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Wondering about worship

19 April 2017

After reading a few articles on the Web about worship this week, it seems that Christians from different backgrounds and traditions are in different galaxies in an expanding universe, rapidly moving apart.

First, some background.

There’s a fellow called Hank Hanegraaf who ran a radio programme called Bible Answer Man. Apparently one of the answers that his study of the Bible gave him was that he should join the Orthodox Church, which he did. As a result some of those who had supported his radio programme stopped doing so; you can read about that here — ‘Bible Answer Man’ Booted From Bott Radio Network After Hank Hanegraaff Joins Orthodox Church

But here comes the bit about worship — Visiting Hank Hanegraaff’s New Greek Orthodox Church – Pulpit & Pen:

One of the biggest complaints against Pulpit & Pen we get consistently is that we somehow don’t “have all our facts,” or are “misrepresenting” someone or something. I received countless emails claiming that I “misrepresented” Greek Orthodoxy in my recent posts regarding Hank Hanegraaff and that I should do more research. Well, what better way to research than to go straight to the source in person? Saturday, April 15, known as Holy Saturday in the Orthodox tradition, I along with a couple of friends went to visit St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC–the church that Hanegraaff was recently chrismated in. The service began at 11:30 pm, and was still going strong showing no signs of slowing down when we decided to leave at around 2:00 am. While we hoped to have the opportunity to confront Hanegraaff in person, being that we all had to get up early the next morning to worship the living God on Easter morning, we decided to call it a night early. However, there are quite a few things that we can take away from this experience in this church

Go on, read the whole article. see how they “had all the facts” and gave a “fair representation” of Orthodox worship. the bit about “deacons” going out to smoke gives a clue to the quality of the research.

St Nektarius Church, North Carolina, USA, where Hank Hanegraaff was chrismated

Obviously the people at Pulpit & Pen don’t like Orthodox worship, and to judge from some of the other posts on their blog, they don’t like a lot of other people’s worship either. What they don’t tell us is what kind of worship they do like, and what criteria they use to judge. I won’t go into detail in discussing the article in Pen & Pulpit — if you want a detailed point by point discussion you can find one here.

What this does show, however, is that words like “worship” mean different things to different people, and the meanings seem to be growing rapidly more divergent.

This works both ways, or perhaps all ways. If the people at Pulpit & Pen didn’t have a clue what was going on in Orthodox worship, I had exactly the same experience of Protestant worship. I was waiting for the worship to begin, and then discovered that it was over. It turned out that what I thought was a band practice was the worship.

And then there is this — Sermon Content Is What Appeals Most to Churchgoers | Gallup:

As Easter and Passover help fill churches and synagogues this week, a new Gallup poll suggests the content of the sermons could be the most important factor in how soon worshippers return. Gallup measured a total of seven different reasons why those who attend a place of worship at least monthly say they go. Three in four worshippers noted sermons or talks that either teach about scripture or help people connect religion to their own lives as major factors spurring their attendance.

That is very interesting in the assumptions it makes about worship.

Note that it talks about “worshippers” and a “place of worship”, but most of the criteria used for attending have nothing to do with worship, certainly not in the way that Orthodox Christians understand it. There are two other criteria that might have made it more relevant to Orthodox Christians, and possibly some others as well

  • It is an expression of my ethnic culture
  • This is the right way to worship God



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