A Problematic Prelude
After fighting the worship wars for a generation, evangelical churches first tried something they called “blended” worship (I used to make people mad by calling it “lukewarm worship”), which wasn’t the REAL blended worship as much as it was an ad hoc order of service usually including hymn/chorus medleys. In the end, nobody was any happier, usually because the medleys were weird and the enmeshment of organ and praise band even weirder. It magnified the disunity.
Larger churches came up with a solution: two services, each with it’s own “worship style.”
It sounded great, and sure enough, there were some results. The emotional intensity simmered.
But it’s cost us in the end.
We try to have it more in heaven as it is on earth. And by doing so, we symbolically make it less on earth as it is in heaven.
The existing service, the one that used to just be called “church,” was reduced to being a sentimental, get-your-blue-haired-friends-together-and-sing-the-old-favorites hour. Some elements may have remained, but they remained as breathless corpses, museum pieces, mere relics that reminded us of a time gone by. The new, contemporary service borrows the commercial Top 40 sound, and often ditches with the difficult, churchy stuff. No need for liturgy, creeds, hymns ancient and modern. Like merchants lobbying for customers, we say “Come to our church. We have choices now! One of them is cool, and the other one is for old people and old souls.” And to dissatisfied current members, it says, “Wait! Don’t leave! You win! You can have church your way now!” Instead of being a “royal waste of time,” as Marva Dawn calls it, it’s a tool to hook unsuspecting entertainment seekers into making some kind of verbal acknowledgment of Jesus and the next building campaign.
Then, somewhere along the line, we decided that corporate worship was really about the art of attraction. The bottom line: butts in the seats.
And we haven’t stopped there. We’ve found that a good show can bring people in. Many churches now offer a “worship experience” aimed at every age-level. Denominations are studying area demographics to determine what kind of style might attract more warm bodies. Then there’s the question of how to get young people back in the church. Everyone should find a worship experience that fits them just right. Take it from Pastor Darrin!
But, and my apologies to Matt Redman, but we’ve lost the “heart” of our worship gathering. And that’s cost us, and the world around us, so dearly.
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