One crowd says worship expression needs to be better art (greater complexity for meaningful reach to today’s world). Another crowd says worship must maintain greater accessibility (broader, meaningful service to the Church). Both crowds are right – and both need a good talking to.
The creative expressions of worship in our time are part of the Great Art of the Church, and therefore must never been minimized – even when critiquing today’s worship subcultures. To diminish their necessity, vitality, or centrality to spiritual life – in its deepest human forms – is to lose our way in every single conversation about the topic.
What diminishes our conversations about worship? When we speak about worship as if it is a tool, a music genre or style, or even, simply put, a consumable art form for our personal devotion. This kind of language needs a hard core fix.
In Mark 11:1-11, Jesus is entering the Great Jerusalem, meaning “City of Shalom, City of completeness, wholeness, of God’s all-permeating Peace.” But as the Prince of Peace enters – the Prince of Shalom Himself – a holy mess is about to be made.
Jesus marks the beginning of His Passion week, as crowds before Him, crowds behind Him, and crowds all around Him voice a singular cry: “Hosanna!” – a cry of triumphant praise, that means “Save, now!” But no one is prepared for the kind of saving, the kind of rescue operation, the kind of deliverance mission about to be initiated by the One whose very name, Y’shua, means “The Lord saves.”
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.)