Enabling Mindless Worshipers

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MindlessIf our church services give the impression that worship starts when we start it and ends when we end it; If all worship resources and energies are spent preparing for and presenting a single hour on Sunday; If we aren’t exhorting our congregation and modeling for them how to worship not only when they gather but also when they leave; Then we are enabling mindless worshipers.

In Teaching A Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard wrote, “Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? The tourists are having coffee and doughnuts on Deck C. Presumably someone is minding the ship correcting the course, avoiding icebergs and shoals, fueling the engines, watching the radar screen, noting weather reports radioed from shore. No one would dream of asking the tourists to do these things.”[1]

Jesus’ greatest commandment was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and also love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi was whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy or worth our worship…we should think about such things (Phil 4:8).

Worshiping with our minds allows us to approach worship with knowledge, insight, reason, memory, creativity, inquiry, imagination and even doubt. So if we offer our prayers superficially; if we read and listen to Scripture texts mindlessly; if we gather at the Lord’s Supper Table hastily; and if we only sing our songs emotionally; the end result is often mindless worship.

We could learn a lot from the Jews who believe the Sabbath begins at sundown. Then the activities and things with which we fill our minds the night before we gather could better frame our worship attitudes on the Sabbath.

My daughter was five years old the first time our family vacationed at Disney World. After months of planning and days of travel, the final preparations for and anticipation of the first day at Magic Kingdom was almost too much excitement for her to contain.

Like a firefighter, she selected and laid out her clothes the night before so she could jump into them the next morning. Sleep eluded her with the anticipation of what was to come. She awakened early, quickly dressed and inhaled breakfast so she would be ready to depart hours before the park even opened.

All conversation traveling from our resort to the park entrance centered on what she would observe, experience, eat, participate in, enjoy and then take home at the end of the day. She had been thinking about it, dreaming of it, planning, preparing and longing for it. Her mind was so filled with it she couldn’t contain the anticipation.

Empowering instead of enabling worshipers encourages them to think, behave or take action autonomously. It gives them the permission to take ownership in their own worship responses to God’s revelation at the moment in which it occurs. Worship empowerment arises from the shallowness of dependency and leads to the full conscious, active and continuous participation of each worshiper.

Worship that doesn’t require us to think is superficial. Worship or love of God and others must be continuous or it becomes self-serving. And it can’t be continuous unless we think about it, consider it, process it, meditate on it, study it and learn how to get better at it in order to better teach others how to do it. So until we move beyond just waiting for the song set to enable us to worship, we’ll never encourage deep calling unto deep worship that also engages our minds.

 

[1] Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone to Talk (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008), 52.

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5 Responses to “Enabling Mindless Worshipers”

  • David Manner: Are You Enabling Mindless Worship? | BCNN1 - Black Christian News Network Says:

    […] In Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard wrote, “Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? The tourists are having coffee and doughnuts on Deck C. Presumably someone is minding the ship, correcting the course, avoiding icebergs and shoals, fueling the engines, watching the radar screen, noting weather reports radioed from shore. No one would dream of asking the tourists to do these things.”[1] […]

  • David Manner: Are You Enabling Mindless Worship? – BCNN1 WP Says:

    […] In Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard wrote, “Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? The tourists are having coffee and doughnuts on Deck C. Presumably someone is minding the ship, correcting the course, avoiding icebergs and shoals, fueling the engines, watching the radar screen, noting weather reports radioed from shore. No one would dream of asking the tourists to do these things.”[1] […]

  • Are You Enabling Mindless Worship? Says:

    […] In Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard wrote, “Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? The tourists are having coffee and doughnuts on Deck C. Presumably someone is minding the ship, correcting the course, avoiding icebergs and shoals, fueling the engines, watching the radar screen, noting weather reports radioed from shore. No one would dream of asking the tourists to do these things.”[1] […]

  • David Manner Says:

    Great question, James. Here is my thought process on using those two passages. Worship is our response to who God is and what he has done. So our response should come from every aspect of our being including our heart, soul, mind, strength and also how we serve others. Loving God with all of ourselves (worship) is Jesus’ command to us. So using our mind and not just our emotions to worship God is part of Jesus’ commandment.

    As Christ followers worship is not just what we do (or sing) on Sunday, it is who we are every day. It is our response to God’s revelation. Harold Best writes, “worship is continuous, it just depends on whom or what we are worshiping.” Paul is exhorting the church at Philippi in chapter 4 to stand firm in the Lord. He says earlier in verse 4 to rejoice in the Lord always (continuous worship). So in verse 8 he then goes through a litany of whatever’s and then finally states…if anything is praiseworthy, worth our praise (worship) we should be thinking about those things. So Paul is wrapping up a letter in chapter 4 that is a continuation of his exhortations earlier in the letter that no matter what our circumstances we must rejoice (again an act of worship) continuously…and again I say rejoice. Then Paul ends the letter with “To our God and Father be glory (worship) for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Janzen James Says:

    I am in full agreement with what you say. Good article

    However, while I don’t think the large leap from the greatest commandment and Paul’s exhortation to worship with the mind is wrong, I would like to ask on what basis you make that jump when the two verses mentioned do not mention worship specifically?

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