I rather like how you sometimes stumble upon quite profound truths, even in random emails. Today I received an email from the subscription list for Rend Collective, the Irish folksy Christian group. They tend to focus greatly on the community, the gospel & what God has called us to as believers in the Truth. I like that. But today’s email struck me, and I am thankful to have read it. They were excited to discuss their new album, a follow up to their previous ‘Campfire’ album. The first was naturally, recorded around a campfire. The second installment will also be recorded around a campfire. For many reasons I won’t go into — I love anything outside, outdoorsy or campfire — but that’s not the point. In this email, a particular statement stood out in regard to worship and the idea is quite opposite the norm & haunting in it’s depth. The quote reads,
We’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity in worship. A phrase that’s been bouncing around in our camp has been ‘simplicity breeds authenticity’.
I personally found this incredibly refreshing. I am possibly one of the rare folks I know who gets a bit overwhelmed by the flash of modern worship in evangelical circles. It is not something that appeals to me, and I believe distracts from the core focus we are called to, the Gospel of Jesus. Not only did I find this quote refreshing, but perhaps indelible.
In regard to simplicity and authenticity — I believe removing fluff helps us as broken people to remove the masks. I don’t need to pretend to be better or more gifted in order to keep up with the flash of modern evangelicalism. If the church culture teaches me we have to make everything better, bigger & more impressive — I am left to assume that I must also be better, bigger & more impressive. Thus negating the Gospel and putting me on track to perform and slip on a mask when I am not measuring up. Yikes.
In complete fairness, these thoughts are subjective — being my opinions, observations and preferences. They are in no means brilliant and are probably not of great divine inspiration. However, when I read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), when I read Acts and all the letters of the early church — rarely do I see mention about making sure our worship is anything more than simple. The main focus is Jesus, the great Love of God the Father and the works of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis lies more on humility, surrender, abiding in Christ, relying and trusting the Spirit, loving others, protecting the unloved and forgotten and being set apart and not captured by the snares of the enemy. Do we really focus on that in our worship? Or is it more about, “finding ways to draw people in…”?
Psalm 149 & 150 certainly speak of the instruments used to praise God, and things for which we should praise God, but I don’t get the impression it was meant to impress outsiders — it was meant to glorify God. And in the Spiritual Kingdom established by Jesus that we dwell in, it is about worship in Spirit & Truth. I cannot read John 4:23-24 without getting excited chills,
“But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
— John 4:23-34 HCSB
I love that verse, worship in Spirit and Truth, true worshipers — wow, isn’t that what we really long for?!
Resoundingly in the New Testament I read a narrative, a fervent teaching that the Gospel is enough to compel people to true worship, Romans 12 worship (Romans 12). And don’t we want true worship? If we are seeking to pull people into the Body of Christ through ‘excellent programming’ and ‘killer experience’ and ‘relevant sermon topics’ are we diminishing the grandeur of the Gospel? Are we taking the power of God into our own hands? Are we not confident enough in the Gospel’s power?
To me, worship is getting ourselves out of the way to adore God for who he is, without our issues or agendas. But the flash of modern worship ‘feels’ like an excuse to add more between us and God, rather than remove and draw near to the Father. When is the last time you heard that in church… “draw near to the Father”?
I was fortunate enough to bounce this ‘mental chewing’ off a co-worker today and was given a very interesting perspective. Upon giving him the statement “simplicity breeds authenticity”, he provided the response, “authenticity can breed simplicity”. I wish I was eloquent enough to unpack the thoughts in my mind, but my co-worker’s reversal of the words is very profound. I agree upon further thinking that he is indeed right, meanwhile I still agree with the original statement too. I suspect they are interwoven, which is typical of most things I have learned of God. They are rarely as surface level as we may initially think, they are always richer, deeper and more beautiful than we would dare to imagine. This is something I dearly love about God.
Simplicity breeds authenticity.
Authenticity breeds simplicity.
Perhaps this is all rather naive and idealistic, but if there is some truth to it, I want to take it seriously and draw nearer to God & His word to help me unpack it more.
When it comes down to it, none of these things — lights, impressive music, beautiful sets, professional production and/or created experiences are by any means wrong or bad — but if they detract from truly worshipping God, they should be sacrificed to Glorify the only one deserving — our Heavenly Father.