Saturday, June 13, 2009

Read this if you might head to church... or even if you are one who stays away

Just found a fascinating critique of contemporary Christian "worship" via a tweet from Wyclif. He gave a link to's blog about the "big worship goof" among Evangelical Christians. A few snips:

We have, within a matter of 50 years, completely changed the entire concept of what is a worship service. We’ve adopted an approach that demands ridiculous levels of musical, technical and financial commitment and resources.

We have tied ourselves to the Christian music industry and its endless appetite for change and profit. We have accepted that all of our worship leaders are going to be very, very young people...

Worship has now become a musical term. Praise and worship means music. Let’s worship means the band will play. We need to give more time to worship doesn’t mean silent prayer or public scripture reading or any kind of participatory liturgy. It means music.

Even singing is getting lost in this. As the volume and the performance level goes up, who knows who is singing?

"Liturgy" was a secular Greek word meaning "an act done for the public good." The first Christians found it useful as an explanation of worship - the action by which the church comes to be and is visible to the world.

As InternetMonk points out, a spectator event does not constitute the church. John Maxwell compares this to a football stadium: "22 men on the field, in desperate need of rest; 50,000 people in the stands, in desperate need of exercise."

But the same criticism can be levelled at those of us who engage in traditional liturgy. We can put on services that devolve into concerts, albeit with organ and classical music instead of a band, and an elite few rather than a crowd in "the audience." We can "celebrate" cold rituals through which the people in the pews hibernate.

Any style of liturgy, no matter its stated theology, can revert to paganism's model: a "holy person" (or small group of holy people) conjures up something "spiritual" for whoever puts up the money.

InternetMonk comes to this conclusion: We need Jesus shaped worship, and we need worship that promotes a simple, direct, uncompromising Jesus shaped spirituality.

Anglicans would describe this as "Incarnational," referring to the birth of Jesus in which "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). As Jesus was
  • + the fullest expression of God to the world and
  • + the perfect human life offered to God,

so the liturgy should express the glory of God and transform all who participate.

Christian liturgy is meant to gather a group of people in devotion to the heavenly Father, nurture their knowledge and love of God through the message of Jesus, and send them into the world filled with the Holy Spirit to bring new life to others.

Good liturgy inspires and expresses the holiness that God generously spreads among all of the people, so much so that it can be carried out from the liturgy and shared with the world.


Canon Tallis said...

The Guy on Internet Monk doesn't can't understand real worship and maybe has never experienced it. That is always a problem with so-called evangelicals who have no sense of the history or theology of the Church.

Acts 2:42 tells us what Christians have to do which is to remain stedfast in the "Apostles' doctrine and fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayers," i.e., the pattern of traditional Christian worship as set forth in the classical Books of Common Prayer but neglected for politics and other pursuits by the modern 'Christian-lite.' Worship that is not consciously obedient to our Lord's command and to the pattern he gave to the apostles and earliest Church just isn't real Christian worship at all.

We know what Jesus commanded; but the answer of modern 'evengelicals' is not us, not now, and maybe not ever. And that is the shame of it. But real prayer book Anglicans ought to know and do better.

TLF+ said...

Canon Tallis? Now there is a perfect name for a liturgical discussion.

Amazing how many free churches like to say, "We are an Acts 2:42 church" while skirting the verse's language. The early church gathered for THE prayers (not just "prayer"). From early on, there were liturgies that gathered disciples for Apostolic teaching, thanksgiving for the work of Christ, intercession for the church and world, and the Lord's sacraments. The Preface to the 1549 BCP asserts ancient priorities.

The conundrum we face is that Protestantism used to Bible to overthrow church practices that obscured the Gospel, yet appointed anybody and everybody as a Bible interpreter, which overthrows the Apostolic nature.

John Henry Hobarts "Evangelical Faith and Apostolic Order" is such a good statement of what healthy Anglican Christianity can be.

plsdeacon said...

When a visitor asked me who our "worship leader" was, I pointed to the Rector.

Worship is not to be a "spectator sport." A good music leader will have beautiful music and even a few "show" pieces - particularly at the Offetory - but a good music leader will get the congregation involved in singing.

Good music can be contemporary Christian or it can be Henry Purcell or Charles Wesley or even Gregorian Chant. The Goal of worship is to bring us closer to God.

Phil Snyder

Canon Tallis said...

John Henry Hobart was certainly one of the greats, but I prefer my own version, i.e., "Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Mission" which is intended to bring one a bit closer to Bishop Andrewes canon of "One Canon, Two Testaments, three Creeds, four Councils and five Centuries. And that in itself was intended to be a nicer way of reinforcing St. Vincent of Lerins "Antiquity, Universality and Consent." Worship should grow out of belief, out of dogma and not the other way around.

And worship is certainly not a spectator sport which is why Anglicans like the Orthodox and the Papists have liturgy modeled after the worship of heaven as depicted in Holy Scripture. Since that is or should be our ultimate goal, we should be training ourselves and others for it at all times which is why more incense is needed as well as leaving ones Prot prejudices at home.