Friday, April 17, 2009

consumers and producers

We live in a time and a culture that is best defined as consumption driven. We consume more resources than anyone else at any time else in history. We're even consuming resources at a speed with which nature can not keep up.

While this is an important issue, consumption of natural resources is not the point of this post. Worship is.

Do we have the mindset in our churches of consumers of worship or producers of worship? Consider this: Since the age of Constantine, we have had the church institution that is built exactly like a theatre. There seems to be an audience and some key performers (pastors/priests/worship leaders/etc) who are 'on stage.

This is a terrible concept of worship.

It breeds an understanding of worship that allows an audience to be largely 1)Non-participatory, 2)Critical, 3)Disconnected.

1. Non-participation
If I am in the "audience", my role is not significant. The people on stage represent me or are there on my behalf somehow. This destroys the notion of the priesthood of all believers. Somehow we must reorient our worship so that each of us has the view that we are on stage offering and performing our worship for a Most High Audience of One. We must move from Consumers of Worship to PRODUCERS OF WORSHIP.

2. Critical
When I am a consumer of worship, I am entitled to be critical of what is being offered by the leaders. So when they sing Come Now is the Time to Worship, or some other 1980s song that I am weary of, that is on me, because somehow it has become about my preferences, opinions or ideals. When we move to being producers, our critic becomes God, and the desperation to orient ourselves around right worship becomes overwhelming as we know even our most spectacular praise is spectacularly inadequate for our Lord.

3. Disconnected
The more consumer minded we become about worship, the easier it is to disconnect from the body. "They don't feed me there." You know who requires to be fed? Babies? If you are maturing in your relationship with Christ, feed yourself. God is a Mighty and gracious God. If you draw near to him through his word/prayer/worship, he will feed you as you feed yourself. If I hear this "I'm not being fed" thing anymore in our churches, I will organize a sunday where everyone gets a bib and a diaper when they come into church. May as well treat them how they are acting right?

So the task of leaders is to reorient our worshipping communities from Consumers of Worship to Producers of Worship. Any thoughts on how?


Wood said...

Bib and Diaper....ROFL! That said, the post brings interesting thoughts that now I have to go and challenge myself to think about.

mikeg said...

Wow, Ben. Some of your posts really make me think and this is one of them.

You come at this from a totally different angle than I would. I really agree that we treat church and our faith as consumers in many respects. The whole idea of "church shopping" is a perfect example. We look for places that we like instead of a place to worship God. When we don't get a product that we want, we head to someplace else.

Poor Constantine. You really don't like that guy. The first big public churches were based on Roman buildings used for public civil functions, but that's beside the point.

It's just really interesting (and difficult) for me to think of worship in this way. For me, worship is about the Eucharist and re-presenting the sacrifice Christ made on Calvary in every Mass.

We in "the audience" participate by offering ourselves to God as God's Son is offered to Him in the way he told us to do and all Christians did for over a thousand years.

It's for this reason that the traditional church shape works well. It's not about the leader and it's not about us - it's about God. In the old days at Mass, everybody, including the priest, faced the same way. We worship God. I can't stand round churches because they make it hard to focus on God. We are looking at each other or the leader as the "entertainment."

Maybe it would be interesting for a congregation (a non-Catholic one) to try facing the same way. I don't know.

I'm not trying to be pompous or anything, just sharing. Thanks for your insight.

Ben said...

Hey Mike. Thanks for the input. I am very cynical when it comes to Constantine...Everything about the Church changed then and very little was for the better.

I am familiar with the pre-Vatican II form of Mass where the priests faced the same direction as the congregation. I think the decision in VII to turn the priest around was a huge mistake, as that is some symbolism from the Catholic Church that I resonate with.

The challenge for Catholicism in this post may lie in the issue of the priesthood of all believers...I know you will say you all believe in this, but the core of your theology seems to contradict this.

Anyways, good stuff...I am glad you got on board with some dialogue on this post as its one of the ones that I am wrestling with right now. Peace brother!