The new Melbourne Museum is a cavalcade of activities and experiences in which the visitor gets a hands-on learning experience, which engages all the senses. Every effort has been made to ensure that a visit touches every part of our being, so that the exhibits make an impression. No longer the domain of the highbrow, the new museum – like many throughout the world – are now engaging much broader constituencies.
Contrast the museum experience with that of the average church service. We of evangelical persuasion have thrown almost all our eggs into two baskets: the eye and the ear (and even the eye is minimalised). The experience of worship compares rather poorly with the museum experience. “The church wouldn’t even make a good museum any more,” says Leonard Sweet. “Museums are much more fun.”
Museums seek to bring to life experiences and sensations of different times and places. The visitor is engaged in a learning experience, where the experience is the doorway into learning. The evangelical church, on the other hand, has always been somewhat suspicious of experience, preferring to give primacy to logic. Even life-killing logic.
Imagine teaching a child to walk by giving a lesson on gravity and muscular-skeletal dynamics. How many of us would be driving cars if we first had to understand the workings of an internal combustion engine? Who would use a computer if we had to explain the function of each internal part, let alone explain the source code behind the software?
Worship is first and foremost an experience of God. It is our response to the presence of God. It should engage the whole of our being… it should be the essence of life itself, not a mere duty to be undertaken once a week on a Sunday.
There is so much life to draw upon – life in the scriptures, life in prayer, life in the gospel story, and in the communion that we share. There is the daily life experience which is so impregnated with the work and grace of God – have we seen and affirmed this in our own daily experience? In what ways has this life touched our eyes, our ears, our taste buds, our sense of smell, and of touch? How are these incorporated into our worship life together?
God forbid that the church which bears His name should worship in a lifeless way! Even the stones would cry out.
July 21, 2002