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Thursday, July 24, 2008
N.T. Wright offers a worship design challenge
Celebrated scholar and theologian, N.T. Wright, visited our seminary for a series of lectures last fall. The lectures were on politics, theology and popular culture another on Scripture and popular culture and the final one a stunning one hour teaching on the Acts of the Apostles. All three were amazing.
During that visit I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with him. In a conversation about worship we began discussing the proliferation of modern worship songs. While he affirmed a good deal about so many songs being written and sung, he lamented the downside of the short shelf life of the average song coming out today. He also talked about the prominence and priority we give to songs written in the last 10 years in most of our worship gatherings, noting especially our prejudice to favor the most recently written and most popular songs in our worship sets. Then he made this stunning challenge:posted by John David Walt | at 7/24/2008 07:15:00 AM
"We have 20 centuries of songs in the life of the Church, many of which have stood the test of time. In my judgement, we should sing no more than one song per century of the church's history in any given worship service."
Note he's not saying a song from Bill Gaither, Keith Green, Michael W. Smith, Twila Paris, Martin Smith, and Chris Tomlin. (that covers the waterfront of the last 50 years. According to Bishop Wright, we would have to choose one song from that list--- technically two given that Tomlin would mostly come from the 21st century. After that we would have to go back to the 18th century and then the 17th century and then the. . . you get my point.
By far, most of the worship services I have participated in over the last decade tend toward choosing songs from a quite narrow slice of history (i.e. 1990 to present day with an occasional remix of a 19th century hymn).
So is Wright wrong on this? What's he driving at with this challenge? Upsides? Downsides?