Questions: 2. In what ways have you seen God be the “subject of the sentence” or the “object of the sentence” in your own worshiping life? In other words, when have you seen in your own life that worship became more about you and your pursuit than about God and His?
3. In what ways have you seen “embedded theology” at work in your own life? In what ways have you chosen to do “deliberative” theology, and what experience(s) triggered that choice? Can you think of a moment you moved from an “embedded theology” to a “deliberative theology” about God?
There are a few very specific moments where I have been challenged past ‘worship being about me & my pursuit rather than God & His’. These interventions also illustrate ways that I’ve experienced ’embedded theology’ as well as chosen ‘deliberative theology’.
One of the first that comes to mind came after about 5 years of the church I was part of experiencing a great outpouring of God’s Spirit and I was about 17 years old.
I experienced the love of God as ‘father’ in a tangible, yet supernatural way that I really needed… especially as a kid who was product of a broken home & divorced family. I personally felt loved and ‘secured’ in a way that, I’m sure, significantly changed the course of my life in the subsequent years.
From the outside, these times probably looked crazy: people falling down during meetings, unpredictable things could happen from meeting to meeting, people might laugh uncontrollably while they prayed, or yell, cry, shake, etc. But for me, at least, GREAT healing happening internally, even as strange phenomena may have been happening externally. Much of this healing came while in the ‘place’ of worship, as Dan speaks about.
The moment of truth, if you will, was at the tail end of this when a speaker challenged a bunch of us young people that “worship is not about you.” I can remember my 17 year old self feeling perturbed by that statement. On the one hand, of course.. it sounds so self-centered to even think that worship would be about anyone but God, but on the other, my experience (a valid, life-changing experience) was that worship was mostly about what God was doing to & for me. I connected best to God through prayers & songs that were about both his love & fathering me and my deep need for Him. I didn’t really ‘get’ those that were more external from me and more about simply praising God for who He is and what He’s done and is doing, regardless of how it affects me.
Prior to that intervention, I don’t think I had the capacity to live out true “giving of oneself, emptying oneself, epitomized in Jesus’ self-offering in the garden of Gethsemane (as the only true way to peace, healing and restoration in any given universe” as Dan said on page 6). My embedded theology and story had been so tweaked, that I needed a full course correction. I think that intervention was one of the milestones in the maturing of my faith and personhood, perhaps even more so than the very necessary healing that had been taking place within me.
Over the next period of time, that statement (“worship is not about you”) haunted me. I had to wrestle with that concept and started to experience what I think Ellis was referring to with “our new celestial friends will understand that giving oneself, emptying oneself, epitomized in Jesus’ self-offering in the garden of Gethsemane, is the only true way to peace, healing and restoration in any given universe.”
Another pitstop on that journey occurred a few years later while I was the Saturday night worship leader for our church. I was confronted by my pastor because I wasn’t tithing (or giving any money to the church). He was kind, but straight-up about it and even offered to do a study through the scriptures with me, if I wanted. I honestly, didn’t even know that people ACTUALLY tithed (I knew the Bible talked about it, but didn’t think people actually took it seriously).
So here I was… a prototype of a young worship leader, who for a few years prior was wrestling with this concept that “worship is not about you”, and I would stand in front of a congregation every week leading them in words of devotion, honor and praise, yet in the most basic way possible, I was not living that out. I wrestled with this too (not that I didn’t want to, but actually working out my finances so that I actually did tithe).
Each of these situations required obedience & trust (both to God & other people) beyond what I had personally experienced up till that point e.g. producing a deliberate theology vs what just came natural to me. kp