Making “Sense” of Modern Worship: Scripture, Spirit, AND Sacrament

A Guest Post by Ryan Flanigan

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

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.

Three Streams

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.)

What You (Probably) Don’t Know About Modern Worship (Glenn Packiam)

If You're A Worship Leader, Please Read This

Friend Glenn Packiam ( 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.

My Response To “8 Reasons The Worship Industry Is Killing Worship”

Nuance Matters When Worship Is Concerned

On October 19, 2015, 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.

7 Trends That Are Changing Contemporary Worship

And Why Every Worship Leader Should Be Aware Of Them

As I walk into my office each day, a quote greets me. I printed it out many years ago, and keep it on a music stand in my daily view. It is not a Scripture quote, nor is it a poster platitude meant to keep me encouraged. Rather it is a command; a call to action.

The quote is from author Seth Godin, from his book, Tribes. It simply says this:

“Paint a picture of the future. Go there; people will follow.”

In our life’s work helping people to enter into God’s Story through worship, this quote reminds us that we can proactively work with the Holy Spirit in shaping the worship life of the Church both within – and beyond – our lifetime.

A Forward Looking Church

Most churches, and in fact, possibly most leaders, are not seeing beyond their next 5-10 years of vision – let alone beyond their own lifetime. This keeps us all living in a very small story, and obscures our vision of what is important in worship now that will impact the Church centuries in the future.

The Church, I believe, has a mandate and responsibility to be the most forward-thinking, trend-setting womb of innovation that exists on the planet – while always staying rooted in the most ancient of narratives and practices. In other words, we must always be looking forward, while reaching backward, as we live with passionate devotion to Christ in the present.

In practical terms, many of us need to hear again that 1970 was almost 50 years ago. That’s an entire half century. And times, as Dylan sang, are always changing.

We need to ask: “God, what are you doing now in worship – what must remain in our worship practices and styles, and what renewed forms of worship would you like to further reform at this time in history?”

The following is my attempt to ask that question, and to come up with some answers.

A 40-Day Experiment That Changed My Life

Why Church Will Never Be Enough

It worked for me, for years. Sunday morning. A 30 minute worship set. A teaching, prepared by a skilled communicator. A time of prayer. Maybe communion, maybe not. Often we leave moved, impacted, even changed. Then we leave – but what happens next? While it’s all good and important, I came to a place in my life where I said, “If this is my discipleship, it’s not working for me.” It just wasn’t working – and I’ve heard it’s not working for others.

It’s off to Sunday lunch, and a week dotted with quiet prayer to start each day. Mid-week we connect with a small group. Maybe, maybe not.

Meanwhile we work, we play, we struggle, our hearts grow tired, and we forget to be thankful, to feed on the Scriptures, and to meet in silence with God.

Yes, I was serving others, but I was not being formed into Christ by weekly, or even bi-weekly rhythms. I didn’t realize that I was being drawn to a daily rhythm that would – literally – change my life.