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Sunday, June 14, 2009
Internet Monk laments the state of worship in Evangelical church
Michael Spencer over at Internet Monk posted a stinging critique of the present state of affairs in the Church as relates to worship and music. It generated quite a storm of comments, mine being #144. imagine that. I like what he is trying to say here, but I think the polemical nature of his post provokes the wrong conversation. Here's an excerpt to give you an idea:

Does anyone- I mean, really, seriously- have any idea what is actually happening within the worship culture of evangelicals?

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. Traditional worship - a la Tenth Presbyterian in Philly- is on the verge of becoming a museum piece.

The reformed- of all people- have led the way in this revolution. I attended a seminar last week where a room full of reformed were instructed in why the optimum worship leadership option was “the band.” Not the choir, the worship team, etc. But “the band.” Does anyone realize what that means for public worship?

Check the whole post and comment battle here-- and see what you think. I'd love to see your takes here.


posted by John David Walt | at 6/14/2009 09:17:00 AM



Blogger Team Reporter said...

JD, thanks for the unceasing pulse you take in such diverse expressions of the Body of Christ. I want to first provide your quote for i-Monk's post:

"I think it would be helpful to ask why or how have we gotten to this place we are in. I’d suggest this shift in worship expression has more to do with the preceding era of enlightenment/ rationalism/ modernity. Worship became highly rationale and wedded to a particular form of liturgy that emphasized this. The congregation’s participation was primarily vicariously exercised through the priests. The problem is it later became formal-ism. Could today’s expression (referred to here) be a pendelum swing back. (i.e. highly experiential participation by the people.)"

I know that you are aware that the shape of the liturgy found in Anglicanism stretches back prior to "Roman" Catholicism. That is to say, way before the enlightenment. Are you trying to say that the emergence of early Catholicism - beginning late first century into it's ultimate Roman and Orthodox expressions are the seeds of today's rationalistic formalism or is there a specific "enlightenment effect" on what had already emerged prior to the enlightenment?

This is an important conversation for those who are seeking to identify with historic expressions found in liturgy. Do we invent our own or do we honor what's gone before us? Blend? Our local expression is exploring a blend. Perhaps this is a way forward from merely falling into the trap of "Jesus Rocks the House" expressions. I used to know way more than I do now!

8:30 AM EDT  
Blogger Amanda Kay Bowers said...

His question bears serious thought, prayer and consideration. I share his worry.

2:54 PM EDT  
Blogger John David Walt said...

thank for the comments-- I do not intend to knock liturgy at all in my comment. I am alluding to a specific enlightenment/rationalistic effect of the period of history now known as modernity. I am sure dead formalism preceded modernity for sure-- but the issue i am identifying concerns more the massive shifting in the past 50 years into what people refer to as post modernity.

I think traditional liturgy definitely lends itself well to the deep personal-communal experience of the mystery of the Gospel.

We don't need to invent our own-- nor do we simply need to rote-ly repeat the formulas of another era. What I am looking for are ways of re-tradition-ing the Great Tradition of the Church-- through recontextualizing it. It requires knowing it to the point that we can improvise on it.

I don't really like the notion of "blending" either. I'm after more of a weaving. Think about what "blenders" do to materials vs. what "weavers" do with materials.

later this week i am going to try and post up a drawing I have been working on to try and get more at what i am trying to say.

thanks for your ever affirming presence here.


8:25 PM EDT  
Blogger Team Reporter said...

Blending verses Weaving - that's a picture I'll always find useful! Thanks for this fine distinction.

8:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Michel said...

"The reformed- of all people- have led the way in this revolution. I attended a seminar last week where a room full of reformed were instructed in why the optimum worship leadership option was “the band.” Not the choir, the worship team, etc. But “the band.” Does anyone realize what that means for public worship?"

Well, I give up... what does it mean?

4:55 PM EDT  
Blogger Team Reporter said...

Regarding the "Reformed" leading the way via emphasizing the "band." Wow! Starting in the early 70's with Maranatha Music and then onto the Vineyard (VMG), the way was forged in this 'new' invention. The reason the Reformed and other mainline expressions are dressing down now is because of the former's impact on Church culture. All that to say, without a simple perspective on what's happened in the last 30 years in worship, we might think of this discussion as innovative. I've lived, led and published worship tunes through this labyrinth. I find it interesting how the pioneer's impact had its place and equally, its shelf-life. Other organizations took and improved what they started.

The circle is returning to re-exploring the historic Church's resources ... creeds, liturgy, calendar, etc. There are beautiful, in JD's metaphor, tapestries being currently designed across the spectrum of the Family. I can't wait to see what emerges next. But just forming a worship rock band is retro in terms of the past 30 year journey. To quote an old Vineyard worship song, "There must be more!"

8:03 AM EDT  
Blogger David Wofford said...

The shame in this conversation (monk's) is that we misunderstand what is a correct doctrine of worship. Worship supercedes time and space. Worship supercedes Creation. Worship continues despite us all.

You and many like you and I know this, however to put any form of worship in a box is to misinterpret worship as a means oriented action. Worship as conversation must speak to all persons, everywhere. Because we are formed unique, worship will always uniquely speak to us infinitely different. Likewise individuals and groups will infinitely express worship differently.

Poo poo on anyone choosing to mask their fear of change and freedom in the name of right doctrine. The link to Internet Monk is a strong reminder that there are good battles worth fighting...and then there are other battles that seek to confuse and distract us from the real battle at hand. (that person needs have a heart-to-heart conversation, himself).

8:16 AM EDT  

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