I asked good friend Brannon Hancock to write about the catalytic influence a deeper treatment of the Sacraments (visible signs of an inward grace), such as the Eucharist and Baptism, could have in a contemporary church’s worship life. With 10 reframing ideas, Brannon opens a sacred box for us all.
Could a generation ripe for “embodied stories” be craving worship that prioritizes the physical and the ritual to to engage the emotional and the cerebral? A generation swimming in emphases on the empirical and the immanent (see James K.A. Smith’s and Charles Taylor’s work) is responding to tangible worship practices and the enacted stories found in sacramental approaches.
Here are Brannon’s top 10 ideas, and every one opens up a world of its own. +
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 October 19, 2015, Patheos.com published the post 8 Reasons The Worship Industry Is Killing Worship by Jonathan Aigner. By all accounts the post has gone viral among those who care about the topic of worship. This is both encouraging, and disturbing. First, there is much in the post’s content that is helpful, insightful, and accurate. However, in my humble opinion, the post lacks nuance and generosity in some of the conclusions made. This moves me to strongly disagree with a number of the statements in the article.
My time is limited for writing this response, which will reveal itself in a lack of editing and a few typos. Apologies. I may/will also be accused of leaving out particular ideas intentionally. That is not my intent, but I see the suggestion coming so I mention this at the beginning of my response. Please be gracious with me.
As well, when I sound pointed in my remarks, please read them as if the author and I are having a coffee and the conversation is passionate yet playful.
In working with artists and worship leaders, I am often drawn to Genesis for insights that help us to understand God, ourselves, and the raw power of “making” in the world. A recent study in Genesis unearthed the following nuggets from poet and Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann in Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Here are a few selections that moved me in the first section of the book.
God And Creation Bound Together
“God and God’s creation are bound together in a distinctive and delicate way. This is the presupposition for everything that follows in the Bible. It is the deepest premise from which good news is possible. God and His creation are bound together by the powerful, gracious movement of God towards that creation.
Like many of my fellow worship leaders, my mentors are quite diverse. From John Wimber, to Robert Webber, to N.T. Wright, to Jeremy Begbie, to many of today’s worship leaders, all have encouraged me to both celebrate, and examine, the finer details of worship leadership. It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe, with many of my peers, that “unexamined worship is not worth leading.” Scary quotes, like the one below from Robert Webber, makes me want to pull out a magnifying glass and do some hard analysis.
In this quote below, Robert Webber, famed ancient-future worship influencer, makes a bold statement about contemporary worship. If it’s still true, we have some intentional work to do.