Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Traditional & Emerging Worship Styles : Walking the Fine Line

The worship wars and segregated worship dilemmas have plagued the church for at least two decades now. Being the card-carrying pluralist that I am (grin), I wouldn't insist on any particular answer or solution. What I would make compulsory, though, is clarity of thinking about what's good and bad in whatever we do.

So at the cost of super-simplification, I've divided Christian worship services into two forms - Traditional and Emerging - and what follows is a listing of what's good and bad about each.

The obvious reminder is that the non-traditional folks need NOT 'condemn' the liturgical guys, nor vice-versa. The hope and plea, though, is that whatever 'structure' we decide on, we do it well, for God's glory, and walk the fine line between the Devil of lifeless fossilization and the Big Bad Sea of spineless selling out to culture.

1. Traditional Worship (done poorly):
  • everything in the tradition remains - everything the way it's always been done (regardless of Biblical priority or emphasis)
  • denomination is king
  • multi-media and younger age-groups largely ignored in favour of fixed liturgical structures
  • missional outward/other-ish focus de-prioritized - it's all about the members themselves
  • fossilization

2. Traditional Worship (done well):
  • everything helpful in the tradition remains to encourage spirituality, growth and discipline; there exists a recognition that structures were forged in specific historical contexts and that some facets of said structures may no longer be supremely relevant (e.g. the robes?)
  • denomination is important but tradition can 'give way to new movements of the Spirit' (a phrase I borrowed from a certain Pastor Peter Harritz)
  • mild experimentation allowed to add creative/contemporary flavour to worship
  • members educated on the process and discipline of 'ancient practices'
  • stability and strong sense of the sacred

3. Emerging Worship (done well) :
  • focuses on what Jesus told us to do(!), e.g. baptism, eucharist (obviously I can't hide my Lutheran bias here...*smile*
  • emphasizes what's helpful to the world and what's beneficial for the kingdom/ministry i.e. a missional focus a'la "the church exists chiefly for its NON-members"
  • creativity and learning encouraged
  • the Word made fresh (and delivered in an infinite variety of forms)
  • rich multi-media experience to reduce 'dis-connect' between Sanctuary and Life i.e. encourages a blending of the sacred with the secular (or a sacralisation of the everyday things of life)

4. Emerging Worship (done poorly):
  • do whatever we feel like doing - emotions and culture reign supreme
  • disregards tradition entirely, baby dumped out wiht the soap-water
  • poor theology, poor foundations - tossed around by cultural winds


Anonymous said...

""the church exists chiefly for its NON-members"

Good article but unfortunately, the above has been overused by many to do whatever they want to do, with total disregard of others in the church.

The church must be built and be strong as 1 unit before it can exist for the benefit of non-members.

It can easily be dysfunctional if we lose sight of what must come first - the strengthening from within.

alwyn said...

Thanks for the note, Anon.

Of course *any* godly motto/slogan/principle can be mis-used and easily made dysfunctional. Still, I hope that's no reason not to go 'deeper' into it and reflect on how it could potentially transform a church if used in a kingdom way.

The problem with the opposite philosophy ("The church exists mainly for its members") is that we become very inward-focused, the common 'vision' is ourselves(!) and our success criteria is whether or not our own needs have been met. Hardly the mark of a missional apostolic church! ;>)

untitled said...

neat analysis on both worship styles as I myself am contemplating on them in context today. However I am still wrestling with the issues of traditional liturgy in terms of creative expression and control.