I’ve now spent most of my adult life (30 years) thinking about, leading, and teaching on the topic of worship. It’s been central to my life’s call to reflect on why we do what we do in worship in settings like local churches, conference events, an universities. After interacting with contemporary worship ideas around the world over these past 3 decades, here are the top 5 most important things I believe every congregation needs to understand about worship.
As each of the following sections is a summary, I promise that I will leave out language about worship that is important to someone. But in this setting, the summaries will have to suffice.
Under each point, I suggest “What We Get Wrong,” and “How We Get It Right.” I hope these insights are helpful to our shared understanding of worship.
On a weekend in January I had the privilege of sharing in a Chapel service of the Robert E. Webber Institute For Worship Studies. The theme chosen by Darrell A. Harris, who is the IWS Chaplain and one of my dearest friends and mentors, was Hospitality.
My text was Ruth 2, so I chose the sub-theme of Radical Hospitality: Lessons In Hospitality From Ruth 2, drawing on the story of my wife’s Armenian grandmother, Siranouche.
To become Good News in the world, to become people of the Gospel of Christ, we must become people of radical welcome.
Thanks Jim Hart, for the kind invitation.
The following guest post by good friend Ryan Flanigan further explores the theme of friend Glenn Packiam in “What You Probably Don’t Know About Modern Worship.” His insights from his contemporary worship leadership roots and Anglican experience leading at All Saints Dallas are priceless in this conversation. If you connect with the contemporary worship experience, and the liturgical life of worship, you’ll love this addition to the conversation.
Photo courtesy of www.clairemccormack.com
Making “Sense” of Modern Worship: Scripture, Spirit, and Sacrament
By Ryan Flanigan
Glenn Packiam is one of the most important voices in modern worship. In an attempt to reason with those who continually slam modern worship, Glenn posted this fantastic blog on what critics might not know about modern worship:
As Glenn argues, not all modern churches are alike, so it’s usually unhelpful to make blanket statements about what’s wrong with modern worship or to lump all megachurch worship with modern worship. He also observes that much criticism of modern worship comes from people who want to “kill” it rather than people who want to make it better.
He then speaks to the good in modern worship, such as its Spiritual inspiration, missional impulse, and emotional engagement.
Glenn and I share similar journeys and convictions about worship. We were both born into liturgical traditions, have both spent considerable time in the charismatic world, have both been educated in evangelical theology and have both found our way into the Anglican tradition, where there is freedom for all three of these streams — liturgical, charismatic, and evangelical—to find full expression and form. (Read my story here.)
Many years ago, I set out to write a series of readings that could be used in contemporary churches for worship through the Lent, Easter, and Pentecost season. This one is from Worship Readings And Prayers For Contemporary Churches: The Cycle of Life [Vol. 2 – Liturgies and Readings For Lent, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost]. Feel free to use it in your community worship setting.
While some of the readings in the Voice From The Darkness Series are responsive, this first one is meant to be read by a lone voice, possibly from the back of the room, on Ash Wednesday, any Sunday during Lent, or Good Friday.
Friend Glenn Packiam (www.mysteryoffaithblog.com) recently posted his response to the current tide of voices calling for an end to the “modern worship” enterprise. It’s one of the best recent posts on the topic to date.
image from Glenn’s original post
I’ve written a few similar posts on this same topic, touching the idea that nuance is vital in conversations like these. Sweeping judgments of entire movements (megachurches, the “industry”, etc.) are unhelpful in moving us all forward.
Glenn, in this post, addresses the vantage point from which these articles are often written, and conveys why certain arguments lack care and – to put it simply – the due diligence of adequate research (primarily phenomenological research).
As a reader of my blog, I commend it to your reading and sharing. These are the kinds of words that must become as viral as any rant about the contemporary worship experience.
“What You (Probably) Don’t Know About Modern Worship” by Glenn Packiam.