I led 2 discussions on worship this Sunday - one with the junior highers and one with the senior highers. Due largely to the absence of a couple of the more difficult kids, the senior high group went much better than I had anticipated and both groups had excellent conversations. But I realized something as I looked back on it; these discussions were only possible in the context of theological relativism. The questions mainly focused on the kids and their perceptions & preferences, but I realized that as they came away from the discussion they were probably relatively unaffected by its content since the very nature of the questions asked and answers given affirmed that their individual preferences & tastes were perfectly fine and that everything was okey-dokey. Of course, their preferences & tastes are perfectly fine; it is the focus on the individual that is the problem. I cannot help but think that any kid in those groups came away thinking "yes, I need to worship more because it is an important part of being a Christian" but equally thought "I need to find what's right for me." To a certain extent I think that is correct; we do need to find practices & activities that we find personally enriching. But, and this is a very big but, we shouldn't focus on individual enrichment at the cost of corporate unity AND we shouldn't make worship solely about us and our emotions. In fact, I was deeply troubled by the number of kids who equated worship & emotion. Most said they thought it was hypocritical and wrong to worship if you didn't "feel it." I think I got the high schoolers to see that worship is an intentional act and really shouldn't be completely linked to or dependent on emotion, but I'm not sure how much they really understood it.
From the Protestant perspective there is truly no "right way" to worship - everything is a matter of taste & "getting fed." If a service doesn't feed you, it is entirely acceptable within most Protestant thinking to start shopping for a new church. You find a church that suits you and that's where you go. Theology, worship and all other areas of ministry are up for grabs. While I don't for one second think that I have all the answers, I feel and truly believe that this should not be so! The focus on the marketability of our churches has made God into a product to be sold, and just as you can get a new car in a variety of colors with or without the leater interior and in-dash CD changer, God has become subject to our preferences. Each church "sells" a different version of God - modern, contemporary, seeker-sensitive, post-modern, traditional, etc, and we are free to pick and choose which options we like. There is no submission or laying aside of the self; the entire process is completely self-focused! The question is rarely "is this true/right?" and is instead "does this work for me?" And that is the unfortunate, and I dare say sinful, mindset I found myself propagating on Sunday.
But so what? I mean, in all honesty, there is nothing at this particular church that should demand the lifelong commitment & submission of these kids. The fullness of the faith does not reside here, since it is actually purposefully designed in such a way as to prohibit the full expression of Christianity. We eschew Christian art, language & practice to such an extent we actually joke about how unchristian some of our practices are and pride ourselves on being on the "cutting edge." This is why the things I am experiencing here are pushing me towards Orthodoxy. We cut ourselves off from so much in the name of what? Progress? Purpose? I don't know. All I know is it doesn't make any sense.