December 16, 2005
Beyond Sermons and Songs 2: Further Thoughts on Worship and Liturgy
Pastor, author, and professor David Fitch has responded to the discussion he began about the pitfalls of experiential worship. To read more about worship and ministry in a postmodern culture we recommend Fitch's provocative new book The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from Big Business, Parachurch Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism, and Other Modern Maladies.
Hey all, thanks for this lively conversation. I'd like to take the opportunity to repond to some of your comments concerning the validity or lecture hall and rock concert style worship.
Some have said that what we need is "line by line" preaching. If by the "line by line" study of the Word of God you mean expository preaching, I do not wish to deny the importance of preaching, perhaps even expository preaching. However, if the peaching becomes simply truth propositions inductively sliced and distributed to autonomous isolated minds sitting in the pews taking notes on how to improve their lives (even their Christian lives), then to me this is not worship.
It is the distribution of information as another form of goods and services to consumers who are not changed by God's Word but only seek to use His Word to achieve their already decided wants and needs. This is what I am calling the danger of "lecture hall" worship. Would you at least concede that this in fact happens in many of our evangelical churches, esp. mega churches of our day?
To those who think we're over criticizing worship ... I think we need to rethink the format of many of our contemporary worship gatherings which rely on a long set of rock concert songs to elicit a good "worship experience." If this is another form of a "feel good pep rally" whose hymnody is not substantive enough to shape one's orientation towards our holy, almighty and sovereign God, then this worship inevitably turns narcissistic and fails as worship. To those of you complaining that we have once again criticized someone's worship, would you not at least concede that some evangelical worship falls into this category? That we then at least need to talk seriosuly about this issue in our worship?
There is certainly a sense in which all of life is worship. On my own blog I have argued that a "good party" can be a liturgy that shapes us in response to God's grace. I agree that liturgy is not limited to Sunday a.m. But I believe the postmodern writers powerfully argue that our selves (our subjectivities to use a good postmodern term from linguistic philosophy) are being shaped by cultural forces, discourses and ways of seeing. Therefore worship becomes the place out of which I as a Christian am formed towards His glory from which my life can be centered in my relationship to God in Christ. I can then go out and live the rest of my life out of that orientation. To me then it is simplistic to say all of life is worship.
Because of all of the above, I believe the return to liturgy is important. I believe the return to the mystery of the Table and the call-response participatory patterns of a relationship with God in worship are all important. And I am encouraged by the interest many emerging churches are showing in ancient forms of worship.
To all ... thanks for conversing. My wife and I leave for two weeks out of the country to adopt our son. But I'll try to at least get one more response in if it is warrented.
Blessed Advent to all