Who or what is worship for?

This is by way of a quick commentary on a video that Banksy has posted (tying in with some conversations that we’ve been having). Here’s the vid:

I would very much want to endorse the second half of the vid, especially the link between pastoral care and the leading of worship (that’s why you can’t have lay presidency – doh!) and the fact that, if you pitch worship towards people who aren’t members, then the worship doesn’t have integrity.


I think the first part of the vid is one-sided (not untrue, just not the whole picture). Who is worship for? That is, what is the centre of gravity? The centre of gravity must be God, otherwise it is not worship, it is entertainment, some form of self-stimulation. Worship must have (MUST) have an irredeemably other, prophetic and even judgemental quality about it. It is a fearful thing to come into the presence of the living God.

It is therefore perfectly legitimate for worship to be found strange, off-putting, weird or bizarre to begin with. If the worship is real, if the Spirit is present, then the worship won’t just be strange, it will be strangely attractive, and people will be enabled to enter into and share in the mystery. This may require that worship does not change with contemporary fads, it means resisting a collapse into worldliness, it means giving a full respect and weight to worship that has been found valid through time, what CS Lewis called ‘Deep Church’.

However… that being said, the speaker on the video does have a point. It is perfectly possible for worship to lose touch with the Spirit through being embedded too far in its own fundament(als). The word that I have found useful for striking the right balance between a worldly trendiness that lacks God-centred integrity, and a broken down ruin that has only memories of the divine glory, is this: enable. Right worship enables the congregation to come into the presence of God. There is no set way of achieving this – all sorts of ways can ‘work’ – it depends entirely on the gathered believers, which is why the second half of the video is spot on.

The question is: what will enable THIS community of believers, gathered together, to worship God in Spirit and in Truth? What will enable them to enter into the great mystery of faith, in a way which feeds their soul and enables them to access spiritual medicine? The answers change according to time and context…

See also:
Tearing Down the Curtain
The Role of Music in Worship

One thought on “Who or what is worship for?

  1. I am not advocating lay presidency, but it is important to note that those who do (at least those who are putting forward this argument in Sydney) would agree with this point about the importance of the connection between pastoral responsibility and worship. The idea is not to let “just anyone” lead communion, but responsible elders of the congregation and non-ordained pastoral staff (which are quite common in Sydney. I was one myself for a few years).

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