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.)
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.
My Fellow Worship Leaders: In the short space of this blog post, I’d like to respectfully offer what I see to be the powerful secret at work within the most effective, influential, and impacting worship leaders/songwriters of our generation.
The following is my observation, gathered over 25 years.
Many worship leaders are skilled in leading worship. A smaller number are strongly gifted to lead worship. Even fewer still, in my view, are distinctly called to lead worship as a vocation.
And yet I perceive that even fewer still, of all those leaders, have learned the real secret to the most effective worship leading on planet earth today.
As a resourcer, I find it very helpful to know what posts seemed to “hit the mark” for us most in the past year. Some of my most ‘viewed’ posts (not always ‘read’ I’m sure) were a surprise to me – on topics such as Volume, Sound, Vocals, Gmail Hacks, and more.
Seeing the trends helps me serve us all better with helpful tools as 2015 comes, and gives me some insight into what is connecting as I write each week.
I am deeply grateful for Ed Stetzer, and the profound wisdom and insight embodied in his articles posted by Christianity Today, “A Letter To My Worship Leaders” Part 1 and Part 2. Every worship leader should read them, own them, and keep them in front of them. I have trumpeted similar calls in everything I have ever written or said as a trainer of worship leaders/pastor for 25 years. However, there are just two areas within the letters, one macro and one micro, that unsettle me. They unsettle me not because they are explicitly wrong – they unsettle me because they represent two classic Evangelical approaches to corporate worship that are “in the water,” and are now conventional thinking on the topic. I would like to respectfully challenge them, as one who is within this tribe.
Again, I encourage every worship leader to read Ed’s well-written articles. Thank you for them, Ed. But, as with all reading, we should not take in ideas uncritically like baby chicks, swallowing everything that is delivered to us from an authoritative source (I always suggest my readers thoughtfully and critically approach my writing as well). I resonate deeply with most of the Letter. But I want to challenge two of the unspoken values I see characterizing much of Evangelicalism’s approach to worship.
Note: As always, I’ll go beyond the scope of the Letter to ride my hobby horses when necessary (readers of my blog are used to my “launch-pad” approach to blogging!).