…church camp and theology…

This afternoon I was able to scurry away from work for about an hour to go see my beautiful daughter Karsten in her choir debut at Youth Camp. This is Karsten’s first camp of any sort, and it has been reported to me that she has both loved and hated the week. Being 5 years old I banked on nothing less. It seems that she wants to go back next year so to all of those brave souls who have worked Mini-Camp (including my wonderful wife) thank you for your service and bravery. There is a special, quiet room in the after-life where God allows children’s workers to decompress for a while after arrival. 20130717_161742
The kids at camp were given the opportunity to choose from three different electives. They could be in a choir, a drama, or a pantomime and after practicing their chosen number they were able to perform during this afternoon’s service. My daughter, who does love to sing along with any other activity that involves making noise, chose the choir. I arrived this afternoon to watch all three groups perform and though my daughter’s group was obviously the best (for obvious reasons), all three were very well done. If you’ve never tried to get large groups of small children to do the same thing, together, for 4 minutes straight then you should know it only happens through prayer and fasting.
What occurred to me this afternoon as I watched all of those kids worship Jesus was really what I want to share here. I recognized two of the three songs used by the groups and they were songs that the church has sung for at least 15 years, not new by any means, but they are good songs nonetheless. The songs are not deep theological expressions of Christian thought, but they cover essential and wonderful parts of our faith like the Incarnation, Resurrection, Atonement, Sovereignty, Creation, and more. Considering the ages of the children participating (some like my little girl were 5) it is safe to say that most of the kids couldn’t systematically tell you exactly what it meant that “He came from Heaven to earth to show the way, from the earth to the Cross, my debt to pay…from the Cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky”; but they sang it out with robust confidence anyway. Before you get angry with me, I know that children understand the idea of God with an amazing amount of faith and acceptance, and I believe that kids, even young kids, can authentically worship God, no doubt about it. But, to say that they understand the incredible density of a thing like God becoming a man? That’s a stretch. Accept it? Yes. But understand it?
But, all of that leads me to this. As I watched my five-year old daughter sing, and as I watched other kids act out the words to the song, and in doing so worship, something began to make sense to me. For me, I need to know that a song is well written and id prefer it to be performed well with solid instrumentation and good dynamics…then I am in the mood to participate. I want the theology to be accurate and the lyrics to be creative and gloriously ascendant. I accept nothing less if I’m going to put my stamp of approval on it. And all that time, while I’m waiting on something that really doesn’t exist, my little girl has grasped what it means to worship Jesus. Does she have to understand penal substitutionary atonement to worship? No. All she knows is that Jesus lets us sing, and that’s enough. How could anyone who created singing be bad? It’s enough for her that singing exists, worship can spring forth out of that very simple and profound truth.
Do those kids doing the drama really understand all of the implications of the Resurrected Kingdom? No. But they know that when they go from kneeling to standing with their hands in the air, corresponding to the words, “from the grave to the sky”, they see some people in the crowd lift their hands, they see some adults who know exactly what it means to be dead start to get red-eyed and tear-stained.
Those kids gloriously understand that they don’t have to know a whole lot to be qualified to worship. They seem very content that the God who invented singing and music, the same God who made their arms so they could move and swing, the same God who people keep writing these catchy songs about – they are content in simply knowing that God, that God, is watching, smiling, and loving every minute of what they are doing.
Sometimes I fear that I am, and we are, looking for a reason to sing or lift my hands and in the process of looking I’m missing the big picture. The ironic thing is that I actually do understand penal substitutionary atonement, I’ve read hundreds of pages on it, and my little girl is still better at worshiping than I am.
Ah the joy of watching little ones who are comfortable enough in their own skin that they aren’t concerned with doing things like they’ve always done them, but they are merely concerned with doing things that they know their Father in heaven will like to watch.
He made the music. I wonder if you’d like to sing with me?

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2 comments

  1. If more Christians would come to church and just worship regardless of whether they like the song style, who is leading or completely agree with the theology, they would begin to experience what I think is true joy in worship regardless of their current “feeling” of the day. I don’t need a man of God to encourage me to lift my voice or lift my hands or ask me to repeat his words as he preaches. I praise Him because HE is! I rejoice because He is! I live because He is! I do it because I love Him!
    Great little article!

    Like

    • Thanks for the feedback. I agree with you, God is enough.

      I believe that carving out a theological framework from the Scriptures and counsel of history is important, but we do this in private study to give us a starting point for the life of community that we are called to; and it is in community that we find worship in its most Biblical expression. Like you said, there ought to be no “need” for someone to drum up worship in our hearts, God is glorious enough on His own, but at the same time we are spurred on to ever deepening appreciation of who God is as we see His work in the lives of those we are in fellowship with. I can’t see the full picture of God with my own eyes, just my perspective. But, if I watch and listen to you as you interact with and walk with God then I get to share another angle to see God’s glory from; this incites greater worship in me because of you.

      K

      Like

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