Arts in Worship: Re:Gifting Contemporary Worship

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You know when one of those indie, Sundance winning films ends up starting a trend or breaking a mold in cinematography? Maybe they have a cool new trick or a retro flare; but whatever it is, they strike a chord with both the audience and critics.
I want to do that now. I know that sounds like a joke or a lofty and unworthy pursuit but hear me out.
I want to do a focusing trick with all the attention that is eyeing the current status of the “modern worship experience”. I want to zoom in and out quickly, as if the readers eyes were dilating. I want the focus to both broaden and narrow, to begin to see the bigger picture we are a part of and to better understand and articulate our own individual stories.
It’s hard to know where to go with this post, honestly. In a sense this a review of an interesting article. On the other hand, it’s a completely new and personal dialogue but even this is due to the provocative nature of Sigler’s original conversation.
This isn’t an attempt to argue, critique, or correct the original post. I’m only trying to pick up where Sigler left off. The driving force behind this article was the opening story of distracted teen girls in a worship service. I can’t say I’ve had a similar experience although I have noticed a lethargic fog over congregations. I also don’t expect to go to a gathering to observe and analyze. Personally, my problem is turning that switch off. So instead I’ll blog about it.

Bible

…So there is nothing is new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) The church and her music have been up and down, accepted and fought, superficial and superfluous since she began. Let’s look in the Bible for some results and instruction to this repeated discussion.
In 1 Corinthians, it sounds like they had a lack of fruit which the Spirit produces but yet had a claim to the gifts of the same Spirit. These admonishments are where the “rules” are laid down. Now, Paul isn’t specifically talking about music in this instance but we are talking about what we would call the worship service.
I believe that the premise of contemporary worship being mothered by the charismatic movement, then adopted, and now orphaned by mainline denominations carrierscarriers most would agree there. I also believe that this has less to do with our teaching on the Holy Spirit and how that informs our worship and a little more to do with the pendulum swinging back from the extreme. There was a thirst; now there’s a hunger (or vice versa). It was more than evangelistic means that caused this “style” to catch on.

Speaking of blending, I see guys in all types of churches who have never identified themselves as the denomination of the congregation they’re helping to shepherd. It looks to me as though the emphasis is changing for many as they get older and choose their own priorities. Overall I think this is great! I just fear that there is no criteria for the changes being made. The Word should be our standard but right now you find gobs and gobs of blogs (I’m sure you could include mine in that) that claim to have THE biblical approach to liturgy.

Demonstrative Vs. Intellectual

Please think when you worship. Please think when you sing. Please sing and play skillfully. These are all biblical principles. I just can’t see how our personal preferences get wrapped up in whether these portions of scripture are true or “for today”.

I don’t think you’ll find Jesus quite as frustrated with those in love and emotionally pumped about Him, based on his responses in the Gospels. There is a big downside to raising hands if there is nothing different from the reactions of crowds at a Coldplay concert. And the not yet believers out there smell this stench too.
I never want to see worship leaders stuck in a dialogue about styles and taking for granted the spiritual status or the scriptural knowledge of the congregants they are serving, no matter how good, healthy, enlightening, or fun it can be. In the same way, it would be scary for a pastor to assume the same. Let’s say this, it’s scary for that level of comfort to reside in any Christian concerning the weight of these glorious eternal matters and the souls at stake.

In many circles, you will hear a thousand recycled sermons snatched straight from Derek Prince books on the 12 Hebrew words for worship and how they carry physical connotations with them. Why? Validity for expressive behavior, maybe? You’ll also hear the guilt trips about how men are excited to the point of crying and screaming over sports but are stiff-necked in worship. I actually believe that to be true but it’s usually said as a punch to the gut instead of as a brotherly, loving exhortation.
Calling this “map” a theology is a bit thin though. Even calling it a liturgy is a weak representation. I’m not saying Sigler has this wrong. This is actually how most of these circles portray theology.
Even Derek Prince, one of the primary teachers of this worship progression, teaches these things rightly, in light of Hebrews 4. He explains how these temple objects and systems are mere signs and symbols pointing to Christ. I don’t believe he means to give us new instruction on steps for approaching the throne. You can YouTube him quickly and see that as well. What I’m saying is, it’s not all immaturity and Bible skimming in any one particular circle even if the general affiliation is stereotyped that way so it helps to inform everyone (especially younger students) of what has come before and more importantly of what Scripture states.

More to Grow On

There is also a whole argument of
Present vs. Presence at play here, too; that’s too big to get into. Suffice it to say, we don’t want to raise chasers but runners. We want to be disciple multiplying, world changing, carriers of His presence.

We want our lives to be marked by this quality, that we lived so closely to God, following Christ’s footsteps, covered in his dust that when we pass into glory there will be little transition time.

One more issue with the disconnected charismatic roots of contemporary worship is that no matter the roots, there will always be a low caliber for attention amongst worshippers. One can be fully engaged in worship and find themselves battling through childhood memories or a conversation or a cartoon the very next thought. Part of this is spiritual warfare and part is human nature and the fallen mind. If we teach what is going on, I think we will see so many more New Testament pictures coming back to life and as a result less and less stage, choral, & bands leading worship and more entire families and congregations organically leading from their houses, communities, cities, work places with deeper, longer, and more frequent gatherings of all sorts. Where we desire to be with God and His people like never before!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. darlasharp says:

    I’m really impressed by your ability to write thoughtful blog posts, knowing you work so hard and are raising a family. I don’t know how you find the time to do all you do! Bravo!

    1. Thank you very much. You’re really a big inspiration to me to be better family. Thanks for always caring enough about the family to look into whatever it is we are all into, in my case, reading a big long blog. You always are interested and super supportive! I wish we could meet someday! I’d love to site and just listen to Ryder play sometime too. I was pretty jealous of mom and dad for that.

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