Monday, October 26, 2009

Treasuring God in Our Traditions (10) - Worship

Before I wrap up this series, I wanted to share some thoughts on the Appendix of this book: 'The Family Together in God's Presence'. I was not altogether persuaded by this part of the book, mostly because I have some disagreements with the theology of worship that undergirds it.

Within the appendix the language of 'worship' is used, OT-style, for the ritual gathering of God's people in the 'sanctuary' of the church building, and the atmospherics of the Sunday church service are depicted as a kind of conduit for the encounter with God. On this issue, I think that the NT points us in a different direction, catching up the OT language for the 'cultic' worship of the tabernacle and the temple and applying it (mainly, at least) not to what we do in church on Sundays but to what Christ has done for us on the cross and to what we do in response in the whole of our lives. (If you're interested in reading some more about a Biblical theology of worship, you might want to check out this book, by David Peterson, or this article, by Tony Payne.)

Not all churches have a gathering that is as formal as the one described in this chapter. But if we are going to meet in a more 'traditional' format when we gather on Sundays I do agree that it is a good thing for children to learn how to be involved as well. I think this will mean, as Noel Piper says, that they will need to be quiet for a while (although I probably wouldn't expect quite as much 'quietness' as she seemed to expect, I must admit!). They will need to do this for the sake of others and for themselves as well because they need to learn self-control. I expect my younger kids to do this at the school assembly too - not because the school assembly hall is sacred, but because it is polite and respectful to behave that way.

I also think that children should be as involved as possible from a young age and should be encouraged to sing the songs, pray during corporate prayer, eat communion and even listen to the sermon when they're old enough to understand. I don't think that a model of church that only ever shunts children off to kids church is helpful to them if we want them to feel that they belong to the family of God's people.

For this reason, I did appreciate some of the ideas that Noel Piper had for including children in the the Sunday service. I liked her idea of getting them to draw pictures of the ideas raised by the sermon and the idea of reading the Bible passage with the kids beforehand. And while I would probably not expect as high a level of 'quietness', it was helpful to have a list of what another parent thinks is reasonable to expect of children - it gave me a bit to think about.

What did you think?


Jean said...

Hear, hear! Loved this post, Nic, and I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said - about the nature of worship and about involving kids in church - although I will admit we run SS during church at our church and I don't have a real problem with that. But I agree totally about communion etc.

It's funny, but the chapter on worship is normally the one I disagree with in most Christian books, for the very reason you mention - including in Barbara Hughes' "Disciplines of a godly family", which has lots about family traditions (as you know!).

Sarah B said...

Ideas such as quietness in church is one that presses my buttons faster than any other! With 3 full-on, extremely active boys I am convinced that Gareth and my idea of appropriate behaviour in church is poles apart from a mother of 3 girls. My boys can't sit still for 10 mins at the best of times, it is like forcing a 'round peg into a square hole,' we don't want them growing up hating church.

I am very thankful that God has given me children that have challenged me in this way. If it weren't for them I would have been an outsider looking at them thinking "Why can't those parents get those children to sit still?"

So much of children's education, Sunday School included, is geared towards pen and pencil-based activities, something my 3 boys are uninterested in. They are wired so differently from me, it is almost beyond my comprehension, so now I think I should stop.......