Join us for the fall re-boot of Men’s Ministry, this Saturday at 8:00 (officers, please join us for prayer beforehand). Breakfast then conversation. The topic will be the way popular worship has been reshaped by the new Utilitarianism, or what you could call a “human potentiality” movement. More below.
Although I’m guilty of it myself, especially when I was younger, with time I’ve become wary of complaining about what other Christians think and do. In evangelical circles this is popularly called “discernment” (criticism of other’s views) and I suppose there are elements of genuine biblical discernment in it. The catch is that biblical discernment is subsumed by the doctrine (not the sentimental notion) of love. So Paul opens his letter to the Philippians, “my prayer is that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent” (1:9). In contrast, the people most excited about “discernment” seem to be critical people by nature (I know this one from the inside), angry, and parasitic in the sense that if you took away “bad” Christians there wouldn’t be much they were excited about. They tend to be more captivated by the sins of others than by the glory and wonder of God, i.e. Paul’s “approving what is excellent” (another way of describing worship).
In most cases this is a teleological confusion — meaning a confusion of ultimate goals. Discernment preachers and bloggers tend to assume what they’re after is “truth.” What Paul is after is worship. It’s a huge difference. Paul says God’s work in our lives is supposed to result in “…the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12). This is the outcome of our hearing the “word of truth” (1:13). Truth isn’t the end of a road; it’s a milestone on the road to worship.
So with love. In Paul’s usage, love is a way of imitating Christ, whom he takes as the definition of love (Php 2:1-10). So love is a form of all-of-life worship, a way to honor Christ and embody his character and teaching. Discernment — as a sub-set of love — must also result in worship. This means that our speaking the truth, and even our clarification of things false, should take us to “approving what is excellent” — to worship. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t doxological but just quarreling “about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim 2:14).
All that to say that, yes, on Saturday morning we will talk about a current unhealthy shift in worship. But the challenge for me, and all of us, will be to arrive at the worship of God, not just the condemnation of those we disagree with.