Spectacle: Worship and Worldview

Elias Dummer —  January 29, 2014

Spectacle: Worship and Worldview

Today’s post is from Elias Dummer of The City Harmonic. To read more from Elias visit his blog, Orthodoxical.

It was cold, although not “Polar Vortex” cold. My family and I were crammed into our minivan and were two-thirds of the way through our thirteen-hour drive from Nashville to Canada just four days before Christmas. Every once in awhile messages from family with news of an impending Ontario ice storm would grab our attention but, as it was, all we could see before us was rain and road. One hour after another on one of America’s most boring drives. That is, until dark.

Besides the obvious (it was dark), the darkness was blinding – turning our minivan into a rolling death trap –  street lights, car lights, reflections of any light of any kind suddenly transformed into bizarre laser beams headed directly for the eyes – I was suddenly unable to see much of anything around me.

It was the smudge.

We’ve had this smudge on our windshield for something like four months. And like we all do all-too-often, we kept saying to ourselves – ‘we should do something about that smudge’ – but despite our good intentions we never did. In the sunlight you’d never even notice it but at night the driver’s point-of-view is blinded from everything but the foggy-looking smudge on the inside of the window.

Of course, it took us some time to remember that the smudge was even there. So we turned the windshield wipers on, using probably half a jug of washer-fluid: no change. We turned on the air conditioning and heat at the same time: no change. Next we blamed the fog, until we opened our windows and realized that there wasn’t any fog at all. Eventually we realized that the problem didn’t lie in our surroundings but rather how we saw them. I remembered the smudge. With a simple swipe of the arm I brushed the smudge enough that we could see and finished our trip safe and sound.

We kept looking for problems all around us, but even if any of them had been true, fixing them still wouldn’t have meant that we could see clearly. What it took was to step back and take a good look at the thing through which we saw everything else: the windshield. If we hadn’t we would continue to have a distorted way of seeing things.This is also true in how we live our lives at large: how our collection of ideas and assumptions about life and the world cause us to form our values and determine the ways we interact with God and the world around us.

This is often called a ‘worldview’ and everybody has one even if they don’t realize it or haven’t spent the time to think through what it might be like. This collection of ideas is often compared to a pair of spectacles, the lens by which we see and interpret the world around us. And its pretty likely we share ours with the people around us too. Cultures and societies have many assumptions of their own. And though Christianity certainly has beliefs in it, it might be fair to say that in the right light it is more like a worldview of its own than simply a one-size-fits-all-worldviews religious system. As is often the case, Lewis puts it beautifully:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

– C.S. Lewis

So how do you see the world? Yourself? The world around you? What’s wrong? How do we fix it? Have you even thought about it? What do you assume when you read the Bible, when you talk to your friends, when you vote or when you sing or write a worship song?.

After all, many of us song leaders started out as teenagers with a guitar strapped on our shoulder and the best of intentions. We loved music and we loved Jesus and wanted to be involved in our church somehow. If we could sing and strum four chords or more all the better! Choosing a set of songs didn’t seem like such a big deal: we’d been doing it all the time in our garage band or for the high school talent show. But it turns out these things are kind of a big deal. Before you know it and of course depending on the structure of your church, you might find yourself forming what is essentially a liturgy and seriously impacting how congregants understand God and themselves. Nevertheless, we’re thrust forward and given a few websites and a book of chord charts. Even with the best of intentions and incredible effectiveness, worship training resources tend to be focused almost entirely on ‘what we do’ — these are the questions most of us are asking after all — and only occasionally do we address the assumptions that led us to do those things in the first place.


So for us to constantly answer ‘how’ to do a thing without asking ‘why’ we do it this way seems fruitless. I began to unpack this thought a little in my post on New Years Resolutions: if we obsess with ‘what’ without ever asking ‘why’, we easily lose track of why we do things at all. I have to admit that I worry that may be exactly where we’re headed in the Evangelical church. Without developing a keen sense of the bigger picture we awkwardly cram Christian beliefs into the driving narratives of the world around us: conservatism vs. liberalism, enlightenment philosophy, materialism, pragmatism, commercialism, and so on. The blogosphere is on fire with examples of us attempting to cram our faith into strangely-fitting-philosophical-outfits and all the while Christianity is a story in its own right — with its own set of assumptions.

So let’s get practical by taking some time away occasionally from being so darned pragmatic. Let’s take a look at the big picture together and talk through our cultural and personal assumptions and how they have shaped the songs we write, the assumptions we have when we gather for church, what ‘worship’ is, and so on. This series of posts will focus on discussing our cultural and personal assumptions and ideas and how they have shaped our services, songs and assumptions about worship, about ‘why’ we do certain things, and perhaps even at times ‘why’ we shouldn’t. So let’s take off our spectacles, take a good look at our smudges and do our best at giving them a wipe to the glory of God.

In the meantime, if you have any subjects you’d like to see covered in this series please comment below – I’d love to see the kinds of things that have got your attention and see if we can talk it out!

Elias Dummer

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As 1/4th of the Juno and Covenant Award winning band The City Harmonic Elias has traveled the world to worship alongside churches and Christians of all kinds. He is passionate about faith, ideas, music, culture and the Church, writing and songwriting, worship leading, and all of the ways they collide. Though originally from Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) Elias now lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Meaghan, four kids and a cat who is presently missing (having not come back the very next day).

5 responses to Spectacle: Worship and Worldview

  1. Elias, Your blog is speaking loudly to where the heart of Worship needs to return. The ultra focus on technique and skill is beginning to trump out the free flowing move of the Holy Spirit in Worship. I’m not implying that we should not hone our talents and skills for the Glory of God, but the purpose behind why we do so is becoming obscure. I completely agree with you. We need to ask ourselves “WHY” do I worship the way I do. WHY do I sing, play, pray, speak, and act the way I do during Worship. I seek to ask myself that question every time before I take my first step onto the platform. To Glorify God is my response to “WHY” because I love Him so much. You have caught my eye with your blog and I pray that God will continue to give you much more on this topic because it is imperative that the church of Jesus Christ begins to seek out the “WHY” in order to Worship Jesus fully. Thank you!

  2. You have a very good point, concerning how we do things in the church. The statement, “So for us to constantly answer ‘how’ to do a thing without asking ‘why’ we do it this way seems fruitless,” speaks loudly to me.

    Why do we worship God the way we do? Is it appropriate, does it make sense? Sometimes I just tend to go through the motions, so it is refreshing to read your blog and wipe at the smudge on the windshield, (hey honey pass the Windex will ya). :)

  3. I believe our Savior will give you the topics; a very good blog for all of us to reflect on.

  4. Looking forward to reading more!

  5. Great introduction and looking forward to where this conversation is going…I do believe we are focused on songs, technique and technology to such an extent that we’ve lost sight of the grand narrative and where we fit into the Story. I’ve been drawn towards those who are asking big questions about why we gather, how we gather and where we’re going.