The Future of Worship

Read this quote over at the Evangel blog and was excited to hear someone echoing some of my own thoughts.

I’ll go on record predicting that liturgy is going to make a big comeback among evangelicals.  Preaching is content and content is now everywhere.  You don’t have to be at James MacDonald’s church in order to hear him preach.  He’s on your computer, in your iPod, etc.  Anyone can listen to their favorite pastor almost any time.

Hunter Baker, “Re: Hip Christianity”

Of course, that may just be a confirmation bias. Nonetheless, I have often wondered why I need to go to church when the preaching teaches me nothing that I 1) didn’t already know or 2) couldn’t figure out sooner or more enjoyably on my own. That statement in itself is probably shallow and somewhat pretentious, but it’s a genuine frustration. I have been raised to view the church service as an educational experience. You go to church to learn something new that you can then apply throughout your week. But what happens when someone progresses beyond the point of learning something new. The typical response that I received is that such people are prideful and need to be open to learning more. Since I was reared in such a manner, I tried often to be “open” to learning more. Sometimes there were breakthrough, but more often than not my education became a source of frustration on my part. I could no longer learn because I only could see the historical arguments of every proposition presented by the preacher. On an explanation of why people of my temperament act in that way, see a wonderful post over at Faith and Theology. Through such frustrations I began to see the center of a church service as worship and not education. I’m not arguing that the church service should be completely absent of any educational value, but that it should take second place to worship. Indeed, the sermon itself should be an act of worship. I’ve been taught this, of course, but my free-church liturgy (yes, despite their despise for liturgy free-churchers have one of their own) in which the sermon was the climax of the worship service did not allow for this understanding to be conveyed implicitly. Instead, worship (i.e., singing) prepared us to receive the word (=learn). Now, I’m not a profession liturgist, but I’m beginning to like the idea of liturgy (yes, ideas of things are not the things in themselves, but I’m not enough of a nominalist to say there is no correspondance). To engender a sense of worship for preaching, I think it must be moved from the climax of the service and be replaced by something in which the congregation can actively participate (i.e., the eucharist).

On a related topic, I recently enjoyed a lecture that was given at the Holy Spirit and the World Today Conference entitled “The Holy Spirit and Ecclesiology.” It’s a great introduction to current issues of Ecclesiology such as sacramentalism, a theology of mediation, innovation, and convention.

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2 thoughts on “The Future of Worship

  1. Bravo for avoiding Nominalism; guard against that at all costs. Just a suggestion, but have you looked into the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by any chance? There I think you will find a genuine church worship service in which the entire purpose is the transformation of the parishioners’ life, and the focus is not on the sermon (although the entire liturgy is a preaching of the Word) but rather on the Eucharist.

    • In fact, I have not only looked into, but also experienced the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as well–and there is much to commend. I think free-churchers who are interested in a more liturgical worship could learn a lot from it.

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