Rethinking our motives when we worship
by David Vogel
My mother-in-law has stayed with us some since Claire was born, helping with housework, nighttime and cooking. The other day after making dinner, she asked me this question: Why do you leave your egg shells in the carton?
The question made me pause. It’s what my mom always did. I had never considered there might be an alternative way to dispose of egg shells. I figured Mom, wise matriarch she is, had a good reason. So I asked.
Turns out the answer isn’t terribly profound: Sometimes it’s easier than walking a dripping shell across the kitchen to the trash without leaving a trail of egg goo.
This reminded me that sometimes a person needs to step back and evaluate the motives behind his or her actions.
Jesus’s parable of the praying Pharisee and tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) is a good example of this. Two men went to the temple to pray, but only one came home justified before God.
I’ve found that assessing my motivation is especially important when it comes to worship, both personally and in planning corporate worship times. When we do things only because that’s the way they’ve always been done or because someone prefers it, it’s time to consider change.
Yes, there is a lot to be said for consistency. Things that are done effectively and with excellence should be continued, and traditions with significance are essential to a church family.
But consistency without meaning is worthless.
Remember when the disciples were having trouble fishing? They consistently dropped their nets but caught nothing. It wasn’t until they followed Jesus’s call to throw their nets over the other side that they were successful (John 21:1-6).
Though the “worship wars” (an odd term for Anabaptists) are waning, tension still exists. But the conflict can no longer be defined as generationally driven. Grumbles I hear—or “constructive criticism”—about song selection seem to come instead from members of one genre’s camp or another.
Worship should never be about the genre. When planning or participating in a service, we should ignore style, focusing instead on content, how songs minister within the service and how they direct glory to God. There is so much opportunity in all the music in our churches.
Repetitive contemporary songs, crudely labelled “seven-elevens,” are in most cases employing repetition to reinforce something important. Think “holy, holy, holy.” And a nine-stanza hymn that staggers on and on is often telling a very profound truth through prose. Eliminating a verse or two in the middle, as is conveniently often done, weakens the song’s integrity.
It’s not a style issue. It’s a heart issue. We are each created with a specific way in which we are more inclined to worship, but we must evaluate our motives and remain open to being called down another course.
When Jesus commands us to cast the nets on the other side, we benefit when we obey. Or, to use a more secular cliché, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. What you do with the shells is completely up to you.
David Vogel serves as the worship director at Hillsboro (Kan.) MB Church, where he has been on staff since 2013. Vogel also operates a graphic design studio. He and his wife, Hanna, welcomed daughter Claire Elizabeth in January 2017.
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