There are two things I believe a corporate worship experience, in the Christian faith, should enable: A closer relationship with and understanding of God, and self-reflection that leads to greater desire for a closer relationship with and understanding of God. That’s an ideal scenario.
In “the real world,” worship, in the Christian faith, doesn’t play out that way. There are a myriad types of elements that may interfere with the relationship. The elements may range from emotions (one’s state of mind upon entering the house of worship) to stylistic (what clothes to wear, what version of the Bible is read, or, LORD have mercy, the kind of music played).
There’s also the technical equation in this high-tech, multimedia, short-attention-span, world of worship: stuttering streaming, bland graphics, misspelled words, out-of-sync sync lyrics transitions. No matter how proficient or how well all the rest of the Service is, an error in this area has the potential of taking one’s head out of the game; and accordingly, disrupt the relationship and understanding. The mind starts to wander. And wonder. “What is the point of all this?”
There’s another kind of wondering about worship that occurs. Before coming to the house of worship, or gathering around the digital streaming device. It may even be the same question: “What is the point of all this?” The question is salient whether curious about the Christian church afresh or a participant in the church for a long time.
The pages herewith take into account these questions and more. The essays raise rhetorical questions and specifics. They reflect on Scripture passages, sermons, music, ideas, ideals, headlines, pop culture references, personal experiences…all sorts of stimuli that strike me ponderous or humorous that somehow take root in the life of God.
Several of the essays were previously published as devotions in the front page of the worship program at Elk Grove Baptist Church where I was a staff associate for over a decade. EGBC was rechristened Village Point Church after my season there ended, however the multi-ethnic congregation near O’Hare Airport outside Chicago retains the purpose of developing a firm Biblical foundation for daily life and service.
Many essays were designed to help our congregation prepare for the Sunday sermon. At the time I was “worship coordinator,” charged with arranging the Services of Worship and assisting the interim pastor, then the Lead Pastor, in communicating with the congregation. They were short notations, based upon the preacher’s theme, my own devotions, and how they may be intertwined. Always there was a Scriptural base for the commentary, not just my own ramblings.
I called the essays “Worship Wonderings” for fun, because I like alliteration, I like the song “I Wonder as I Wander,” and because I was a fan of a bit that Arsenio Hall used on his original talk show: “Sometimes there are things that make you go: ‘Hmmmmm?’ “ That often happens in the church. So, that’s what I composed. The stories are a cross between my background as a journalist writing editorials and a theater director writing director’s notes for the Stagebill programs. I’ve always felt a little background gives a little extra understanding.
That viewpoint has expanded in the time since leaving the staff assignment. My work as founding director of Kingdom Impact Theater Ministries has broadened my understanding why Scriptures are foundational to a community’s well-being — including to those who do not believe in them. This perspective comes from interactions with people who are not affiliated with churches, and from looking at “church people” from the other side of the stained glass. People on the outside have more lots of questions and thirst to know. People on the inside have a responsibility to address those questions, first by looking at themselves through Scripture; second by asking questions of those who are asking in order to seek answers together.
So, that’s what these Wonderings are. A place to kick around questions and search Scriptures for answers. In my wanderings around the community, my backyard and my own head, I wonder lots of things about God. I found out I’m not the only one who asks some of the questions. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a pretty good source.
Shakespeare said “brevity is the soul of wit.” I have tried to be witty in many…that is, brief. I have not always succeeded. However, pray tell you endeavor to read on, I trust you will find these Wonderings close to my original premise: They help bring you into a closer relationship with and understanding of God; and self-reflection that leads to greater desire for a closer relationship with and understanding of Him.