Friday, September 3, 2010
Casually Worshiping God
The atmosphere is relaxed, informal, casual.
Are there evangelicals that worship differently than what I have just described, and who take their worship very seriously and reverently? Yes. But it hasn't been the trend, and it is no longer the norm. What I have described above, isn't just how some evangelicals, perhaps the more norminal attenders, happen to be approaching their worship of God. This is the environment that many evangelical churches today intentionally create, and take pride in doing so.
An example: Life Church claims over 26,000 weekly attenders at 13 campuses in 6 states, making it the 2nd largest church in the US. In the "What to Expect" section of it's website, it's first point is "casual atmosphere".
A Google search with "casual worship atmosphere" returns results of innumerable churches that also tout the casualness of their worship. One such less known church that came up had this picture and accompanying description on their home page:
Of course, many evangelical churches that do not self-describe themselves as casual on their website nonetheless worship in the same manner.
The problem, I hope, is obvious: there is nothing casual about worshiping the Almighty God of the universe.
Let us compare what the Catholic Church expects of it's worshipers.
The sanctuary is truly that - a sacred place. The most prominent feature of the room, front and center, is a representation of Jesus on the cross. On the side walls hang the Stations of the Cross. You enter the sanctuary silently, or at least quietly, crossing yourself with holy water as a reminder of your baptism. You genuflect before entering the pew out of reverence. Once you reach your seat, you kneel to pray in prepration for the Mass. In some Catholic Churches, a speaker will welcome the congregation prior to the start of Mass and ask everyone to take a moment to silently prepare their hearts and minds. The Mass that follows is orderly and specific, and has both standing and kneeling at various points to show special respect. And it all culminates in the profound reception of the Body of our Lord.
In other words, the worship is reverent and serious.
Do all Catholics approach Mass as reverently as they should? Sadly, no, though many do apporach Mass reverently. But however imperfectly, reverence is for what the Church strives. And it is not just an abstract ideal that is recommended; it is built in to every aspect of the ritual of the Mass.
Because there's nothing casual about worshiping God.