After a hard day’s work, or one of those really long weeks, I like to turn on the TV to unwind and just stop thinking. Television seems like the best place to go when someone wants to turn off the brain.
Well, maybe not.
TV shows like Black-ish and Modern Family can actually change (or rewire) our brains, making us think differently about race and sexuality. The fictional characters we meet and empathize with on television can, in time, become our “friends.” The emotional attachment to these characters may change our own feelings about individuals or groups of people. Of course, this is not always something to fear. It's something that we need to be more aware of.
Entertainment is not a neutral exercise—it affects us positively or negatively as we invite images and ideas into our minds. We might regularly go to entertainment to escape from real problems or from critical thinking, but each time we do, we are being confronted with arguments that have taken on a different form. Instead of appealing to our minds, they're hitting our affections.
If this is true with regard to what we watch, how much more so is it true with how we worship?
What we might learn from this nugget of common wisdom, is that the Christian faith is more likely to be caught by the next generation than it is to be taught.
As James K. A. Smith points out in Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works, public worship needs to be the kind of environment that transforms the people of God “not only to inhabit the world differently but” to “inhabit a different world” (p. 296). Christian worship should intentionally make an effort for worshipers to better absorb the Gospel story.
Just as regularly consuming entertainment can shape our feelings, a consistent pattern in Sunday worship can help us grow in Christ.
This can happen by intentionally organizing each part of the service (or liturgy) so that it flows and refashions God’s people into the image of Jesus—in mind, heart, soul, and strength.
How might a church go about doing this? Here are a few ideas, just to get you started.
- Consider including more historic practices in your church’s worship service, such as the Lord’s Prayer (Jesus taught us to pray it regularly), the Gloria Patri ("Glory be to the Father..."), and the Doxology ("Praise God from whom all blessings flow...").
- Begin with a "call to worship" (for example, use a verse or two from the Psalms) and end with the "benediction" (for example, Numbers 6:24-26).
- Be sure to include regular times of prayer throughout the worship service (maybe include a brief time of "general prayer," following what Paul instructs the church to do in 1 Timothy 2). Pray both before and after the sermon too.
Each Sunday will become a time and a place for worshipers to be changed, and hopefully—over time—change the world by loving and serving our neighbors Monday through Saturday.
The more empty and hollow we feel inside, the stronger the guards we place to keep others from finding out who we really are.