Summary: When the people of the Bible gathered together, it was to BRING worship to God. Somehow, today, we seem to think we come to church on Sunday Morning to GET something from God. Shouldn’t we be GIVING thanks instead?
God, you who created the eye for seeing, the ear for hearing, and the mind for thinking, be here with us in our worship. Help us through your Spirit to hear your word and discover new and vibrant ways to live in your abundant mercies. Help us Lord to see Your presence at work all around us each and everyday of our lives. In Jesus Christ, we offer this prayer. Amen.
SUNDAY MORNING - (Romans 12: 1)
Amusement parks once staked their livelihood on drawing would-be thrill seekers to their hot new roller coasters. Bigger. Steeper. Faster. These rides had more loops than a corkscrew, wringing your adrenal gland out like a wet sponge.
Not anymore, at least not exclusively. Hair-on-fire rides may create big buzz at theme park gates, but they often leave people feeling nauseous and many carry height restrictions that prevent little junior from riding. Rides creating sick and not-feeling-so-good kids aren’t exactly what Mom and Dad were hoping for after paying $200 to get the family in for a day of amusement.
So, theme parks today are attempting to become more young family-focused. Consider a couple of the newest rides that were released last year.
Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, a place I want to visit someday, unveiled a real thrill-crawl in Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge, sponsored by the peanut-butter and chocolate confectioners. This ride-game combination features 8 Xtreme sports competition zones where riders shoot car-mounted laser guns at BMX riders and skydivers to score plenty of peanut-buttery points. During the ride, you’re tempted by the peanut-butter and chocolate smells they pump into the ride’s air ducts? Well don’t worry, Xtreme riders — you all get Reese’s treats when you get off this ride.
Last year King’s Dominion theme park in Virginia released The Italian Job Turbo Coaster — billed as “the wildest ride in the mid-Atlantic.” Do any of you remember the movie “The Italian Job?” It was a pretty good movie featuring some big stars such as Matt Damon and Donald Sutherland, and involved a very technical and complex robbery of an Italian bank. The crooks made their getaway in modified “mini cooper” automobiles. Which led in part I suspect, to the car’s popularity.
At the Italian Job Turbo Coaster, true to its 2003 film namesake, riders board Mini Cooper replicas to roar down stairs and through exploding urban obstacles … at 40 mph. That’s one-third the speed of the fastest roller coasters. My grandmother drove her Buick faster than that!
Readers of www.themeparkinsider.com gave the ride very innocuous reviews: “This is a great coaster for families to ride. I can’t give it a bad review; however, it just wasn’t for me.”
Visit an amusement part today and you’ll discover many scream-inducing wild rides replaced by yawn-inducing mild glides.
But that’s the intention. Speed-loving teens don’t spend as much money at amusement parks as Mom, Dad and 2.2 children do.
Amusement park CEO’s are aware of this fact. Amusement parks aren’t trying to downplay the thrill experience. Rather, they’re increasing accessibility to families and making sure that amusement parks actually amuse those who come.
So why are we talking about thrill rides at the end of the summer? Because … amusement parks aren’t the only venues that are pressured to bend to the demands of their consumers.
The church faces the same cultural tug and the church is just as vulnerable to issues of supply and demand — more than we’d like to think or admit. We all have our tastes and preferences, and while they may work for driving amusement park rides, they don’t figure in true worship of God.
“Oh no — we could never do “X” style of worship! It is too “Y” for the “Z” population in our church.” We all have our X’s, Y’s and Z’s. So now we have traditional and contemporary worship services. For the gap-bridgers we offer the “blended” service.
We offer guitar or organ. You can sit, stand or kneel. We have clap or no-clap.
Ever stop to compare how similar people sound describing worship preferences and Starbucks orders?
“I want an extra hot, blended, two-pump vanilla latte with one Splenda.”
“I want an acoustic guitar-driven, female vocalled, traditional-contemporary blend with one prayer.”
It can easily feel as though we need to design the next worship ride to fit the demands of the demographic.
Now don’t think I’m trying to compare your worship services to the entertainment exploits of an amusement park. But I am suggesting that on Sunday morning worship can have its wilder or milder elements, and people have their preferences.
An amusement park must remember that it must stay amusing in order to stay in business. The church has to revisit what it means to worship and how it can help people learn to worship.