Jump directly to the content
magcover

Already a subscriber?

Home > Issues > 1986 > Spring > BALANCING FORM AND FREEDOM
Article Preview. Log in or subscribe now.

A woman who was visiting a liturgical service kept punctuating the pastor's sermon with "Praise the Lord!" Another woman finally turned around and said, "Excuse me, but we don't praise the Lord in the Lutheran church."

A man down the pew corrected her. "Yes we do; it's on page 19."

The conflict between form and freedom is not new, and we have both sides in our congregation. Some wish we would throw out the liturgy so we could be free to "move with the Spirit." Others are tired of innovations and want to return to the good ol' days when they knew what was happening and could follow the bulletin play by play.

Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? Yes! Order and ardor can be happily wed. Truth is canonized but not style. The issue is not structure or freedom, but Spirit. God has no preference for formless spiritualism or Spiritless formalism—he rejects both. Spontaneity offers no innate advantage over liturgy. Liberty is where the Spirit is, not where the preacher has thrown away his notes.

Protestants have traditionally been better workers than worshipers. Pastors may spend fifteen hours on sermon preparation and fifteen minutes throwing the service together.

God wants worshipers above anything else. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "He seeketh such to worship him." Karl Barth wrote, "Christian worship is the most momentous, the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in human life." If we agree, then it must not be "the things we do before we get to the important stuff."

One glimpse into heaven reveals that it is of eternal significance. The whole Book of Leviticus was written to teach a nation how to worship, an acknowledgment that at the center of life is the worship of God.

Like other Christian disciplines, worship requires balance. Here are some the areas we try to handle appropriately.

Balancing Praise and Worship

Our family went to see "The Glory of Christmas" concert at the Crystal Cathedral, and it was glorious! Dr. Schuller asked that applause be held till the end of the performance. After every marvelous piece of music, complete with drama (live camels and flying angels included!), my four-year-old daughter clapped vigorously. She knew it called for a response, and I could not convince her that silence was more appropriate (much to my embarrassment). With all respect to Dr. Schuller, I think Naomi was taking her cue properly from a joyful heart, not the rubrics of the evening.

Reading about the worship of Israel convinces me that God is no grouch. Dancers, singers, and instrumentalists combined to make worship a time for rejoicing: "Four thousand shall offer praises to the Lord with the instruments which I have made for praise" (1 Chron. 23:5).

One of the men in our church said, "I used to think Cecil B. De Mille was overdoing it—trumpeters on this wall, heralds on that wall, and a chorus in every corner. But after reading the Old Testament, maybe he was downplaying it! I'd love to see a service with processions, ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

Related Topics:HistoryLiturgyPrayerPresence of GodTraditionWorship
From Issue:Worship, Spring 1986 | Posted: April 1, 1986

Also in this Issue: Spring 1986

SURVIVING SUNDAY MORNING INNOVATIONSSubscriber Access Only

Tampering with tradition is risky business. Can you change practices without having to change pulpits?

THEY'RE OK WE'RE NOT: BUILDING HEALTHY CHURCH ESTEEMSubscriber Access Only

A church won't ascend to great heights if it feels down in the dumps.

CLOSER HARMONY WITH CHURCH MUSICIANSSubscriber Access Only

Music can touch the eternal, but it can also produce temporal turmoil.

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating: Not rated

No comments

Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Reader's Pick
Growing Grace for Mental Illness

Growing Grace for Mental IllnessSubscriber Access Only

One pastor's story mirrors a burgeoning response in the church.
Sister Sites
Leading a Women's Ministry TeamBuilding Church Leaders

Leading a Women's Ministry Team