Tension and Volatility in Worship

These are my notes from Tom Long’s workshop at Mo Ranch on May 5, 2012, “Tension and Volatility in Worship.”

Book: “Beyond the Worship Wars”

Pending train wrecks between generations
– used to call them traditional and contemporary when I started in1971 we were going through a fad called multimedia worship
– this kind of volatility doesn’t feel like a fad, deserves more of our attention

we will focus on things we need to hold on to

There is a history to this tension
– part of Vatican II
– constitution on the sacred litergy
– changed from Latin to English, made priest face the congregation
– new songs and spirituals

Protestants looked at these changes and smugly said, it’s about time

Catholics went back to the Bible to focus on what worship is

All Protestants have created new worship books
– in our generation we have ecumenically rediscovered the history of our church, at the point where the culture says, we are not interested in it

Do you hold on or go out after the culture looking for something else?

Forces causing this change

1- the digital revolution
– we are on a shakedown cruise a out what it means to bring digital stuff into worship
– we are in a highly experimental phase
– some people assume as soon as you get a video in, it’s better
– orality uses your imagination more
– radio uses your imagination more
– screens are here to stay, we need to be open to them

2- We have a loss of vocabulary in our culture
– many visitors to the church can’t decode language about stanzas and books

3- loss of institutionalization
– young people do not automatically assume the institution of the church is worth supporting
– have to rely more on dynamics and experience of worship than just James White in 1970s tried to map landscape of American worship
– Medieval Mass (inherited at Reformation)

Luther didn’t want to translate mass from Latin into German

From right
– Lutheran
– Reformed (us)
– anglican

Left nixing: Anabaptist

– Methodist

White says we have 4 different worship styles
– mass
– high
– – free church (

Robert Weber redid the map in the 1990s

– liturgical (robes and read out of a book)
– traditional proestant: Overland Park Church of the Nazerene
– creative contemporary (seeker)
– praise and charismatic

Worship has now become different boutiques – examples of churches positioning themselves with their posture to the marketplace, not their lineage

Short list of things we should hold on to as Presbyterians
– “service is gathered around the intrusive Word of God” (we worship because we are summoned)
– I use a beach ball with adolescents to show 2- Presbyterian worship has a healthy fear of idolatry – the human mind left to its own devices is a factory of idols

Baals of the world always provide good religious experiences
– Baerkoff says this
– God does not always move us, and everything that moves us is not God
– sometimes churches build their services around patriotism or nationalism
– we have a great nation, but our nation is not God
– our family is not God either

Calvinists are always nervous about substituting something for Jesus
– our biggest idolatry threat is the “personality plus” of our worship leaders

3- A middle way on the sacraments
– part of the reformed tradition from the beginning
– on one side, emotionally held idea that if the pastor says the right words, God will act toward you (people are passive)
– most Protestants say it all happened at Cavalry, sacraments are audio visual reminders
– that view can hold that it is your responsibility
– Scots confession says anathema: carves out the middle way

Reformed understanding: if you come I will meet you at the table
– if we don’t come to the fount we can’t meet God
– this is a middle way

4- connection between worship inside the house of God and mission outside
– In worship this IS the real world
– unmasks illusions of what is happening outside
– should be a connection between what we do and pray for

Intrinsic connection between worship and mission

5- Worship is a corporate experience
– there is an ethic about worship

I hate the hymn, “I Come to the Garden Alone”

We belong to each other in baptism
– it is not about individuality, it is about community

John Carr as a guest preacher, 7 year old asked after Baptism where is that child I’m responsible

Things churches had in common I studied who are vibrant and have not lost their liturgical roots:

1- all recovering the drama which is intrinsically there in Christian worship
– making drama visible and audible
– passive, watching congregation that judges the performance is not worship
– Christian worship is like community theater where everyone is part of the cast

First act in drama of worship is “The Gathering”

Think at each point of worship: “What are we really doing here?” and how can we amplify the audibility and visibility of that?

2- all these churches were musically eclectic – we can choose from Bach to rock
– these churches didn’t draw a vertical line, they drew a horizontal line
– over time our church will have a broad representation of the repertoire of the church, and it will not be “constituency pleasing”
– over time that kills worship in your place
– diversity in music leads to reclaim the great word of ministry

3- Palpable experience of the mystery of God
– this is the hardest
– worship committee cannot make a motion for that on Thursday night
– in our culture some beautiful placement of silence can do this
– can be in prayers If you listen to prayers there is often not a lot of praying (conversation with God)
– more often they are people talking in stain glass window voices
– story of prayer for “Bosnia, the former Yugoslavia”

This is not the Rotary club gathered with a hymn book

Intentional about hospitality to strangers

Sometimes ushers in our congregations are the people who have drawn the short straw

Some congregations appoint pew captains to greet visitors

Church in Houston that has 16 staff members working in media
– service is broadcast quality
– worship is not supposed to be a high quality television program

Adam Hamilton, pastor in KC
– used photo of excavation of ancient Corinth: good use of media

We tend to confuse evangelism and worship
– in ancient church you had to prepare for 3 years before coming into full worship
– Catechumens had to leave at one point in the service http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catechumen

Difference in turning worship into a spectacle of evangelism, and making our worship services welcoming to all

What we are doing on Sunday morning is more than just sharing a message

Worst things we can do is divide up our services along denominational lines

A good Christian hymn is one that makes you a better Christian at the end of it

We are going to have stop talking stewardship as support of bricks and mortar
– people born before 1948 respond to that
– we need to support dynamic mission of the church and focus on stewardship as a response to Jesus, We have to go over there to the apartment building to serve the needs of people “out there”
– not enough to just make our worship service dazzling with better lights and music

Story of friend who started evangelism career in Watts (LA) throwing out tracts – learned evangelism doesn’t start until you get out of the car

Congregational song is the musical focus

Choir has 2 jobs
– support Congregational song
– sing tougher music on my behalf

Never do they perform for my appreciation

Sent from my iPad

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