While traveling in Asia this past week, we were visiting a conference center and hotel with a view of ascertaining whether or not it might serve as a venue for an upcoming conference. More than once during our visit, the Muslim “Call to Prayer” broke into the calm of our meeting. It served as a grim reminder that we were never very far from our purpose (to multiply disciples and churches among the unreached). Of course, not very many passers-by seemed all that affected by it. And of course, in the business meetings we attended, not even one person asked to be excused so he/she could go to the mosque. It looked like this loud call to prayer was landing on deaf (or perhaps numb) ears, making little or no impact in most of the daily lives of those with whom we were interacting. It was, in the end, seemingly just a cultural practice rather than a calling-out of those who are faithful.
Does Christianity have any similar practices? We’re talking about the kind which remind us to do something, but, in some ways, fail to move us to action? What about church bells? …communion? and, in some ways, what about weekend worship services themselves. (When we scan the crowds, reading the faces, sometimes it appears that many are there just going through the motions.)
So our question is this: How can a time-honored tradition (like the Muslim “Call to Prayer” or the Christian “morning communion”) escape the curse of over-familiarity? And how do we keep over-familiarity from breeding contempt?
If you’ve got ideas please click Comment. Help us figure out how to escape from habits for habits sake — those which yield little, if any, fruit inside our soul or the soul of the one standing next to us — or even 12 time zones away on the other side of the globe. Maybe they aren’t so far away from us when it comes to keeping our heart in critical worship practices.