We transformed our first service a bit this weekend.
Okay, it ended up being a bigger change than we thought.
On the surface, it did not look like much of a change. We punted announcements. We unplugged all the instruments, used only two acoustic guitars. We brought the seats forward in a horseshoe. We took Rick and I off the stage and in the middle of the audience. The ‘message’ was a discussion through the scriptures, then we just opened up the dialog for questions, to engage with the story of God.
Why do this? Because we wanted to create space for folks to ask questions, to dialog about what they heard that morning. We have so many young to new believers (as well as just curious veterans) it made sense to try to incorporate this into our worship.
But there’s another reason as well. This kind of service represents a huge shift in understanding of worship and theology. Let me try to explain.
Worship for so many of us has morphed into meaning only music. “The worship was good this morning” means the music was what I liked, was performed well, fit the message, whatever. So what happens if we take away the music? Is it still worship? It ought to be. By unplugging, we’re decreasing our dependency of music and broadening our understanding of worship. Worship is when I give my money. Worship is when I read the scriptures. Worship is when I allow the scriptures to read me. Worship is when I serve the person next to me by welcoming them. It’s when I pause and reflect. It’s when I pray and listen. It’s when I teach those 2nd graders or volunteer in the nursery or the youth.
Worship is even when I am confused and confounded by God.
Could our questions be worship? I think so and this is a huge shift concerning theology. All good theology (in my opinion) must do these things:
All good theology must run through the Cross. If the cross doesn’t fit or doesn’t speak to what we believe, it’s pointless at best, damaging at worse.
All good theology has room for questions, the “I don’t know” of God. Some call this wonder. I can live with that word as well. If God is really God, we are not going to have all the dots connected, blanks filled, and holes accounted for in our theology. It’s impossible. We’re talking about limiting the eternal to words and images that He himself created.
If our theology is ironclad and has no room for questions or the “I have no idea” parts of God, I’m fairly certain it’s too small for God Himself.
I’m not saying we can’t know anything. See point 1 – the Cross. We can know many things. God created us. God loves us. God died for us. God redeems us. Jesus is the center of all of that. But it only takes a cursory reading of the story of God to see how important questions and wonder is in the making of a saint. How many heroes of the faith had wrestling matches with God? Moments of argument and confusion? Moments where they had to walk by faith not being able to fully understand God?
All of them. Every single one of them.
And if we are serious about being transformed by Jesus, we probably need to get comfortable with questions. And while that may stand in direct opposition of church services everywhere, I think it’s perfectly compatible with the example Jesus leaves us in the scriptures.