Monday, February 27, 2012

Can Worship and Hospitality Coexist?

I read something pretty cool in Spirituality According to Paul by Rodney Reeves today. Here’s an excerpt:

The earliest reputation of the church, the first things Christians were known for were hospitality and their strange way of worship. Eighty years after the death of Christ, Pliny the Younger (the Roman governor of Bithynia) complained to Caesar about a growing menace: Christians who assembled on Sunday in order to sing together a hymn to Christ as if they were singing to a god. Even back then the practice seemed off. Of course in those days singing praise to human rulers was a common occurrence; Caesar was more than willing to receive such accolades. And songs of praise were offered in temples to gods all over the empire. But to gather in a room (not a temple!) without an idol (where is the god?) and sing to one another as offering praise to God was considered bizarre. And especially to Pliny, what these Christians were singing was even more peculiar… Imagine Pliny’s confusion when he hears that some Gentiles in his province are gathering on a certain day to worship a Jewish messiah who was crucified—just one man among thousands who were put to death by Rome. No wonder Pliny was suspicious of these people; it must have seemed to him like they had lost their minds (P 112-113.)”

It seems that there are two extremes that modern churches can slip into: those that get crazy with worship and spiritual gifts and are not hospitable to outsiders and those which try so hard to be hospitable and seeker sensitive that they dumb down worship to make it seem not so strange. I love how Reeves points out that initially worship and hospitality actually seemed quite at home together in the church. Worship, by its very nature, can seem to be very restrictive and closed to outsiders but does it have to be so?

How do you think a church can be both hospitable and worshipful at the same time without falling into the ditch on both sides of the road?

Related Post: The Gifts of the Spirit and Centered Set Faith

1 comment:

greenturtle said...

I've been on both sides of the fence, myself.

In my early Christian years, I identified as Assembly of God. And I was extremely zealous, because that's how I thought I was supposed to be.

I believed that the state of one's relationship with God, was directly proportional to how dynamic they were during worship, and how often they made use of the various spiritual gifts.

I believed that churches with "quiet" and "solemn" type worship, were "dead" and "not REAL churches." They didn't have "REAL worship."

And I scoffed at any suggestion that we tone down our worship so as not to offend others. "If they can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!"

I realize now, that viewpoint is very short sighted, naive, and immature-- but it's definitely not uncommon, especially among young Christians.

Finally, one of the best friends I ever had, said "If you can't love and worship God in a 'dead' (as you call it) service, then you need to question what's wrong with your attitude".

Several months later, for reasons way beyond the scope of this comment, I made a decision to join the Catholic church.

Talk about lose a bunch of friends overnight! (Not that they were real "friends" to begin with).

I was subject to many presumptions, by people who had never set foot in a Catholic service, who had no clue what Catholics really believe.

In most cases, I was immediately presumed to be not saved at all.

The simple fact is, there are a great many Catholics who are indeed saved-- and, a great many evangelicals who are NOT.

Just because you hoot and holler and jump around during church, does NOT mean you are saved, nor spirit filled. Oftentimes, it just means you're obnoxious.

Which goes back to a couple of posts ago, on the subject of love being the basis for Christianity.

A church service can be full of people hooting, hollering and jumping around-- but if those same people, once they walk out the doors, are standoffish and rude to those around them, then that service was NOT "spirit filled" nor "alive"! It was just obnoxious.

I don't have an answer as to what level of activity during worship is "acceptable"; I do know that love toward God and toward others has to be behind the whole thing.

Otherwise, dynamic or not, it's "dead."