We can learn a great deal about worship by looking at the earliest Christians, for the culture that surrounded them was in many ways similar to ours in twenty-first century North America. Then and now the population is highly pluralistic, with the people’s “spirituality” being characterized by devotion to all kinds of gods. Many of the pagan religions of the first centuries A.D. are being resuscitated these days—and many of the earliest Christian heresies are, too, as some scholars and lay people deny the divinity of Christ or advocate goddess worship or tacitly renounce the importance of our roots in the Old Testament. Ancient nature worship is revived by those whose Sunday locations for adoration are the golf links of the hiking trails and ski slopes. Jesus recognized Mammon as one of the most powerful idolatries, and it still holds that position.
The early Christians were surrounded by allegiances to other gods, such as the pantheons of Roman and Greek deities and their incarnations in the Roman state. Similarly, today North America is flooded with religions from all over the world, and idolatry of the nation-state leads to political abuses and economic oppressions by the superpower and ethnic cleansings by lesser powers.
—Marva J. Dawn, HOW SHALL WE WORSHIP?: BIBLICAL GUIDELINES FOR THE WORSHIP WARS, Chapter 5, “What Idols Tempt Us Away from Worshiping the Only True God?” [Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003], p. 47. ISBN 0-8423-5636-3.
Have a great week.
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary