Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Irreverence in Our Church Protocol

I used to be the “Assistant Worship Director” at a church downtown. It was quite the experience. Before church started every week, we would have a little meeting with the pastor, the band, and all the tech guys (we had a video guy, a lyrics gal, and a sound guy – and an occasional lights guy). The conversation was centered on and revolved around the “order of worship”, who's doing what when, who’s saying what while standing where, etc. And invariably, there was the following exchange (or a reasonable facsimile thereof):

Pastor: Ok, do you want to pray at that point, or do you want me to?Band leader: It probably makes more sense as a transition for you to do it...Pastor: Sounds good. You come on up during the prayer. Lights?Lighting guy: Ok, I'll drop the lights when the prayer starts, so they'll be down when the band starts playing.

I always get a little fidgety at the point. I know that that stuff is important. I do. I understand that excellence in doing church includes being polished and ensuring smooth transitions, etc. But, when we start talking about prayer as a transition, it gets under my skin a little. It's a real struggle for me; it always feels like dangerous business.

And I'm reminded of a couple of things. The first is the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6. When the Israelites, led by David, are taking the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, they don't follow God's instructions for how to transport it. And then, when the oxen pulling the cart stumble, and the ark starts to fall, Uzzah reaches out to stop it from falling. Verse 7 says, "The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God." It's dangerous business, messing with the ark of God.

Andrew Peterson (who is awesome, by the way) uses an interesting metaphor. He's got a song called "Mohawks on the Scaffold" that compares the way we do church to the building of the first American skyscrapers and the legend that Indians were used to build the highest parts, because they weren't afraid of the heights. The chorus goes, "Like Mohawks on the scaffold, heedless of the danger/Don't look down at the city, brother it's a long way to fall/Like Mohawks on the scaffold, strolling on the I-beams/Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He's a puzzle that I've solved."

So where's the line? When does the business of church cross into irreverence? When does being concerned with the atmosphere and the content of church become too much about the concern and not enough about the church? Does it even matter? Am I too sensitive? Is it just part of the deal?

In the Peterson song, when he does the chorus the last time, he ends it with "Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He's so patient with us all."

Lord, I hope so.

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