Posted tagged ‘OLD VS NEW WORSHIP’

ROUTINE WORSHIP

November 2, 2015

Routine Worship The order of worship in a church service never saved anybody. It is quite possible, however, for the worship order to reflect the shape of the very Gospel that it purports to proclaim, the Gospel that changes everything. It makes sense to me to reflect and embody the Gospel in every way possible in our worship, including the way we order components, and guide worshipers along in a conversation with our loving, saving Lord.   One of the roles of worship leadership is to remind worshipers where we are in that conversation of worship. Let’s face it. This worship thing is strained enough as it is. After all, we are seeking to engage in spiritual connection/communion with a Three-in-One being we cannot see, and do so by faith guided by a book we may struggle to understand or believe. What’s more, we are trying to embrace this engagement together as a corporate body united. Impossible. And yet it happens. As with salvation itself, the engagement is only possible by grace that He gives through faith that He gives (Ephesians 2:8). It would seem important that we participate in routines such as we see represented in biblical patterns of worship.

Like it or not there is a routine to worship. I realize that many churches describe their worship with words like fresh, new, exciting, transformative, and the like. I think those expressions are generally just market-speak, but hope they imply an underlying desire by leadership for people to come to know a new, exciting, transformative life in Christ. Christian worship involves certain elements, certain actions. We may mix them up, scramble them around, leave some out then add them back later, move some from live to video, or from aural to visual, from written to spoken, from spoken to sung, etc. Regardless, the elements of worship are the elements of worship. Newness that will make a true difference in one life or in a corporate body, or in the community around us is not our construct, but a grace gift of the Holy Spirit.   There are components of Christian worship that have been practiced since the earliest gatherings. They serve a purpose.

Far too often it appears entrepreneurial leaders engender change for change’s sake. Intentionally or not, critical elements of biblically, historically sound components end up removed or relegated to a place of unimportance in what has become a “new” liturgical pattern for the sake of convenience, ingenuity, or other values that miss the mark of Theocentric (God-centered) worship. The truncated routine tends to look something like this:

Pre-service music

Announcements and Welcome

Songset

Prayer

Feature Song and/or Offering

Sermon

Response song

Closing

Dismiss

Along with this liturgy-lite approach, many churches no longer bother with printed order. Under the banner of a “less is more” philosophy, or “since they don’t see it in writing we can surprise them” approach, the gathered are purposefully (and sometimes literally) left in the dark. Given the consistency of our routine practices, printing or not printing likely has little impact regardless, unless the leaders were to consciously communicate through what is printed as order. To be blunt, I find settings that pride themselves in innovation to be some of the most predictable environments of all. And there are lots of them. The question I would join others in posing is, “what have we given up by abbreviating the traditional worship order?” What I am speaking of by “traditional” is what Kein DeYoung refers to as the “traditional Protestant order of worship…..what churches use to do when they didn’t know what else to do.”[1] I am talking about an approach that engages worshipers in the rhythm of worship, God’s revelation and our response, and in an orderly manner that participates in the shape of the Gospel itself. For those who fear drifting back into long orations by humdrum voices, your innovation can surely be applied remaining faithful to the Gospel shape. Worship acts such as call to worship, praise, invocation, confession, illumination, petition and intercession, passing of the peace, communion or invitation response, sending and benediction can be said, prayed, or sung. We must exercise great care, however, as to what is left on the cutting room floor. By eliminating scripture readings, prayers, acts of fellowship, frequent observance of ordinances, and other sacred acts, I fear we have fostered drive-by worshipers looking to get the worship thing in before returning to other business in “real life.” Checking worship off the to do list is a far cry from the kind of “take up your cross and follow me” sacrificial living intended as Jesus worshipers reflect the light of the risen Savior Who gave all for His Bride, the worshiping Church.

[1] Kevin DeYoung Is the New Evangelical Liturgy Really an Improvement?

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN? WHAT ABOUT WORSHIP?

October 5, 2015

nothing-new-hereThere’s nothing new under the sun. If so then why do so many churches talk about their worship and worship leader using terms they seem to think will give onlookers the impression that what happens in their worship is all about new? Lots of churches promote their worship using words like fresh, innovative, creative, unique, trailblazing, and unconventional. When it comes to “youth worship” some push the atmosphere of their particular worship “experience” using words like edgy, slammin’, natty, and raw. And honestly, is it really all that unique? Kinda reminds me of the gag motivational poster I once saw displaying lots of snowflakes that says, “You’re unique! Just like everybody else.” All that newness gets a little tiring afterwhile. One might say, “It gets old.” (You see what I did there?)

Speaking of old, when considering our worship should we not think of all time, past, present, and future? Robert Webber, strongly emphasized worship “doing God’s story,” as the heart of the content of worship, which surely indicates that looking to the past would embrace not only biblical times, but give consideration to the faith community through all time. Seems to me it could serve us well to contemplate ways God has been at work in the worshiping church throughout history. What about in the Age of Enlightenment, when faith and reason first seemed at odds? Where did we see God at work in those days? How did His people respond? What can we say about times of great calamity like the plagues, wars, cultural and civil unrest, or periods of political oppression? What’s more, what about our own churches’ past? Could our own worship and mission be served by revisiting the early days of our congregation’s existence? A pastor friend recently decided to read church minutes to check out some of what his older deacon leadership kept trying to tell him. He found a proverbial goal mine in what he read as he realized the visionary passion of the church’s early leaders. He even began to intersperse quotes from these pages into his sermons to help the church find its way toward embracing a stronger missional presence in their community.

A few years ago I assisted a church celebrating its 100th anniversary as a congregation. Old photos made into a digital display were used to backdrop the worship environment. People came to church dressed in the fashion of the early 1900’s. Hymns of the day were sung in a manner reminiscent of the period. Children and youth were purposefully included in worship participation. Pictures of former pastors were placed in prominent display and their tenure was reviewed in the morning service, recognizing a couple of them who were still living and present. Through the planning process I recall ongoing caution by some of the church leadership wanting to be sure the church did not slip back into “glorifying the past,” as they feared “getting stuck again” as they felt the church had become before the church’s current pastor had come to save the day. Certainly “getting stuck” can be a problem for any of us in our spiritual lives, and as a church. We all could probably give examples. It seems equally or I would say even more dysfunctional, however, to ignore or disconnect from our own past, and more importantly, disrupt God’s people from remembering how His Spirit has worked in the past to bring them where they are at present. Our need to remember is to see what the Lord has done, not to just become nostalgic. Some nostalgia can be positive if it is tempered by biblical truth and stirs true spiritual sentiment, but it can also be toxic if it fosters just staring at an older version of the root problem of all unworthy worship, which is self focus. In other words if we end up worshiping our past selves even as we are wont to do in our current culture to worship our “best selves, thinking that is our goal, then we are surely offending God with our worship. There is only One worthy of our worship, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen. His story, His truth, His hand at work in all times must be themed in our worship. One of the many reasons I am a strong proponent of the use of hymns from all periods is that it holds prospect to bring to remembrance those tensions present in past times. Even through outdated imagery and language, guided by prudent leaders, hymns help speak the past into our present and provide hope for future certainties. Consider the tyranny of being slave to what I will call “nowness.” Worship songs selected only from a radio playlist, or created only by living artists in present day risks ignoring 1400 years of hymnody, which means neglecting centuries of God’s work among His people. Thankfully some modern songwriters like David Crowder are finding ways to integrate ancient hymns into their writing, and modern hymnwriters like Keith & Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend are carrying forward hymnwriting with great integrity and popular appeal.

Worship that truly does God’s story brings together past, present, and future. All time is under His Lordship. Remembering the past, anamnesis, and looking to the future, prolepsis are central to worshiping the Lord of all time and space. In so doing we offer our hearts, our “living bodies” (Rom 12:1) as our spiritual act of worship, and trust Him for eternal resolution. By His Spirit He is alive in and among us as we sing, pray, listen, read, partake, fellowship, and enact ministry and mission. The ancient church taught us lex orandi; lex credenda; est, Latin for “the rule of prayer is the rule of faith.” Another way Webber states it is “show me the way you worship and I’ll show you what you believe.”[1] Now is the time to rejoin the song that proclaims the “old, old story of Jesus and His love,” that hails the “Gladsome Light” (Phos Hilaron) and looks to a day “every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord!” as we sing around the throne, “Worthy is the Lamb!”

[1] Robert Webber Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Baker Books 2008) 104.


Rob Moll, Author

Exploring faith in real life.

God's Creative Gift -- Unleashing the Artist in You

Inspiration, Resources & Bible studies from Jody Thomae

TN Mens Chorale Mission Italy 2014

Sharing the love of Jesus with our friends in Italy

Worship Life

Heart - Soul - Mind

Holy Soup

with Thom Schultz

%d bloggers like this: