There’s an urban clothing company known simply as “FUBU,” which stands for “For Us, By Us.” Sadly, I wonder if “FUBU” might also describe the way many of our churches worship.
Leave aside your dusty theology books and European traditional influence for just a moment and consider the question: How would Jesus construct a church’s worship ministry? I think most of us are scared to answer that question because we realize it could be the end of everything we’ve come to know and love about what we call “church.”
My church, Sunrise Community, in Austin, Texas, had an interesting experience a few weeks back. A homeless gentleman we did not know was attending worship that morning. Having homeless people attend worship is not abnormal for Sunrise, but what came next was. About half way through my message, he proceeded to stand up, walk to the set communion table, unscrew the top off his coffee mug and pour himself a heaping helping of communion wine (juice in our context). Eventually the man sat down and I kept speaking. What shocked me was not his action – but the reaction of the first five rows of attendees, most of whom were Sunrise members. Their horrified faces and yelps for cessation seemed to arise out of a need to protect the sanctity of Sunday morning – the sanctity of what we call worship.
In my short 27 years, I’ve seen many CRCs who have actively started engaging their communities – being about the mission of God and the cause of the Kingdom in some meager and some powerful ways. I rejoice that these perspectives are supplementing arm’s-length or ocean’s-length missional engagement. But it strikes me: why does it seem like the only part of our churches that we don’t allow mission to influence is our worship? Of course, we’d all say that our worship is “For God, By Us” or “FGBU,” but is it really? If our worship were truly “FGBU,” it would really be “FTLBU,” “For the Lost By Us.” I kind of wish Jesus would have tagged this onto Matthew 25’s parable of the sheep and the goats: “Lord, when did we see you not worshipping with us and wonder what was keeping you out?”
So what questions might we ask if we were looking at worship from an outsider’s perspective? How about these for starters: Why do we wear street clothes and stand with the lost on weekdays and then wear 3-piece suits and hide behind pulpits on Sunday? Why is our amp cranking top-40 hits on weekdays and then settling for music or quality levels on Sunday that most of us would never slide into our CD players? Why do we engage in relational evangelism with people six days a week and then decide preaching at people is okay for Sunday worship? Why do we have churches where the pastor’s salary takes up 75% of the church’s budget and the band or organist needs to play for free because they’re “sharing their gifts?”
This is no traditional versus contemporary argument or Kuyper versus Calvin argument – this is a Jesus versus what we now call worship argument. Our worship should be the intersection of all of our lives on mission and when we get off track with that, our churches get off track with priorities. Let’s stop distracting ourselves with worship wars and trying to protect the sanctity of formal worship services (something the Bible never explicitly mentions after the ascension). For many of us, traditional and contemporary alike, it has become the CHIEF idol we make sacrifices to in our churches. Like all idols, it can distract us from God, His glory and His mission in His world. Oh God, let it be no more.