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Church as 'Date-night'

Worship is all of life right?  Romans 12:1 right?

Well ok.  But try telling your spouse, "We don't need to set aside special time for each other, marriage is all of life.'

No, no, no.  Church is date-night.  (My Sunday night sermon).

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0 thoughts on “Church as 'Date-night'

  1. Pingback: Worship, special worship, & ‘date-night’ « The City of God

  2. Matthew Weston

    I agree. And yet, using worship terminology to refer to a Sunday gathering strikes me as dangerous nevertheless. However, I've not listened to your sermon so I don't know if you are.

    In my view, we need to recapture what church is—as something we're part of, not something we attend. And so a church meeting on a Sunday could well be described as date-night—but we're still church the rest of the time, as you say.

    As to worshiping God, we definitely need to consciously praise him with words, songs, prayers etc., and not just think that "living for Jesus on Monday morning" is good enough when it's so *impersonal*. But as I write in the article above, maybe worship terminology isn't the right word group to be using.

    Or have I just opened a can of worms that wasn't there in your sermon? As ever, in reading what seems to be correcting an extreme with another extreme, on a medium like a blog, I'm liable to misunderstand people.

  3. pgjackson

    Hi Matthew,

    I hope Glen won't mind me butting in here.

    Interesting post. And I nearly nearly agree with most of what you're saying.

    I think there's an inverse danger though when we don't use worship terminology of our corporate gatherings as God's people.

    Firstly, we lose the sense of the vertical when the church gathers. This is the opposite danger to the one you (rightly) raise in your piece about church becoming about 'me and God' rather than 'me and my church family and God.' We could end up with a 'church is about me and my church family encouraging each other' way of looking at things.

    Secondly, we lose the relationship between the rest of the week and sunday. Sunday becomes effectively the one time when we're not worshipping. Which is odd. The date-night/ marriage thing gets this right methinks. We're married the whole time, all of life is worship. But that's fed, sustained, fuelled, by regular times where the marital relationship is enjoyed in an intense way, where marriage vows are renewed and consummated. In a sense corporate worship should be like that, we're married to God the whole week but we need that to be fed and resourced by times of renewing our vows and consummating in our union. In a way, the corporate gathering of the church is to worship what sex is to marriage - not the whole thing, but really vital.

    Thirdly, the effect can be that rather than exalting the significance of monday-saturday (which I'm all for), we simply downplay the significance of sundays (i.e. the church gathering). We're 'church' the rest of the time (sure we are, I agree), so what's 'special' about sundays - failing to see that this is just like saying 'why have a date night?'

    Fourthly, and perhaps worst of all, we then could end up getting the definition of worship wrong. We think worship is about our response to God's word and not about reception of grace from him. When in actual fact, the one who comes to bow at the King's feet (one of the biblical metaphors for worship) is doing just that - coming to receive. We could lose that if sunday (the time when we listen to our Lord and eat at his table) isn't really worship but the rest of the week (as I go about my work, look after my family etc.) is.

    Just some thoughts. I agree that the dangers you highlight are real, but I think the answer is to extend our language of worship to the rest of the week without stopping from using it for the church as gathered.

    btw, I did relay back in 2000-2001, I hope you're having a great year.

  4. Matthew Weston

    Interesting! I agree that those are possible dangers, however I'm not sure using worship terminology is the way to fight them. When we look at the language used by the apostles about the gathered church, it's conspicuously lacking in worship terminology (see Vaughan Roberts' True Worship, chapter 3, and probably other places). In my article I write about my desire to use biblical words in biblical ways, and I think it's this fact that makes me want to use different language.

    And by no means do I want to say "worship is what we do Monday to Saturday"! Worship includes doing the washing up etc. but it also includes sitting under a pastor as he preaches God's word, singing, receiving communion, praying with brothers and sisters etc.—and it's entirely possible that we don't do the gathered meeting of our church well in this respect, or that we do indeed underplay it. I'm not convinced using worship language specifically will help though.

    To take the date-night metaphor, a date night is both a wonderful time for a couple to have together in itself, and of great benefit to them as they live as a couple the rest of the week. Meeting with your church on a Sunday is a wonderful time in itself (for brevity I'm not detailing why—I assume we're in agreement!), but also encourages and builds us up for the rest of the week. However, I'm not sure the parallels between the two provide any kind of argument for a particular use of language.

    Relay's going very well thanks!

  5. pgjackson

    "When we look at the language used by the apostles about the gathered church, it’s conspicuously lacking in worship terminology (see Vaughan Roberts’ True Worship, chapter 3, and probably other places)."

    I'm not convinced that's really all that accurate. Temple/ tabernacle language is used of the church a heck of a lot. It's an assumption read into the text to say that this doesn't refer to the church as gathered. If what we're doing/ being as we gather is 'temple' then that brings a lot of worship language and symbolism into play.

  6. Matthew Weston

    My understanding of that is that Hebrews constantly points to Christ as the fulfilment of all the temple/tabernacle stuff, and so this side of Jesus we're using that kind of language to refer to the worship Christ offers in heaven, not us on earth. New Covenant worship looks different to Old Covenant worship, and I think our language should reflect that. But I'll admit it's not an argument I've come up with, it's Vaughan Roberts' argument that I agree with (though it's actually a while since I've read his book, so I'll take responsibility for any misunderstanding of his argument), and so any further discussion will probably leave me out of my depth. I'm already advocating someone else's argument (as I understand it) in this discussion, and that will only happen more frequently if we continue. Would it be fair to call a close?

    Also I think we've probably hijacked Glen's post enough. :)

  7. Glen

    Hey Matthew and Pete,

    I think the dearth of 'worship' language in the NT might be significant. (Just as the dearth of a 'love God' command post-resurrection might be significant.) But I don't think we can conclude from that any kind of NT anti-ritualism.

    Maybe the most important thing to maintain is Pete's fourth point above - that the gathering is a time of *receiving*.

  8. Glen

    :)

    I don't consider any of this to be 'hi-jacking'! I love it when commenters interact with each other. I certainly don't consider the blog to be 'ask Glen'. Especially when such knowledgeable people as yourselves can share insights.

    Thanks for the discussion

  9. Matthew Weston

    ...which doesn't quite sit right with me, as I think of gathering with my brothers and sisters in order to serve them (Hebrews 10) (and in the process, receive from God). Or indeed Romans 12:1, "in view of God's mercy, offer—this is your spiritual worship(!)". Not sure whether I want to get further into this discussion though. The internet has a tendency to draw me into discussions that (as one with very little theological reading behind me) generally only confuse me.

  10. pgjackson

    "My understanding of that is that Hebrews constantly points to Christ as the fulfilment of all the temple/tabernacle stuff,"

    And in him, us. See the end of Ephesians 2 for example.

    "...and so this side of Jesus we’re using that kind of language to refer to the worship Christ offers in heaven, not us on earth."

    But that is exactly what the church is and why we gather. We gather here because and as we are gathered in heaven around Christ. Hence Hebrews 1 tells us we have come to Mt Zion. Quite a bit of what the church is about is 'on earth as in heaven.'

    "New Covenant worship looks different to Old Covenant worship, and I think our language should reflect that."

    I agree. But it follows that the language should reflect what the difference actually is. I'm not convinced the Roberts/ Sydney angle gets this right.

  11. pgjackson

    "I think the dearth of ‘worship’ language in the NT might be significant."

    Sure. I guess I'm yet to be totally convinced that there is such a dearth really. I think part of the problem is we assume a reading of certain NT texts as applying to the church gathered corporately and others as not. We're also suspicious of hanging things on typology, allusions, patterns and structures. And I'm not convinced we should be.

    The word 'worship' being used for the gathered church is not something I'm going to go the stake over (or indeed want to put anyone else there over it for that matter!). So at one level I'm not as bothered about the lingo as about the assumptions and concepts behind the lingo. The 'Sydney' line can descend into 'church as mutual encouragement club to help me in the real deal which is my personal discipleship' - which is a hideous caricature of what any of the guys proposing it intend, including you Matthew of course. But I still think it happens.

  12. pgjackson

    Matthew, on your comment on Romans 12 and on Hebrews 10, it might be worth remembering the context of Hebrews 10 includes quite a lot of stuff about drawing near to the most holy place/ the throne of grace, which, whilst not necessarily exclusively tied to it, certainly finds significant expression in the church as corporately gathered.

    Anyway, I don't want to confuse. To put what I'm getting at simply, I guess it's that I want us to remember that we're gathering around God in Christ in order to hear his word and receive his grace, and to renew our pledge to respond to that for the rest of the week/ life, as well as remembering that we meet together to use our gifts to build one another up in that same grace and response to grace.

  13. Matthew Weston

    To which I wholeheartedly say "amen", and query why you need to use the word worship to refer to it! :)

    You've raised a few interesting issues for me to think about, not least the assumption that things refer to the universal not local church, and the idea that as we, the church, are in Christ, some things about heavenly worship might "cascade down" in the way we think about our gatherings. I've not thought about things like that before, so thank you.

  14. pgjackson

    "...why you need to use the word worship to refer to it! :)"

    Because that's what worship is.
    Or rather, what worship means is more holistic than other words, like 'edification' and 'encouragement.'

    But then again, 'need' to call it that is a bit strong. I feel no such need.

    Thanks for engaging btw. And blessings for the year ahead.

  15. Pingback: in the sitting room « ninetysix and ten

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