I was reading through Marva Dawn’s book on worship and came across these few pages. I was convicted but encouraged at the same time. I hope that this hits you as hard as it hits me!
PS- I’ve added some bold print to particular sentences and phrases that spoke more “loudly” to me than others. Enjoy : )
“The escalating disruption of intimacy and community chronicled in the previous chapter is augmented by the technological society’s idolatry of efficiency. Our culture is characterized by an enormous push to do everything faster. We want faster vehicles, computers, and cooking equipment. We must solve all our problems with an instant technological fix. Things must be on time. The press for efficiency is compounded by the media, which continue to accelerate the speed of life as news reports get shorter and less substantive, commercials get more hyped, the bombardment of sensory impressions increases in velocity. Because the Church seeks to minister to people formed by the technological milieu, it easily succumbs to its principal criterion of efficiency.
When this technological mind-set invades the Church, it can be extremely destructive of true worship in multiple ways- especially if we “must” finish the worship service in an hour. The liturgy becomes clockwork, service elements are eliminated, free expression of praise is stifled, the sermon is cut so brief that no deep biblical explication can occur, hymn verses are chopped off, the Eucharist becomes less communitarian, and there is no time for common prayer and sharing of concerns and thanksgivings. Worst of all, there is no time for silence or the surprising workings of the Holy Spirit.
Second, the bombardment of hyped media impressions creates the need for worship to be similarly “upbeat.” There is no place for sorrowful hymns of repentance, mourning dirges for a crucified Savior, despairing cries for hope in the troubles of life, contemplative anthems that call for deeper thinking. The speed of the technological society easily invades all our worship tempos. Many musicians think that the only way to make hymns interesting is to play them faster. When we rush through worship too hastily, the music is sung and the words are spoken of so quickly as to preclude much attention to meaning. We lose the majesty of many hymns, the moving pathos of the laments of Lent, the profound significance of the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, the lessons that can be gained by close listening to a slow-paced reading of the Scriptures.
Third, a need for efficiency in “fellowship time” between worship and Sunday School eliminates time for caring. Fellowship becomes a mere matter of coffee and cookies in the narthex between events. Some churches try to deepen these moments by calling them koinonia (the Greek word for sharing in common), but it is the same coffee and cookies! We talk about the weather and the latest ball scores, but we don’t really want to know the answer to “How are you?” If our worship practices create the sense that the things of God must be tightly timed, this efficiency increasingly destroys our relationships with each other within the Body of Christ. It augments our tendency to think that we don’t have enough time to provide transportation for the elderly, to listen to others’ concerns, to welcome the child who needs to learn that she is also an important part of Christ’s Body.
Above all, the technological society’s push for efficiency has robbed most congregations of the Sabbath rhythm, the setting apart of one day in every seven for ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting, a whole day set apart for God and for each other, a day of delight and healing. Consequently, Christians mimic the frantic lifestyle of the world around them and have no understanding that God has designed a wonderful rhythm of rest and work, of refreshment and then response. In that rhythm, we don’t have to rush out of the worship service at precisely noon, since there is no work to do on Sunday. The day is set apart for worship, for relationships, for growing in our sense of who God is and who we are as individuals desiring to become like Jesus and as a community of his people displaying his character to the world.
A last instance, intended to lead to personal and communal reflection on examples in your own local situation, is that worship planning and preparation are subjected to the need for efficiency. Pastors are burdened with so much “administrivia” that they have no time to focus, as Acts 6:4 suggests, on prayer and the ministry of the Word. (This change is indicated by the fact that we call their places of work “the office” instead of “the study.”) Seminaries spend less time teaching about worship and the heritage of the Church because all the other curricula demands concerning the mechanics of running a congregation. George Barna, who researches marketing trends, insists that clergy need to keep up with the latest technological developments to use computers and media well in the parish. “Church leaders must be technologically literate,” he proclaims, and he adds that “the very fact that the congregation is using the new technology sends an important signal to the surrounding community.” Should we not be more concerned to send to the culture around us the important signal that our worship leaders spend their time in personal spiritual preparation, deep study of the Scriptures, and the inefficient work of prayer? Instead, worship- which would and must be the most important work of the Church- gets planned and carried out with less prayer underneath it, inadequate reflection on the texts, little care, minimal substance, and clocked efficiency.”
- Marva Dawn in Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time