Service, worship, and interests (2)

Service, worship, and interests:  response to comments (part 2)

In a post a few days ago (Everything we do? (Nope.), I tried to say that it is both a logical and a biblical mistake for folks to think that everything we do is worship.  I find the biblical concept of worship to be more specific.

A friend who works as a preacher probed my essay a bit.  I decided to respond in multiple ways, and yesterday’s post was part of that, dealing with worship and service and Romans 12.  Today, I’d like to flesh out the secondary idea I had initially presented. . . .

(continued . . .)

I probably just should have left this part out of the post, but I had connected the notion of whole-life worship to what I referred to as preachers’ vested interests.  I have broad preconceptions that often lead me to look askance at church staff positions, but the linkage in the original post came from a specific church visit back in June.  When I heard this preacher in a friend’s church suggest that everything is worship, it rang hollow for at least two reasons.

First:  this preacher immediately proceeded to a Revelation passage that referred to proskuneo, yet it was clear that a) his words and b) John’s words were speaking of different things.  I’m kind of big on labels, i.e., using terminology intentionally.  And, not incidentally, I am more energetic than ever for a Restoration Movement principle:  I want to “speak of Bible things in Bible ways.”  My radar immediately went up when I heard “worship” referred to, immediately after “not-worship” was mentioned, as though they were the same thing.

Next (and here’s where the “interests” come in):  in that particular context, the preacher’s suggestion that everything the church does was “worship” struck me as serving his own purposes as chief executive of a church corporation.  By this I mean that, if the parking lot ministry people and the A/V folks and the custodians and the accountants and all the rest are supposedly worshipping when they direct traffic, turn knobs, clean floors, and fill in spreadsheets, then that “fact” appears on the surface to imbue all these activities with a special sense of worth.  In other words, if we can somehow make ourselves believe those things are “worship,” it makes them loftier and more tied to God; therefore, it is difficult to question them, change them, or say “no” when asked to do them.  All this ends up serving the corporation and ultimately, the CEO, a/k/a “pastor” or “preacher.”  People feel obliged to do all those things even more, and the end result is that the system perpetuates itself.

Not that any of those “ministry” activities are bad!  They are inherently neutral or even good.  And people may well be glorifying God’s purposes by doing them at times.  The fact is, though, they are not proskuneo.  What I am doing right now — expressing thoughts about some of the things of the Lord — is not in itself worship.  It may or may not glorify God, and people may or may not (likely not) be led to worship by reading, but the acts of writing and reading can’t legitimately be said to be worship.

You mentioned Hebrews 12:28, wanting to see if my ideas and those of this biblical writer would mesh.  I certainly don’t see any conflict, and I hope you trust me well enough to know I have great respect for the biblical text.  This passage doesn’t speak of proskuneo-worship — but what it says about latreuo could probably be said about the specific vertical response, too.  The Hebrews author doesn’t appear to define worship, really, but he uses a term in 12:28 that has a range of meanings.  That range of meanings includes religious rituals, service rendered for hire, service of God according to the Levitical law, ministration, and homage (according to Thayer).  The notion of homage, of course, dovetails with the notion of proskuneo (“kissing toward”), but the latre* word family seems rarely, if ever, to be used by NT writers with reference to the same things that proskuneo refers to.  Does this help any?

As for my indictment of preachers:  “vested interest” in this context, for me, meant “financial interest.”  I sincerely believe most preacher roles in view today have been morphed and aggrandized to the point that they cannot be identified with any roles described in the New Testament.  This status quo leads to a tenuous situation.  So that the institutional systems that pay their salaries are maintained, certain operational aspects of the church corporations must periodically be artificially propped up.  I don’t hide here that my view is cynical, but this doesn’t mean that preachers don’t do good.  I am simply naming the fact that preachers/pastors have a financial interest in operational perpetuation of their congregations, but the existence of extra-biblical church roles does not in itself imply that they are evil or even unwise.  For me, it does mean that they deserve to be questioned.

I would hasten to add that your particular role is not one I would care to criticize.  I absolutely believe you have a vested spiritual interest in helping your hearers understand and do worship more fully — that’s a better kind of vested interest!  In a future post, I plan to treat something closely related — what I’ll call “professional perpetuation.”  It’s certainly not just preachers who have “interest” in seeing their enterprises perpetuated.  My own profession does the same thing!  Eventually I will take my vocational calling to task, as well.  🙂

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13 thoughts on “Service, worship, and interests (2)

  1. Anne Boyd 11/17/2013 / 5:32 am

    I think I understand what you are saying about professionalism and the misuse of προσκυνὲω. But, for me personally, what are you saying about 1 Cor. 10:31? “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Of course, Paul says this in a discourse about eating meat offered to idols. BUT, he tags on “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

    The concept of worship, as established in the Old Testament, that conveys the meaning which embraces the physical act of bowing to the ground, as well as the expression of the internal attitude of reverence and submission to the Lord, is carried over into the New Testament usage of προσκυνὲω.

    My attitude of mind and heart in the choices I make can be one of submission to Jesus’ teachings, or one of “that scripture does not apply to me.” It’s the expression of our internal attitude of reverence and submission to the Lord that, in my feeble mind, makes all that I do an act of worship. Too often I stumble and fall but am comforted by the fact that God’s grace extends to all intentional followers of Christ. (Keep up your rantings and ravings, Nephew! Make us THINK, SEARCH, FOLLOW THE WAY!)

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    • Brian Casey 11/22/2013 / 9:50 pm

      Anne & Bill, you both deserve a reply, but I haven’t had the brain or heart stamina this week. I haven’t forgotten you!

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    • Brian Casey 11/24/2013 / 12:35 pm

      Anne, I appreciated your ponderings and probings the first time I read them and now, even more so. To answer your direct question, I was saying nothing (originally) about 1 Cor. 10:31. I was saying something about a small portion of Revelation and commenting on Romans 12:1-2 While 1 Cor. 10:31 relates an important concept, it doesn’t necessarily tie in to Romans 12:1-2, and I submit that it doesn’t directly tie to proskuneo in Revelation.

      It is not a “feeble mind” that makes other things become worship, in a sense. *Au contraire.* Rather, I’m persuaded that it is a heart that understands the bigger picture that considers more things than literal worship as being activities and attitudes that glorify God. My intention is to be more specific with our terminology and to speak more biblically, but this intention does not preclude moving — as Paul seems to have conceived of it — toward seeing service as an important part of sacrificial offering to God. Worship is worship, and horizontal activity is horizontal, but when one does things for others, the spiritually intentional Christian will likely be having just the internal attitude of reverence that you describe. That attitude is likely proskuneo of the heart!

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  2. Bill Mcgee 11/18/2013 / 12:51 am

    Would you say that as Christians when we are not “kissing toward” God that we must then at least be in service?

    In regard to your feeling about preachers and the complications that arise with their being paid, I definitely see your point. When your salary is involved it impacts your ability to discern at times. I think a closer look at Paul could help. He did say once that he “proved” himself to those he was working with because he did not ask anything of them. He then was happy that they supported him because he could dedicate all his time to the ministry. So, where did we go wrong? There are preachers who do prove themselves working a regular job while advancing the message for a congregation but it seems that if he were good at it the congregation should pay his way to do it full time.

    I assume you believe that we should stick to NT roles when it comes to leadership in the church. I agree but the only person ever mentioned as a Deacon was a lady even though by definition in other letters it is a male role. That alone leads me to believe that there is some flexibility in using judgment when defining roles. I think the CofC hold to my position as that of Phillip (an evangelist.) Not sure why. I would rather take on the role of Pastor/Elder- one who preaches and teaches-thereby is worthy of double honor (I believe monetary in nature.) I do as much or more (as do most ministers) when it comes to shepherding, leading, preaching and teaching. I can do it because I was hired to or because I desire to. I see the role of Pastor as ok as long as he serves with others. One Pastor can lead to difficulties. Though in most cases those churches grow faster because he has the ability to exercise lots more freedom. That freedom is both beautiful and dangerous.

    Speaking of freedom, since we have little (virtually none) describing what is to happen in our assemblies (hence, maybe we make way too much out of them any way), I think each group and its leaders should use that freedom to come up with the best ways for them to “kiss and serve” rather than following some pattern that seems to be the acceptable norm. Ok…I am rambling now…

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    • Brian Casey 11/24/2013 / 1:44 pm

      Bill, these thoughts were terrific. I apologize, again, for taking so long to reply. As to your first question, off the top, sort of, my response would be, “I don’t think I’d want to commit myself or anyone else to that high a standard, but it seems like a great goal!” I would say that it makes sense that we would be in service a lot more than we are worshipping, but then again, when the most mature ones of us are in service, we may also be worshipping *in spirit,* so they can go hand in hand.

      Thanks for being open and honest about staff ministry jobs/paid preachers/etc. I don’t really think it’s necessary in all cases to be absolutely NT-oriented, i.e., making the biblical specifics a blueprint for our roles today. I tend to be devil’s advocate in these things: when a church appears to be paying no attention to NT material, I would call them back to it, but when it is being too legalistic with no reason for perpetuating (supposedly) identical roles, I’d say they need to be freed up somewhat.

      I’ve never been part of a church where there was a real-life evangelist, but I’ve heard they exist. Seems to me that the biblical evangelist model is more itinerant, but that doesn’t make as much sense today, I suppose. I will probably always object to the model I see as more prevalent–paying a man to speak and teach (30 to 120 minutes a week) and be officially in charge of things (which turns out to be 80+% of his job). For instance, I bristle when the preacher assumes he is, or is assumed by others to be, in charge of the sum total of the assembly. In most cases, he is only one, when there are many who have gifts in that area. Neither should the preacher be the default when it comes time for mealtime prayers, funerals, janitorial decisions, church vision, etc. When the preacher becomes the repository for all that the congregation is or is trying to be, a clergy-laity distinction is set up or perpetuated.

      The role of pastor/elder — yeah, double honor! — is one I also wish were more emphatic in our congregations. A public speaker should be a prophet, to some extent, and that role doesn’t always dovetail well with being a shepherd/elder, but it can. I agree with you that having single pastors invites problems (in all but the most unusual cases … and having single pastors whose wives are also “on the pastoral team” virtually guarantees clergy-laity hierarchy and pedestal-sitting). I also agree that freedom is to be explored. Patterns usually devolve into something less than desirable, in my experience.

      Wouldn’t you say that most churches are far from intentional in most of what they do — whether in the weekly gatherings or outside them? Most of what goes on is, sadly, merely habitual.

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  3. johnnytawil 05/03/2017 / 4:03 am

    I read an article saying “everything we do is worship” by saying that you become what you worship” and what you value most will reflect your character and actions therefore worship is your identity and everything you do in your life is worship!
    Author gives example of
    Idolatry: The Root
    “Sin is the fruit, and idolatry is the root.” This is why I we the things we do (we all reap what we sow). That is, I can tend to worship things that aren’t God. These things are called idols.
    Idols saturate our culture. I’m not really talking about Hinduisms myriad of gods, or Buddha, or Allah. I’m talking about real influences that destroy our very souls. These idols can be pleasure, riches or fame. An Idol can be anything or anyone that you love more then you love your Creator. Idolatry is the root and the sin in your life is the fruit. If you worship money (the root), you could be found overworking and not spending time with your family (the fruit). If you are worshiping pleasure (the root), you could be found caught in a range of sins from adultery, to drunkenness, drugs or any combination of these sins (the fruit). If you are found worshiping other people (the root), you usually can be found becoming obsessed and your identity is found in whether or not that person (or thing) approves or disapproves of you (the fruit). It is important to understand that our identity is directly intertwined with whatever it is we worship. This can be seen clearly at the Fall with Adam and Eve.
    And if we worship god (root) then our actions are good and reflect god (fruit)
    So they conclude that “everything we do is worship” because ” worship becomes our identity”
    Please reply on this topic if their conclusion everything we do is worship because worship is our “identity” and because our identity is directly “intertwined” with whatever it is we worship!!
    If you can please reply precisely on this topic to clarify for me!
    Best regards,
    Johnny

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    • Brian Casey 05/03/2017 / 2:58 pm

      Johnny, thanks for looking in here. And wow — you have packed a lot into this query. It is theologically and conceptually loaded, and I won’t be able to do it justice in any reply I could give. There are a couple things in the article you refer to that I would question on theological and logical grounds. Trying to get to the root (ha!) of this, I would offer this….

      First, in making modern concepts and activities “idols,” I think we stand far removed from what the idolatry was that the great prophets were fighting against. But I quickly add that I agree that the modern things can in some sense “take the place of God” in my life.

      I just think it serves us better to understand devotion on the one hand and worship on the other. We may be devoted to golf or work or pleasure or exercise, and those things will very likely become hindrances to discipleship. On the other hand, I don’t really think it’s possible to worship golf or pleasure in the strict sense of the word “worship.” On this point, you might be interested in some of my word study material. You can use this link, and then scroll back a few posts to one of the summary “What Was All That About?” posts. Material on worship words was presented, as well as resource lists and quotations and a few other goodies.

      Speaking precisely, worship cannot be my identity (except in some odd, anthropomorphic sense) because worship is an activity, not a character or psychological ego or identity. But if we want to extend the action — perhaps as Paul did in referring to sacrifice (not worship per se) in Romans 12:1-2 — we might say that “everything we do can be sacrificial” . . . and in that sense my life sort of becomes “worship” (not really worship, but functions similarly as an expression of devotion). I believe it’s better to stay away from mixing concepts like worship and service, because people can get so lost in thinking mowing the lawn or washing the dishes is “worship” that they forget to praise and worship God with words (or without words, in the inner spirit). Or, they may start to think that worship is confined to what their church groups call a “service.”

      With all that said, on the positive side, I do the point that worshipping God will naturally lead to greater connection with His identity, and that will in turn affect my identity. This is all so complicated!

      Liked by 1 person

    • johnnytawil 05/03/2017 / 3:40 pm

      Hello,

      Thank you for your reply Dear Brian and yes I very agree with what you said there is a difference between service and worship.

      But if you can clarify more on devotion and worship because some say for instance that people “worship their work” and become workaholics i.e work becomes their identity. But my question is working or playing golf considered an act of worship?

      Also when you said : on the positive side, I do the point that worshipping God will naturally lead to greater connection with His identity, and that will in turn affect my identity. This is all so complicated!

      What did u mean all so complicated meaning there is no precise answer to my question according to scriptures if you can please clarify for me on this topic : is everything we do worship ?!

      Best regards, Johnny

      ________________________________

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    • Brian Casey 05/04/2017 / 6:55 am

      Johnny, I do think that these matters are more complicated than can be answered in words, and although I tend to give very scripture-based consideration to such things, I don’t find that the scriptures set out to prove exactly what worship is or isn’t. Neither do the scriptures compare worship to praise or to devotion or to idolatry or to other things that may overlap in concept. It is probably best to take each text on its own, trying to learn what it says about God and our relationship to Him.

      Speaking both scripturally and linguistically, I answer that no, not everything we do is worship. Yet you or I may be worshipping within our spirits while we do other things. Is that clearer? Thanks for your inquiries.

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  4. johnnytawil 05/03/2017 / 3:22 pm

    Thank you for your reply Brian and yes I very agree with what you said there is a difference between service and worship.

    But if you can clarify more on devotion and worship because some say for instance that people “worship their work” and become workaholics i.e work becomes their identity.
    But my question is working or playing golf considered an act of worship?

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    • Brian Casey 05/04/2017 / 6:41 am

      The short, clear (to me) answer to your final question is “no, playing golf is not likely worship.” It is hard to imagine a person personifying the game and paying homage to it, saying things like, “Oh golf, you are great, and you give me life. You are worthy of worship.” The expression and the inner feeling of honoring something is the worship, not the devotion to it. This answer is based on various Greek words in scripture more than on contemporary theologians or preachers who are out to drive home a message to their audiences. They may need to preach to some people not to “worship” golf or exercise or pleasure or other things, but what they are really talking about is too much devotion to one thing — and living a life out of balance. A life that “worships” golf is really just too devoted to it and are not really worshipping the game. Some seem to use the word “worship” to make their points all sound stronger. I believe it is better to distinguish between word-concepts such as worship and devotion and honor and praise than to put them all in a blender. More later to your other questions.

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