Thursday, January 31, 2008

Worldly Worship

Whatever Happened to God?

"Evangelical Protestantism is in trouble today as an increasing number of business and professional people are searching for a new church. The complaint I hear most often is that people can no longer sense the sacred either in the preaching or in the liturgy. The atmosphere in most of our services is clubby and convivial rather than adoring and expectant. What is missing is the fear of God, the experience of God as the Wholly Other.

"Worship has become performance rather than praise. The praise choruses that have preempted the great hymns of the church do not hide the fact that our worship is essentially a spectacle that appeals to the senses rather than an act of obeisance to the mighty God who is both holiness and love. Contemporary worship is far more egocentric [self-centered] than theocentric [God-centered]. The aim is less to give glory to God than to satisfy the longings of the human heart. Even when we sing God's praises, the focus is on fulfilling and satisfying the human desire for wholeness and serenity.

"This motivation is not wrong in itself but becomes questionable when it takes priority. Some of the new choruses speak of 'falling in love' with Jesus. A sentimental love, not an adoring love, characterizes our relationship to God. We are urged to cultivate a feeling of love rather than to demonstrate the power of love through sacrificial service to our neighbor.....

"Perhaps as a means of avoiding the rigorous wrestling with Scripture and theology, we direct our energies to mastering skills in church management and communication. Method looms more important than content. Worship has become therapy; prayer often degenerates into magic. Religion becomes a flight from the world rather than a catalyst for renewing the world....

"We need revival today, but we also need reformation—a fundamental change in our priorities and attitudes. We must see ourselves as emissaries of the high and holy God entrusted with the gospel of reconciliation and redemption, sent into the world in order to bring the world into submission to the will of the living God...."

-- from Donald G. Bloesch, emeritus professor of theology at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. "Christianity Today" Feb.5, 2001

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