X

The Colossian Forum Subscription Form

| Resume a previously saved form
Resume Later

In order to be able to resume this form later, please enter your email and choose a password.

Subscriber Information







Subscriptions

Resources

The Colossian Forum offers free resources to help you transform polarizing cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness.

Mailing Address







Please enter the required value for your country.

Colossian Blog
November 9, 2011 | James K.A. Smith

Glossary – Worship: Expression and Formation

Glossary – Worship: Expression and Formation

James K.A. Smith, Senior Fellow
November 9th, 2011

The Colossian Forum emphasizes the centrality of Christian worship as a resource for theological wisdom—the practices that “carry” the rationality of the tradition—as well as the space in which we are conformed to the image of Christ—one of the primary ways that we acquire the virtues of Christ (Col. 3:16).  However, in order for that claim to make sense, it might be helpful to clarify what we mean by “worship” in a full-orbed sense.

By “worship” we mean more than music or singing.  In many contemporary churches, we have fallen into the habit of talking about the “song service” as “worship,” which is a prelude followed by “teaching” (i.e., the sermon)—perhaps with another opportunity to “worship with our giving” after the sermon.  In some ways, this narrowing of the meaning of “worship” is part of a bad habit that we picked up after the Reformation:  the tendency to reduce worship to expression.  After the Reformation, and especially in the wake of modernity, wide swaths of contemporary Christianity tend to only think of worship as an “upward” act of the people of God who gather to offer up their sacrifice of praise, expressing their gratitude and devotion to the Father, with the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Obviously this is an entirely biblical impulse and understanding: if we don’t praise, even the rocks will cry out.  In a sense, we are made to praise.  The biblical vision of history culminates in the book of Revelation with a worshiping throng enacting the exhortation of Psalm 150 to “Praise the Lord!”  However, one can also see how such expressivist understandings of worship feed into (and off of) some of the worst aspects of modernity.  Worship-as-expression is easily hijacked by the swirling eddy of individualism.  In that case, even gathered worship is more like a collection of individual, private encounters with God in which worshipers express an “interior” devotion.

But over the course of Christian history (including the Reformation), worship was always understood as more than expression.  Christian worship is also a formative practice precisely because worship is also a “downward” encounter in which God is the primary actor.  Worship isn’t just something we do; it does something to us.  Worship is a communal practice that is one of those “habitations of the Spirit” described by Craig Dykstra: a tangible, embodied, communal rhythm that is a conduit for the Spirit’s transformative power.  Worship is a space where we are nourished by Word and sacrament—we eat the Word and eat the bread that is the Word of Life.

This is why, for centuries, Christians have described worship as a “sacramental” encounter—a place where the transcendent God meets us in the tangible, tactile elements of bread and wine and water and Word.  Word and sacrament are specially “charged” spaces of the Spirit’s formative power, which is why the form of worship is important.  These are not just channels through which we funnel our praise up to God; they are also embodied practices through which the Spirit of God shapes our imagination.  Christian worship that is gathered around Word and table is not just a platform for our expression; it is the space for the Spirit’s (trans)formation of us.  The practices of gathered Christian worship have a specific shape about them precisely because this is how the Spirit recruits us into the story of God reconciling the world to himself in Christ.  There is a “logic” to the shape of intentional, historic Christian worship that performs the Gospel over and over again as a way to form and reform our habits.


For further reading
:

Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro, “Introduction” to Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Zondervan, 2010).

John Witvliet and Emily Brink, “Prologue” to The Worship Sourcebook (Faith Alive/Baker, 2004).

James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic, 2009).

Michael Horton, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship (Baker, 2002).

Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship (InterVarsity, 2007).

John Jefferson Davis, Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence (InterVarsity Press, 2010).

______________________________________________________

James K.A. Smith is a Senior Fellow of The Colossian Forum and professor of philosophy at Calvin College.

 

Suggested Posts
Fears and Loves
February 14, 2020 | Emily Stroble
Fears and Loves
Do you ever get a twist of anxiety in the pit of your stomach when a loved one is late arriving home on a snowy night? Or, do you feel a sudden jolt in your heart rate when you hear of something troubling happening near a loved one’s house or office? We are often reluctant, even ashamed, to say we are afraid. But often, fear is inspired by an underlying love. Fear is the natural prompting to protect what we treasure. At The Colossian Forum, we help you examine some of those fears to find the love that motivates you. By “fear,” we don’t mean only those feelings connected to immediate danger. Rather, “fear” is shorthand for all the concerns, anxieties, and urges to defend or protect something—those feelings that motivate us to protect our loves. Fear is both the anxiety that a loved one could be hurt and the concern that a political policy might harm our communities. This fear or concern shapes our reactions, emotions, and arguments. Unsurprisingly, our “opponents,” (the people who threaten or disagree with us) are also shaped by these fears and loves. You’ve probably seen this play out with the people you love. Even as I think of some examples I’ve heard lately, I feel my fear engaging, ready to protect what I love. I feel an impulse to construct my own arguments in my mind, ready to fight. You may feel the same urge. Let’s resist it for a moment. Can you see the beloved thing or person behind these arguments? If we throw away this verse and that verse, what is to keep us from discarding the whole Bible? If some of it isn’t true, or we decide it no longer applies, how do we know Christ’s miracles and teachings are true, or that the resurrection is real? If the church speaks nothing but judgment and rejection to the LGBTQ community, we are telling those people—our friends, sons, and daughters—that there is no place for them in the church, in the story of salvation. We are turning away people made in the image of God. We’re commanded to love the least of these—the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. That’s the simplest definition of Christianity you can get, and it should apply to our immigration policy. I can’t vote for someone who isn’t pro-life. I can’t give power to someone who will not protect the lives of unborn children. If you boil these statements down, you can see that they all revolve around a deep love for people and a powerful desire to follow God’s will for the world and their own lives. Often, the “other side” is not maliciously plotting our destruction. Rather, they are frantically trying to protect their own loves and urging us to see the damage we are doing to what they hold dear. If we pause, we might find that we love the same things. Yet, our disagreements arise when we have competing ideas about how to best protect those things or how to prioritize so many precious things when the brokenness of our world requires us to make difficult choices. Our disagreements are not insignificant. We all have a lot at stake. But just imagine how our lives and relationships would be enriched if we could unveil and understand each other’s loves behind our fears. Can you imagine how fruitful a conversation would be if we were disagreeing about the right things, rather than finding new ways to call the other side evil? We might begin to see the humanity of the “other side.” We might become aware of what our fears are prompting us to do. And we may even discover that our “opponents” are trying to love us well, wanting to protect us and our communities from something we haven’t yet seen. We may even be encouraged, edified, and enlightened. Identifying underlying loves can help us see other angles and outcomes we would otherwise be blind to. This practice of pausing in the midst of intense arguments to acknowledge our fears and the loves behind them is a crucial step in The Colossian Way. It alerts us to potential pitfalls in our approach and advocates for the precious and vulnerable (though perhaps hidden) things our brothers and sisters in Christ hold dear. Give it a try the next time you find yourself in a heated situation. As your own heart rate rises, ask: What do you fear you’ll lose if the “other” side wins? What does the other person seem most concerned for? (Ask them if you are understanding them correctly.) What do you hope for? What do they hope for? Do you hope and fear for anything in common or related? We would love to hear what you discover as you try this practice. Share your story with us on social media using the hashtag “#fearsandloves” or by emailing us at info@colossianforum.org. For more on this practice and others, check out our newest Colossian Way curriculum, Political Talk.
Living in a Time between the Times - January/February 2020 Prayer Letter
February 10, 2020 | Michael Gulker
Living in a Time between the Times - January/February 2020 Prayer Letter
As our country wades through an impeachment process and we enter yet another election season, it’s easy for Christians to lose our storyline. We know this but often feel stuck. What choice do we have? We can’t just pretend the choice between left and right doesn’t exist, can we? Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that we’re hardly the first Christians to be caught up in the drama of state politics. Way back in the fifth century, in his book The City of God, Augustine wrestled with the confusion created by being dual citizens, members of both the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God. I hope you enjoy this video, in which we explore how we can apply Augustine’s lessons to our own politically divisive moment.  [embed]https://vimeo.com/389767996[/embed] Please join us in giving thanks for: Our new Administrative Assistant, Lexi Jones. Lexi also serves as an ordained pastor at Takeover Church, where she is the part-time children’s pastor. She is also a bowler who has competed on the national level, and she coaches bowling at Jenison High School and Cornerstone University. She graduated from Calvin University, where she studied English Writing, with minors in English as a Second Language and Congregational and Ministry Studies, with emphases in Youth Ministry and Missions. Calvin University showcasing our friends Darrel Falk and Todd Wood in a January Series presentation, Moving beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue about Creation and Evolution. Over 3,000 people were able to hear the compelling story of these men, two scientists who deeply disagree on the topic of origins, share a common faith in Jesus Christ, and began a sometimes-painful journey to explore how they can remain in Christian fellowship when each thinks the other is harming the church. Watch here. To Explore our book capturing their story, The Fool and the Heretic. Your faithful generosity and visionary heart for your churches and communities in helping us meet and exceed both our $25,000 year-end matching gift and the additional $10,000 matching challenge, resulting in over $75,000 of support for congregations and communities in crisis and conflict. Thank you for coming alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ.  The completion of our Political Talk small group curriculum, now available. At a time when Christians are hungry for new ways to overcome division and forge fruitful lives together, we pray this new Colossian Way curriculum gives them the tools they need to navigate political differences faithfully. Eight groups will be running Political Talk in our Spring 2020 Cohort. To order a copy of the curriculum or to bring Political Talk to your church, please contact us at tcw@colossianforum.org. The fulfillment of a significant three-year grant. Since 2017, we have partnered with Templeton Religion Trust to develop and launch our new mode of conflict engagement, The Colossian Way. We began with a pilot program of Leader Training and small-group curricula, which has now expanded to four topical curricula: Origins; Sexuality; Political Talk; and Women and Men in God’s Image (coming in 2021). Through this grant project, we have engaged over 11,000 people with our mission and, of these, over 1,000 people have participated in small groups, resulting in over 28,000 hours of formation in The Colossian Way method of conflict engagement. Jenell Paris and her tireless, faithful work on our Colossian Way curriculum, Women and Men in God’s Image, forthcoming in early 2021. We are so grateful for her friendship, wisdom, and commitment to the work of reconciliation. Please join us in praying for the following: The United Methodist Church and others who are divided. We pray that all those impacted will find ways to engage these conflicts faithfully. The 18 churches and schools that are preparing to run Colossian Way groups in our Spring 2020 Cohort. We pray their experience blesses them and renews their hope and confidence in their faith as a resource to navigate our most complex disagreements. If you’re interested in taking up The Colossian Way in your community, consider joining us at our next Leader Training in Grand Rapids, MI May 7-9, 2020. Our Board of Directors as they meet in February and continue to guide The Colossian Forum into new territory and endeavors in 2020 and beyond.

601 Fifth St. NW, Suite #101
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

(616) 328-6016

info@colossianforum.org