We are enjoying religious freedom here in Thailand. In our few months of staying here, we have won friends both from Muslim and Buddhist religion. However, I find it strange that in a place where Christianity and Islam are both marginalized, our belief in one God and to some extent in Christ have given us special affinity than the dominant religion. Of course we have many Christian friends, but our best friends here are Muslims.
On an even ground, side by side with Christianity, my opinion is that Islam would grow faster in this region because Muslims are showing a strong sense of unity than Christians. It seems they have a more intimate and loving relationship with each other. They worship in one mosque; rich and poor, young and old, from different ethnic origins—Thai, Indians, Burmese, Chinese, Malays among others. Of course women are discriminated but they come and worship anyway. I could not say the same with Christians here. Christians here are so divided in many ways maybe not by denomination but by organizations that fund and support a particular ministry. Burmese and Chinese worship separately; tribal groups have their own church building. Christians don’t know each other. Yes, there is a strong of presence of Christian here but the people don’t notice.
Besides the appearance of strong unity, another reason that Muslims have strong “witness” here is their commitment to their fixed form of worship. For them, it does not matter if they don’t understand what the language of their worship is because they understand that worship is not for their personal benefits. Worship is their act of submission and surrender to the will of Allah. Christians here are the same as Christians all over the world, the worship for their own sake; they worship for their own benefit. I would like to direct you to Dr. Jim’s observation regarding Christian’s motives for in worship. I can relate with his observations. And I find his observations are also true here. Although understanding the language is very important in worship, I think if you don’t have much choice, you have to commit yourself to a church and worship there in spite of language barrier than not to worship at all (as some other field workers are doing). We have been attending a Burmese church since we came here and although we don’t understand most part of it, I believe we genuinely worship God in spirit and truth. Isn’t it the vision of our Lord Jesus Christ that Christians worship together in unity in spite of diversity? Why do Christians are not as committed to their worship compare to other major religions of the world?
I believe it has something to do with our theology of worship. Our worship is human-centered rather than God centered. Yes God is there in our worship but we seek to satisfy our own needs than to seek to praise and worship God. It seems we can only worship the Lord if we feel like it. And if our church is unable to bring us to that stage of emotion, we conclude that we are not worshipping and look for a place that could satisfy our emotional needs.
I would want to quote Alister E. McGrath here with regards to theology and worship and although I’m a Baptist and don’t usually worship liturgically I believe he has something to say about the relationship between worship and theology. Our theology determines our worship and vice versa.
One of the most important elements of the Christian tradition is fixed forms of worship; usually know as “liturgy.” In recent years there has been a rediscovery of the fact that Christian theologians pray and worship, and that his devotional context shapes their theological reflections. This point has been appreciated since the first centuries of the Christian church. The tag lex orandi, lex credendi, which could be translated as roughly as “the way you prays determine what you believe,” express the fact that theology and worship interact with each other. What Christians believe affects the manner in which they pray and worship; the manner in which Christians pray and worship affects what they believe.