Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting engaged

I am going to be writing a few blogs on a book I have been reading called, Jim and Caspar Go to Church. It is a book written by Jim Henderson (not the one of Muppet fame) and Matt Caspar. I would love to get a dialogue going on these blogs because I want to know what you think - whether you consider yourself a Christian or not. Before I can tell you much about the book, I need to give some background.

Jim Henderson spent 25 years as a pastor in the Pentecostal church, moved to being a director of evangelism, and then started Off the Map (http://www.offthemap.com/). Off the Map is an organization that wants to make evangelism doable for everyday, normal, non-church staff Christians.

Matt Caspar is an atheist hired by Jim to go to churches and give his unvarnished viewpoint of the experience to Jim. The whole point of this exercise was for Jim to figure out what Christians can do to share the Gospel with non-Christians without being offensive. What is attractive about church (if anything) and what isn't.

For your information, Matt Caspar is a copywriter for a large Christian publication firm and happens to write many of the pre-made postcards that churches send out in the mail. He is also a musician. This means two things to me, 1) he is pretty familiar with evangelistic church jargon and the way we try to woo people to church and 2) he has professional knowledge of one of the main ways modern evangelical churches reach out to people in worship - through contemporary music.

It has been interesting for me to read and hear Caspar's opinions about the churches that they visited. For example, when they visited Saddleback church (a mega church in California), Caspar comments that while the people sitting in the congregation seem interested in the service, it also seems to him as if they are there because it is "...something simply on most folks' schedules - Saturday: cookout, Sunday: church...it feels like most of them are just watching TV...not really engaged in the spirit of it all." (pg. 5)

Today I want to talk about this issue of engagement, or the lack thereof. Are you engaged in worship? Is it something that renews you and gets you ready to go back to the world for more? Or is it something that you simply check off your 'to do' list and move on to the next thing?

I suspect I know the answer, but I also tend towards pessimism so maybe I am wrong. I would love to know if I am.

But for the moment let's assume I am correct and ask the question, "Why aren't we engaged in worship?"
1)Is it because we don't have relationships with others in the worship service?
- Are our lives are too filled with other things (sports, birthday parties, grocery shopping, the kid's homework, work that we have to finish before Monday) so church becomes just another thing to check off our list and we don't have the time to form relationships with the people we see on Sunday morning.
- Have Christians accepted the cultural belief that "bigger is better" and "we can never have too much". Often our churches are not considered 'successful' unless they are on their way to becoming or have become 'mega' churches with thousands of people in attendance each week.

2) Is it because we have too much ownership in church and have given God too little? (As a little side note here, when I mentioned Saddleback Church earlier, I wrote after it in parenthesis that it was Rick Warren's church. It struck me immediately how ironic that was because it is not Rick Warren's church at all, it is God's church - but I think we often forget that the church isn't 'ours'.)
- Can we be engaged in a service that is driven and focused on us and what we can do rather than on who God is and what God can do?

3) anyone else have an idea why we might not be engaged as whole-heartedly and whole -soully as we could be?
Please tell me. You don't have to have a solution. Maybe together we can help free ourselves to more closely engage or re-engage with God on Sunday mornings in worship because the one thing I do know for sure is that God longs to engage with us.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16


Maggie August 31, 2010 at 9:28 PM  

I love this! It sounds like a great book. I might be in the minority here but I love worship - the praise and worship songs we sing run through my mind the rest of the week. Time in worship fills up my empty tank. It's heart warming. But, Sunday worship isn't enough for me to be really engaged the rest of the week. Just like I need some sort of obligation to go to the gym twice a week (meeting a friend and a trainer) I need a regular Bible study. I didn't have one this summer, didn't do anything on my own, and really missed time with God.
To answer your question about what to do to really engage in worship - it takes several elements. For me, the music really makes a difference. The message needs to be relevant. But, the most important thing is that I need to be prepared. I need to come to worship, knowing I am empty and in need of help. If I go expecting entertainment, I enjoy some good music, spend time with friends and some uplifting words. However, If I go prepared to meet the living God, I am renewed.