I long for a church that is low-key. I’m tired of hype, I’m tired of noise, and I’m tired of intensity. I used to like all those things, but I no longer equate these with “signs of life.” I long for something more contemplative, a place that can acknowledge worship as being intellectual as well as emotional.
So quoth I a couple of days ago in this post, which I recommend reading if you haven’t already. This was point number one of nine, and I’d like to elaborate on them one by one as I continue to process what they all mean.
Hype, of which I’m tired, is that feeling that you really don’t want to miss this next [ prayer meeting / conference / seminar / event ] because that might be the big one, the one where God really shows up and everyone will be talking about it for months. It’s that feeling that the next big move of the Holy Spirit is just around the corner and won’t that be great when it happens. It’s the feeling that you’re continually waiting for something to happen so that things will suddenly be better. In essence, it amounts to hope deferred, and we know how that ends. So I’m tired of being heartsick. There’s enough good stuff in the Kingdom of God right now for those who aren’t so focused on what isn’t there yet that they miss what is. It isn’t that I don’t believe in the next move of the Spirit, it’s just that I can no longer be so focused on it that I can’t see the present.
Noise, of which I’m also tired, refers in no small part to the volume of the worship experience these days. It isn’t that I don’t approve of drums in church, it’s just that the worship train can have a tendency to run over me. I love to watch my daughters dance, and I enjoy much of the upbeat music… but I find it leaves me emptier than it once did. With all the volume, tambourines, PowerPoint™, and people dancing and clapping, I can’t connect with God anymore. This stuff used not to be a problem, but maybe I’ve changed. Or maybe God isn’t necessarily found in the noise, as Elijah learned, where when God speaks, his voice comes as “a sound, a thin silence.” Thin silence, I love that image, as though it’s very nearly silent, completely quiet, and in the fine line between that kind of stillness and the faintest of sounds that could interrupt it, there lies the voice of God. How precious to hear it.
Intensity that leaves me weary is that continual feeling that one must “get serious” with God, “get down to business”, or “lay it on the altar.” Enough of this feeling leaves one unable to connect normally with those around especially those outside the church. This is part of what drives one to participation in endless church meetings which effectively draw people away from natural relationships and place them into a subculture of structured ones. This is the thing that leads to formulaic responses to problems.
Here’s one thing I know about Jesus: a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, which leads me to believe that when Jesus sees some poor schmo in a pew who’s struggling to make a car payment, worried about his teenage daughter and consumed with fear about his wife’s medical condition, he isn’t the type to tell him he really ought to lay it all on the altar, tithe more faithfully, and pray a little more. That, in my mind, would be the snuffing out of a smouldering wick. To this fellow, I think Jesus has a different message, one that’s gentle, compassionate, and understanding.
…Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:25-30, ESV]
“Signs of life” is what I was looking for some years back when I thought the place I’d been was too tame, was not serious enough about God, was too cold. It felt dead at the time, whether or not it really was. Having longed for renewal and seen it, I now long for something different than what the renewal has become. Life is like that sometimes.
I love it when my mind is catapulted into worship… I enjoy worship that is contemplative, that allows one’s mind to engage with God. It’s enjoyable to have one’s emotions engaged, to feel God’s presence, and I would contend that this is in fact an important part of one’s relationship with God… but engaging the mind is also necessary for worship encounters to produce lasting change, as these expand our understanding of God.
So when I consider all of these factors, I come to this… I long for a church that is low-key.