We created a working definition for worship:
Worship is finding value in things and connecting that value to God. (Or "Worship is finding value in things and discovering how that value is connected to God.")
This definition opens up worship to include a lot of things. Things like skateboarding, computer programming, running, playing music, painting, talking to a friend, giving a gift to someone in need, sitting in silence, looking at art, imagining conversations between Jesus and a vampire, etc.
Does this definition open it up too wide, so wide that the definition isn't helpful?
I remember Mark yelling at one of the first Dandelion Seed conferences "I get it -- art, God! They're connected." That was a highlight in my worship life so far. I remember another conversation with a writer in which, somehow, his faith connected his writing -- in an organic, real way. Then there was that time when all of a sudden a love for music became also a conversation with God that had been going on in the background, unrecognized for years.
But is that worship?
If we open up the definition of worship like this, it now includes much of what most churches do together, but doesn't exclude the many people for whom those expressions are difficult to connect with. It also validates parts of the body of Christ who tend to be overlooked (which are the ones we should give special honor to -- introverts, visual communicators, etc).
So, with this new and much wider definition, how do we "worship together?" One way is to choose several worship practices and do them together.
For example, at the Charlottesville Project we're working at these practices:
1. Meditation. We're drawing on several eastern traditions in practicing this discipline. The goals are to slow down and make space for God, trust and a receiving posture.
2. Improvisational playing, singing and art making. We draw on a number of traditions here: gospel music, charismatic free-singing, jazz improv. I've also wondered whether a study of the mystical practices of the Hebrew prophets and Sufi worship might teach us something we could use in worshiping our Lord Jesus.
3. Corporate singing of old and new songs. We draw on Christian traditions here, which probably drew a lot from Hebrew traditions. We also use some popular music and original music when we sing together.
One element that made the discussions at our recent gathering great was that they included people from four communities: the Charlottesville Project; a house church in the Dallas area; a group made up mainly of 20 year olds who are trying new things within the wider context of a local church (New Hope); and Segue, a church plant in the arts district of Dallas. People had different experiences and perspectives—as each of these communities grow conversation between them will become more and more helpful.
We also had a lot of fun doing writing exercises. We started with the sentence "The air above my head was clear." The rest we wrote on the fly, quickly. Here is an excerpt from one of them:
"The air above my head was clear. I walked, stiletto-clap, click on plastic fields stretched tan and rose in all directions. Smoke stacks empty, machinery frozen, eyes of robots empty and staring, sockets, not grain of sand or smell of earth..."
It was a good DSC time: building relationships, building creativity, and exploring ideas.