"'Worship is about inspiration – finding and discerning the inspiration that God is sending,' said the Rev. Steve Morse, who chairs the Conference Sessions Worship Team."Really?
Let me say first that I have met and conversed with Steve Morse, and find him to be an extremely gifted musician and a theologically sound pastor. It is not my intention to discern his complete theology of worship based on a single off-hand quote in a Conference propaganda mailing.
But the quote does point to a serious problem in the Church - we suffer from an inadequate (and unbiblical) theology of worship.
The English word "worship" means "paying reverence to a divine being". The OT Hebrew word we translate as "worship" means "to prostrate oneself before God"; the NT Greek word we translate as "worship" also means "to prostrate oneself", also having the meaning of kissing the ring of a superior in subservience.
At no point does the context of "finding inspiration" enter the Biblical meaning. As a matter of fact, the Christian moment of inspiration par excellence, found in Acts 2, doesn't happen during a worship time, nor does St. Paul's great inspirational moment on the Damascus road in Acts 9.
Worship, in the Biblical sense, is to be focused upon the greatness and goodness of God, not our own search for inspiration. The Eucharist is referred to, in part, as "The Great Thanksgiving", not "The Great Inspiration". While our experience of God is certainly important, elevating "experience" to the top of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral has always resulted in a sub-Christian understanding of the faith.
I do not want to discount inspiration. Worship should be both inspired and inspiring, but orchestrating worship to be inspirational first essentially means that it ceases to be actual, Biblical worship, instead becoming something else, which may be very nice, but isn't necessarily Christian worship.
It also isn't about traditional vs. Baby Boomer vs. Emergent, or hymns vs. choruses, or organs and pianos vs. guitars and drums. That's all important but peripheral.
If worship is primarily designed to please people or to fill the pews, it isn't worship; it's an evangelistic inspirational time. Far too many congregations "go contemporary", adopting a Baby Boomer "praise band" style, in the hopes of attracting a crowd. As a result, they may end up with all kinds of evangelism (which is a good thing) but very little worship. My question would be, at that point, is the congregation still a "church", or is it some sort of para-church ministry?
We need to structure our worship so as to maximize not the crowd, but our sense of thankfulness to, reverence for and awe of God. This can be done in any number of styles, with many different kinds of liturgies. I believe the Basic Order found in The United Methodist Book of Worship is an extremely Biblical and effective Order, faithful to our heritage and looking to the future, but it is not the only Order which can be effective. Faithful worship done well can utilize any number of styles; the trick is to not be so distracted by the prospect of pleasing people and drawing crowds that one doesn't forget what Biblical worship is all about. The Steelers draw 60,000 people each Sunday, but that doesn't make it "Church".
Something I'd written previously still holds true...
Does our worship reflect...reverence? Are we awed by the presence of God?
Are we overcome with unworthiness and inadequacy as we enter into the presence of the Holy One of Israel?
Do we remember that the God who is with us and is immanent is also far beyond and above us and is completely transcendent, entirely different from us, "wholly Other"?
Are we too comfortable with Almighty God?
Is he too much "our buddy" and not enough "the LORD God of hosts", whose very name is too holy to speak?
Too often, we enter worship as a routine...traditional worship gone stale.
Many enter worship gleefully, as if the Super Bowl party is about to begin...contemporary worship gone mad.
While joy and celebration are certainly proper Christian practices, we should never allow our worship to be so "Happy, happy, happy" that we forget "Holy, holy, holy".