Honest Worship for Ordinary People

The following are a few snippets from an interview with Matthew Brough from his delightfully named podcast, “Spirituality for Ordinary People.” Matt is an author, speaker, and Canadian (three things I like in a person). I am indebted to Matt for his insightful interview, and we bounced around a bit, from the WalkaBout Drum to Honest Worship and even to my previous book, Imagine That. To hear the entirety of the podcast, please visit his website here.

Regarding Honest Worship. Why another book on worship?

“I do mention that this is a book that I tried not to write for a long time. But I felt like there was something missing. In the current streams of worship expression right now, there just seems to be something missing, a little bit off from true north. Some of it has to do with the culture that we’re in. Our culture is becoming increasingly narcissistic, more consumer-oriented, celebrity-driven. We’re all looking for the next big Wow

“Inadvertently—and I really want to stress the word inadvertently—some churches are starting to use that, play into that. But then it becomes a part of the worship experience. And I wonder what we are really teaching people—when we are forming their hearts as worshipers—when we allow them to bring in their consumerism and their narcissism into the sanctuaries…”

Regarding authenticity in worship…

“Your question goes right to the heart of what I’m trying to say in this book. My publisher and I talked about that for a while—the word “authentic” has been used so often that it has lost its meaning. And she was the one who actually said, ‘let’s call it honest worship.’ It’s a little bit of a trigger word, because everyone goes, “Honest? What does that mean?…

“The term false self refers to an identity we unconsciously form throughout our lives that disguises, undergirds, and protects us. It’s false because it’s based on an inner dialogue of self-sustaining lies, defense mechanisms, and conscious and subconscious pretending. We all have a bit of a false self in that we have been deformed by the experiences of our lives…

“It’s actually spiritual de-formation. And then Jesus comes along and says ‘No, I see in you a new you, and I want to make you new.’ But we have a tendency to bring our false self into worship. And that’s the issue that I deal with in this book.”

Regarding people in worship services…

“The way that some churches are starting to become right now, some people have the ability to be completely anonymous. They walk in, they grab their hour of spirituality, and then they can walk away. That’s certainly not what we can call honest worship. Because worship is something you give to God. It is the work of the people. And we have to expose ourselves in worship. It’s a vulnerable thing that we do. And people aren’t willing to be vulnerable before God and before one another.”

Regarding imagination in worship…

“Sometimes services will devolve—the worship devolves into singing and the sermon devolves into studying. And I think that there’s so much more that we can do in terms of understanding God through the imagination. Historically, the imagination was considered a part of the intellect. If you were an intellectual person, you were also an imaginative person. In our western paradigms, we’ve separated those two things. And that’s not necessarily the way to approach worship. I think a good worshiper is an imaginative worshiper…”

Regarding beauty…

“Beauty is a form of truth. We have a tendency to discount that, truth being a word-centric thing, and we’ve lost the idea that beauty is a form of truth, a non-rational form of truth that God uses to display His glory. Imagination allows us to tap into that again, to see God through beauty, and through the expressions of God’s people through beauty.”

Regarding poetry…

“Robert Weber contends that one third of the Bible is poetry. I think we have to develop an appetite for poetry, which is another artistic expression, in order to know God better.”

Regarding spiritual disciplines…

“In my previous book [Imagine That], I talk about the spiritual discipline of hugging. It came to my attention that I was a little stiff—I wasn’t a touchy-feely person by nature—and I needed to change. I needed to be able to allow my body to express what my heart was actually feeling. And I was challenged to that. So I came up with the spiritual discipline of hugging where I would ignore my stiffness, and I would hug people as a greeting. And I made myself hug. This went on for a long period of time. And first it freaked people out because they weren’t expecting that of me. But eventually it became a normal thing, and now I don’t even think about it anymore. I see someone and I hug them. And I think, in the course of the repetition of that practice, I think it formed my heart more…

“For those who do spiritual disciplines, there’s a tendency to lean into the ones we do really well. So if you are a person who likes to read the Bible, that becomes your spiritual discipline, and you don’t venture out and do the things that will actually form you, because you’re already well formed in that particular area. In my example of hugging, it was a blind spot for me, and someone else had to call it out. It was counter-intuitive, it was not something I wanted to do, but eventually it became something that is natural and normative for me.”

[Photo credit: Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash]

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