Worship In Both Directions: A Chat

My friend, Jason, is a great example of brains and heart to me. Yesterday evening, we had a short conversation on worship that, with his permission, I’d like to share here. Be sure to check out his notes…Enjoy~

Jason: hey david… if you’re interested… here are some notes from small group the other day [On the topic of “Worship as Remembering”]

me: hey thanks i’ll check it out…great opening quote…really nice notes. are these notes prepared b4 the meeting or afterwards? what was some of the feedback you got back?

Jason: mostly after

me: very cool. interesting exercise. i would like to read over it again when i have more time

Jason: sure

me: do you think there’s something particular about asian american worship?

Jason: sorry.. i’m in a seminar, doing some work, and pondering the uniqueness of asian american worship….my initial thoughts have been that there is, but i feel like i don’t know enough about “our” culture to talk about it. i think most of my thoughts on the subject come from conversations with you 🙂

me: right…i know we’ve talked about this before but i know that you being in kind of an active worship leader role. just wondered if that had shaped your thoughts more

Jason: i guess i have some trouble figuring out what is the distinguishing feature of a group that sets it apart from another. two places where i have led worship lately are at aacf and at our belmont cell… now, i wonder if the differences i observe there in worship are due to cultural differences or just the fact that belmont people are.. you know.. belmont

me: 🙂 valid question. perhaps you should increase your n [sample size]

Jason: i notice at aacf, people seem to like more organized and structured worship. i think that relates to one of the points in your worship manifesto post

me: to be more disorganized?

Jason: yeah.. more free. people get uncomfortable when there aren’t words to be sung
(in bewteen songs, etc.)

me: yes, i know. i don’t know why

Jason: and that’s not the case at belmont cell

me: sure

Jason: in fact…. those seem to be the best times of worship

me: hmmm…interesting

Jason: now.. is that something that is “wrong” with worship at aacf? or is there something there that can be cultivated from this need to be “prepared” (verse, chorus, verse, chorus x2, bridge, chorus!). when i went to church with amanda at belmont united methodist, i found myself initially thrown off by the seeming lack of freedom in worship there– the set readings and prayers, etc. but then i realized how these people around me were in intimate communion with God during worship and there is something to be learned from that style of worship. i’m not exactly sure what that is. ok… i’m going to stop typing for a bit…

me: that’s funny that you mention that. i’ve heard that there is the meditative side to that. but part of me gets so peeved when people respond to football games in a more demonstrative way than how we respond to God. i don’t know, i think we need to expand in both directions — to understand and think

Jason: yes!

me: because i remember the joy of figuring out a math problem but there’s just the joy of screaming my head off you know? and that doesn’t always happen in class. in fact, i’m not sure that it even happens in church [all the time]

Jason: yeah. heart, soul, and mind

me: spirit and truth yes. wow how do we do that? perhaps worship should always be contextualized to encourage both ends of the spectrum, contextualized to the people there, whatever demographics are there, to extract those commonalities and draw them to the “other side” of worship. what do you think, dr. tan?

Jason: but yeah… i think that’s where i’ve grown the most by being exposed to different expressions of faith and worship being stretched to worship in ways that may seem uncomfortable at first

me: emphasis on uncomfortable. when do you think the value can be seen then?

Jason: i think it’s when we come to the realization that our predefined way of worshipping God is not the only way nor the best way and, of course, after testing and knowing that this new expression pleases God i think we need to be wary to the extent that we make sure our worship is Biblical and glorifying

me: do you think worship should change with culture?

Jason: yes.

me: so Christian rap doesn’t bother you you don’t feel like it’s a strange exercise

Jason: it doesn’t bother me (i own a Grits album, by the way)

me: well, i’ve eaten grits, by the way 

Jason: i would have a hard time practicing it, though 🙂

me: yeah, definitely

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Comments

  1. MrPages says:

    We’re struggling with some of these questions ourselves, so your conversation is both timely and familiar.

    There are so many dichotomies here:

    Comfortable versus uncomfortable. Yes, doing uncomfortable things can stretch us as worshipers, but doing them constantly is unsettling. Our generation places so much value on change that “comfortable” has become a dirty word. There is value in returning to a known pattern. There is value in new patterns. There is value in no pattern.

    “Prepared” worship versus spontaneous worship. Prepared worship has been used for millenia in responsive readings, recited prayers, and common chants. Ask a young orthodox Christian about the value of liturgy and you will get some beautiful wise responses. Spontaneous worship is the worship of David dancing and new testament believers falling to their knees in grateful prayer.

    Change for change’s sake is a bad thing. Change in response to the Spirit’s leading is a wonderful thing.

    In our struggle, we’ve come to the conclusion that we are deliberately not going to change what we do because we think we ought to, or because we found something interesting and new. We will be continually seeking the spirit’s guiding and looking for more things to ask Him about.

    The worst thing that we can do is throw out the history of the church and worship and try to forge our own path, believing ourselves finally “free” from tradition.

    —–

    That all aside, I have to add that I am very happy to have stumbled upon your blog. I am enjoying your archives. and I have forwarded a number of articles to people involved in Worship at our church and we have had a few great discussions based on them already. I hope that you realize that while the Korean church does have some specific issues that it is dealing with, many (if not most) of the things you discuss as challenges to the Korean church are i fact challenges that many churches of many cultures are struggling with, including North American “white” churches. I hope the church as a whole can move forward in discovering answers to some of these problems together, and not become too splintered along ethnic or national lines.

    Thanks for the site, you’re on my “read often” list now.

  2. elderj says:

    David it seems you’re gaining a wider readership…
    btw, I enjoy your conversation here with Jason. I am afraid that part of the challenge that I see may come from the desire to make sure worship is done “right” rather than just worshipping.

  3. David Park says:

    Thanks MrPages, really appreciate the comment and the encouragement!

    Your comments were very insightful and i believe you’re right about learning to see the value in the old and taking on the new as the Spirit guides us.

    elderj, I don’t think that we’re concerned with worship being done “right” as much as we’d like to see people stretched. you know, i think we all need to experience different things and in my observations, if an AA has lived a sheltered life, then they need to be stretched by being challenged or shaken out of their notions of worship? That’s not to say it should be normative, but I think it will help them to see how flexible and broad our response to God can be.

    Obviously, my chat with Jason was cut short with “real world” distractions, but I hope to have more like it.

  4. Josh says:

    great post and followup! I’ve wondered myself if there is a way to worship both in solemnity and in activity. Write on!

  5. christine says:

    Hello! You have posted a lot since I last checked, so I will have to save them for another time… O_O I really like the Grits albums that my sister and I listen to.

    Regarding the recent skit publication thing, Janna and I have talked about it quite a bit. I am going to look at it and maybe let you know my thoughts, if you’ll hear them.

    your little sister,
    christine

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