Who Cares About The State Of Worship Today?

(Part 2 in the Worship White Noise blog series)

Like you, I care about many things. For my part, I have realized that for over 25 years of my life one of the things I care about most is worship. I cry when I talk about it. I get shivers up and down my spine when I think about what it could really mean. I am moved by it when it happens with purity of heart, and I am compelled to action in that same place.

We Both Care About Worship
I love worship’s cosmic mystery, and its everyday practical outworking. You may care that much, or you may care differently, or a bit less than that. Either way, we care.

You are, most probably, a Christian. You might also be a mom, a pastor, a filmmaker, a college student, an industry professional, a radio DJ or a professor. You might be a worship leader, an author or an artist. You might be a twenty or thirty something, single or married, a grandparent or a teenager.

You might be Methodist, Independent, Charismatic, Baptist, Anabaptist, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox or part of another denomination. Have We Reached The Saturation Point On Contemporary Worship? No matter your role, or your sphere of influence, we share a common bond that will make this shared writing/reading experience work – we both care about worship.

We’ve Reached A Saturation Point
Because we care – and because we care (my guess is) so deeply – this kind of book has to be written, and we have to talk. I believe that we have reached the saturation point on the contemporary worship experience.

Deep down, I think many of us already know it. What I do not mean is that we don’t need it anymore. It is a vital expression of the worship of our generation, in its music and forms. Every generation will continue to need new songs and powerful experiences with the Presence of God to keep going. This generation is desperate for a living encounter with God – and worship music in all its forms and expressions is one of the key gateways to creating those spaces of encounter.

When I say “saturation point,” I mean that our fixation on worship music and church services being the be-all and end-all of what it means to worship has had its day, its season, its half-century. It plays a part, but it is not the whole. I will also contend that church services and liturgies play a part in our worship vision, but they are also not the whole of worship.

Can Our Vision Of Worship Create More Than One Mother Theresa?
If worship doesn’t get bigger, in our minds, very quickly – we will lose the cultural war. I don’t mean that the gates of hell will defeat the Body of Christ. I mean that the church of our generation will be remembered by human history for the Mother Theresa(s) – and very few others.

For me, it’s a worship paradigm issue, and this book is meant to blow the current one we are embracing to loving smithereens.

So, I will champion contemporary worship, and historic liturgical practice, with every word in this little book. But then, I will seek to subvert the way you and I think about the part they play in worship.

I don’t think I have all the answers, but I am quite sure of the few burning questions that keep me, and you if you are like me, awake at night.

Ready To Swallow The Big Pill?
Let’s just say it clearly, and swallow the pill as we begin. The contemporary worship movements of the 20th and 21st century, powerful and renewing as they continue to be to us all, have effectively reduced our vision of worship to the size of our music, experiences, and services.

If Worship Is Just About The Music, We All Lose
Most of us would never say that, mind you, but our ways of talking about worship betray what we really believe. While we pay homage to more expansive ideas by talking about the “living sacrifice” of Romans 12:1-2, or “lifestyle worship,” the contemporary worship music scene and its momentum is largely instructing young disciples what worship truly is all about – the music. In other worlds I travel in, the other instruction is that it is largely about our formational practices.

I will contend that both ideas have merit, but left to themselves and coupled with some theological brokenness in the system (see Sacred, Creational, and Secular later in this book), they become toxic to the expansive worship for which we were designed.
Some of my dearest friends and colleagues are reeling at this point, because I am suggesting that reducing worship to our formative actions in liturgy is equally as problematic as our fixation on music.

De-contructing To Re-construct Our Worship Vision
Please stay with me as I later explain why I must dismantle our worship-activity fixation, not only with music, but also with the liturgies that have so deeply formed us over thousands of years.

You’ll see that I believe deeply in our activities, but they do not provide, in and of themselves, an complete vision of a human at worship.

(Excerpted from Worship White Noise: Tuning In The 7 Worship Culture Shapers In The Chaos Of The Modern Worship Experience)