

    But what is needed even more than changing musical styles is a deeper conversation within the Church, and the movement, about the philosophy and theology undergirding our style. We may or may not eventually re-embrace the same style, but we will then be doing it with a more deeply realized sense of intentionality. And when that happens, we will also recognize the intentionality behind other styles and be open to learning, sharing, and embracing that diversity.

    • mayotron says:

      @Steve Thanks for the encouragement. This is a hard road.

      I think one of the things that followers of Christ do not have practice in is articulating their embedded theology. No matter what culture we locate ourselves in there are blind spots that will not be addressed unless we go deeper in philosophical and theological reflection. The hard part is drawing these embedded theologies out without offending people and making them become more obstinate in holding on to their “sacred cows”

  3. Steve Schenk says:

    This process does require some sacred hamburgers!

    šŸ˜‰

    (On all sides…)

    But I think I disagree with you slightly.

    I agree that we lack practice. I agree that it is difficult to do this without offending. I don’t completely agree that we all need deeper reflection.

    I think there are two paths to a deeper awareness of our ’embedded theology’ (I like that phrase); one is the path of deeper reflection that you mention, but the other is the path of cross-cultural Christian relationships. Both paths have blessing and challenges, both paths lead to great awareness of our own assumptions, but both paths are very different.

    Some will arrive through reflection, but for those whose temperaments or skills prohibit the kind of deep theological and philosophical dialogue you and I might enjoy, can still discover these same realities by simply having a friend who is from another denomination, ethnicity, class, or geography.

    This is the genius of God’s plan!

    On a related note. I was deeply challenged and encouraged by the plenary speaker at the SVS conference to ‘read our practices and discover the implicit wisdom within them.’ This is the positive side of ’embedded theology!’ Discovering the theological truths that are buried within healthy and spirit-led ministry practices!

    • mayotron says:

      @Steve Hmmm…I do not know if it really can

        only

      come through having a friend of another denomination, ethnicity, class, or geography. I think at some point there has to be some reflection. I just say that because when our friend from another social location does something different than us we have to then ask the question why? and then we have to be willing to see it from their perspective and also have the mind to critique ourselves. This does not necessarily have to be deep (I did this without having any formal theological training) but I think it takes a certain kind of heart attitude and posture. What do you think either/or (relationship or reflection) or both/and?

  4. Definitely both/and.

    And I think you are right, there has to be some degree of reflection. Its just that I have seen people learn this who aren’t thinkers, aren’t readers, and they couldn’t necessarily even articulate the knowledge they have gained. But they know none-the-less because of the cross-cultural relationships they have entered into…

    They just become ok with ‘so-and-so does things differently and thats not wrong, its just different.’ And they learn how to function with ‘so-and-so,’ and they even learn ‘my way isn’t right, its just my way.’

    Again, I see this as the genius of the Church…

    • mayotron says:

      I definitely know what you’re saying. I do have a much wider scope in mind when I say reflection and articulation. While everyone is not a reader I believe everyone is a thinker and everyone articulates. At the same time I believe it is the task of the leaders of the church to articulate and go deeper into subjects in order to speak into the experiences of the people. I know many theologians who do not have a college degree or even a high school diploma and some of the best theology is spoken around the kitchen table.

      BTW I totally want to hear some swahili worship. We have lots of spanish here but definitely not enough of that šŸ™‚

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