Beyond Tolerance

By Ruth T. Reyes

Brother Knofel Staton’s article on biblical worship articulated some biblical principles that serious students of worship must consider.

Submission

Staton emphasizes that worship is service with submission and humility. Our understanding of worship often precludes what is in God’s heart. He seeks the surrender of our will to his will and the submission of our purpose to his purpose so that we may truly delight in his presence and honor him with all our emptied being. Dan Dozier stresses that “no one can worship God acceptably who comes before Him with a prideful heart and a stubborn, unyielding will.”1

The apostle Paul challenges Christians “in humility (to) consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). This is most difficult, because we have studied and worked to develop methods and strategies that elevate some ways as better than others. Worship leaders, senior ministers, musicians, greeters, and nursery workers must model service with submission and humility if corporate worship is to be significantly impacted.

Jim Cymbala shares the “astonishing truth (that) God is attracted to weakness. He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him. Our weakness, in fact, makes room for his power.”2 These are words of wisdom to any serious student of worship.

Balance

Staton also advocates balance, the key ingredient that is more often lacking in our worship services. There is too much focus on music to the neglect of Scripture reading, prayer, and simple proclamation of God’s Word. Perhaps too much emphasis is placed on being culturally relevant to the neglect of articulating who we are, where we came from, and more importantly, whose we are. Perhaps too much attention is given to technique and sophistication to the neglect of valuing people and relationships.

As a church, we need to pursue balance as we link the dynamic role of the present to the rich heritage of our past, so that we may fully embrace the possibilities and blessings of our future.

Diversity

Staton equally and appropriately addresses the diversity issue. Our daughter Melissa served a summer internship in New Orleans at an academy for boys from one of the poorest districts in the nation. She observed that we have become integrated in the schools, workforce, and marketplace. Yet on Sunday morning we segregate to places of worship that reflect our stylistic preferences, ethnic backgrounds, and even our generational-targeted identity groups. The call to unity amid our numerous points of differences is paramount in God’s kingdom.

But I hold a strong conviction that we must learn not just to tolerate, but to accommodate. To tolerate is the easy way: to put up with other people’s preferences, to “grin and bear it,” to learn to live with it even if you don’t like it.

When we try tolerance, we miss out on God’s blessings. To accommodate is a different matter. It is not the easier way. But what if we accommodate, not just tolerate? What if we make room for kindness? What if we make adjustments to bring harmony into our church instead of passively accepting division? What if we worship with congregations with different worship expressions and make a joyful noise alongside of them? What if we set aside our preferences? What if we allow this sacrifice of praise that we so often sing about to become our real sacrifice to the Lord? Will this honor God and what he values?

In all our attempts to reach out to God, even our best worship is lacking and imperfect, because it is only through the blood of Jesus, our great High Priest, that our worship is made perfect.

1Dan Dozier, Come Let Us Adore Him: Dealing With the Struggle Over Style of Worship (Joplin: College Press, 1994), 50.

2Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire: What Happens When God’s Spirit Invades the Hearts of His People (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 19.

 


 

Ruth T. Reyes is associate professor of music at Florida Christian College in Kissimmee.

 

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