Monday, May 4, 2009

Sacred Pathways, Shining Faces

Studying with our staff a good book about worship approaches, Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas (Zondervan). What I'm grasping is that not only are there different "styles" to worship, but there are various roads of worship that meander throughout our daily existence. I like that. Worship is not just an event (in fact, what we call worship - that hour on Sunday morning - has less to do with a lifestyle of worship than the things we do day to day, moment by moment.

I think that's what I've tried to teach througout a good portion of my adult life and ministry, but perhaps I just didn't have the words to communicate it effectively. Worship is less an event than a lifestyle.

We talked today about not judging others' expressions of worship ("they aren't excited enough," "he isn't raising his hands," "she doesn't look very joyful" and such) and realizing that every person enters corporate worship with a different set of parameters from which they express their love for God.

Sometimes we want to stuff everyone into the same box and if they aren't square like the box, there must be something wrong. Moses' shining face wasn't a prescription and it didn't become an expectation. He didn't require everyone to have shining faces after his holy climb.

The book amplifies the validity of various worship approaches and expressions. It explores each and allows us to score ourselves as to our fit. So are we a naturalist, sensate, traditionalist, ascetic, activist, caregiver, enthusiast, contemplative, or intellectual. Each of those words might carry a pre-set connotation at first mention, but you should dig in and discover the full development of Thomas's terms before reacting. There are pros and cons to each, and the labels might not mean what you think they do.

I was quite surprised at some of my scores. So far, my highest is that of caregiver, which I would have never guessed. Interesting, that.

As always, I recoil at pidgeon-holing and test-based determinations, but I'm glad to see Thomas's overall approach to this subject. It's not the end of the discussion concerning worship styles, but it can be a fleshing-out, and might lead us to see that there are many valid pathways via which we can express our worship.

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