For a moment, let’s roll back the clock 40 years. If you were to ask a linguist, scholar and Bible translator what the word "worship" meant, according to the Biblical usage of it, you would get something akin to "pointed acts and moments of submission, sacrifice and obeisance". But today, the worship word has become almost a euphemism for "everything". This has happened not because the Bible changed, but because we stopped using it as the central text to define the word. And with the popular worship movement of the last 30 years, we have co-opted the "worship" term for almost everything and anything to which that movement was associated. I have done it, others have done, we’ve all done it. But we were wrong.

We live in a pop music culture; we are surrounded and saturated with "hit" pop songs that are played constantly. TV shows like American Idol are built on the back of hit songs; movies are laced with emotional music that becomes the soundtrack of our lives, and as we drive in our cars, we are bombarded with radio signals; satellite or FM pumping out the latest top 40 hit. While I am really grateful for being able to turn on a Christian radio station, I am concerned with something: our "hit music" culture is influencing too much of the way we are leading worship in North America. I am not saying that appreciating good music in culture is a bad thing (I sure appreciate it!), but we need to be careful to not be shaped by culture, especially by the "hit song" mentality, and then transfer that mentality into our expression of worship when the church gathers.

The above examples show us how the early Church lived out its life in worship of God. Worship, of course, was not a simple act done occasionally, but rather a way of life that involved one’s complete dedication to honor Christ and give our complete lives to serve Him. Worship cannot be reduced to a few songs, a Scripture reading, a sermon, and a closing prayer. It is a whole life of submission to the call of God that comes to us in the proclamation of good news. Christian worship is good-news oriented, even when reflective music is sung. We serve a God who does not abandon His children when this world’s challenges are overwhelming, but comes to us in all circumstances of life.

Spiritual formation is about allowing Christ to develop our whole person, our interior and exterior life, as he shapes us into his likeness through the unique stories of our lifetime. It is our approach to spiritual formation that determines how we will age as disciples, expanding in spiritual richness or shrinking in spiritual stagnation.

We will look at four unique elements in the spiritual life, using creational imagery in the best traditions of ancient Celtic Christian spirituality. Each element is intended to be a lens through which we can evaluate our overall spiritual progress toward the likeness of Christ-and a robust devotional future.

© G. Baltes / T. Schröder

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