Opinion Column

Worship is a celebration

By Melodie Davis

Walking into Rivertown Community Church in Florida's northern panhandle is a lot like walking into a coffee bar. I'm told this is normal for many megachurches or aspiring megachurches, that try to appeal to young urban seekers.

The environment is seeker-friendly: parking lot greeters and ushers in matching T-shirts; a countdown clock ticking away the seconds until the service begins; a giant video screen showing what is going on inside; a coffee bar with large thermoses of various flavors of fragrant coffee; a large cooler of free water bottles (and it is fine to take these items into worship with you).

When the warm-up worship band finishes playing their interim music (this congregation holds three services on a Sunday morning in two locations), the first thing we see on the video screen in the sanctuary is a clip of Adam Sandler from the Wedding Singer coaxing wedding guests into singing along with him, "Love Stinks!" At a church service? I'm not sure whether to laugh or cringe. The purpose of the video clip is to promote a marriage seminar at the church.

In spite of my misgivings and slight discomfort stemming from my upbringing in a very traditional Mennonite Church in the 50s and 60s, and my long sojourn as a part of a Presbyterian congregation, could I worship God in a megachurch?

Yes, I could. As I relaxed into what was for me a very different worship service, I found myself thinking: the God who created the amazing variety in the animal kingdom, the diverse ethnic and national groups around the globe, the millions of different flowers, plants and insects, the spectrum of the rainbow surely enjoys a wide palette of worship styles.

The only requirement for worship, according to Jesus when he discussed this topic with a woman in John 4:23, is that we "worship in spirit and in truth."

Think of it: from humble Amish hymns to holy water sprinkled and incense burned; from quiet Friends' meeting to hoppin' Pentecostal to uptight Presbyterian; from dunking Brethren and Baptists to loudest praise band to grandiose organ to Anglican choir anthem; from songleader leading the whole congregation to African drum and tambourine to youthful Spanish dancers. You name it: let us all worship God.

The Psalmist put it this way in Psalm 150: "Praise (God) with the sound of the trumpet, with harp and lyre, with tambourine and dancing, with strings and flute, with cymbals-with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

So there it is, ye who would battle the worship wars (at least inwardly). God isn't picky about how we worship, as long as it happens in our hearts. We all have personal tastes and while I may still prefer my own congregation's style for my regular worship experiences, it is good and right to fellowship and worship with other believers, "in spirit and in truth." (By the way, the sermon that day at Rivertown was very good even if it was more like a seminar, but preaching the theology of forgiveness. You can see and hear it at: http://www.rivertown.cc/listen-online -search archives for Feb. 21, 2010.)

Wherever you worship, remember to enter into it with an open mind and spirit of true seeking of worshiping God.

What do you think on this topic? Post responses at http://www.thirdway.com/talk/?Topic=AW or send to me at melodied@thirdwaymedia.org (Please include this paper's name in your response.)

-Another Way is sponsored by the Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church.