Is Our Worship Wasting God’s Time?

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KairosOur English language has only one word for time. But the ancient Greeks used two different words to distinguish between chronological time and theological time.

Chronos is sequential time that is orderly, rhythmic and predictable. It is time that is externally controlled, can be measured by a clock and is quantitative.

Kairos is the time not measured by the clock, but the moment God has chosen. It is time that could disrupt the normal flow of tradition, habits, methods and ways of thinking. Kairos is qualitative and cannot be humanly manipulated or controlled.

We can’t create theological time or God moments through our song selections, emotions or orders of worship. That holy time doesn’t originate from our own innovations, desire for relevance or by following a recipe for worship success observed in other churches.

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes understood Kairos time when he wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4). When Jesus’ brothers failed to understand who he was, he tells them, “My time (Kairos) has not yet arrived, but your time (Kairos) is always at hand” (John 7:6).

Fr. Ken Kulinski communicates a deeper understanding of Kairos:

Kairos time is the moment of undetermined length in which the eternal (God and His story) breaks into the temporal (me and my story), shattering and transforming it, and prepares the temporal to receive the eternal. It is in this moment in which the conditional cancels itself out and makes itself the instrument of the unconditional.[1]

In a Chronos approach to worship, a congregation asks God to enter its story or the story of its own making. In a Kairos approach, the congregation is asked to enter God’s story. Kairos might occur in the former but has already occurred in the latter.

So here is a question we should ask as we plan and lead worship each week: “Are we missing Kairos moments in our efforts to manufacture creative worship services?” God has provided Scripture, prayer and the Lord’s Supper as Kairos opportunities for us to join His story. So in our creativity and innovation are we minimizing His time (Kairos) in order to give more time (Chronos) to other service elements of our own making?

[1] adapted from Fr. Ken Kulinski, “Kairos-God’s Time.” CowPi Journal, 9 October 2003. Database on-line. Available from http://cowpi.com/journal/2003/10/kairos_gods_time.html.

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2 Responses to “Is Our Worship Wasting God’s Time?”

  • Alan Erwin Says:

    In today’s society, silence cannot exist, we must have something happening most of the time. We see silence as wasted time. Perhaps that is one of the reasons our lives are so chaotic, and our world the same? Silence is like a vacuum, it cannot exist, it needs to be filled. So different from earlier societies, or at least how we have been told they were.
    How many will have the TV, or radio, or music playing even though we are not actively listening to it? It “fills” the void we feel if something is not happening. Perhaps we can take that a little further and see this idea played out in idol teens, children, and adults, who have/find nothing to do so fill that void with drug use and abuse, social unrest and vandalism?
    Has anyone else noticed that we feel a need to have a “flow”, a movement, something happening all of the time in “worship” services? Try asking the congregation to sit still, be quiet, and just to think about _______________. It will not be long before there is shuffling of feet, coughing, throat clearing, etc. and the time of quiet (yes even meditation) is disrupted and gone. Ask our Quaker Friends if they still sit quietly and wait for the Spirit to move someone to give a message from God, or if their worship time is as structured as most of us have. We are comfortable with structure because it “fills” our time; it gives us direction and distraction.

  • Duane Toole Says:

    As a corollary, silence in worship is an opportunity for God’s spirit to work, yet we seem to be afraid of silence in modern worship.

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