Friday, October 19, 2007

Contempory Worship

I am a subscriber to Worship Leader magazine, and every so often they will talk about the so-called "worship wars." I have never experienced the worship wars. I grew up in a denominational church where liturgy was the epitome of rote (and meaningless) prayer. I thought to myself in high school, if people here really meant what they are saying, wouldn't they say it differently? ...wouldn't they live differently? When I became a Christian and was first looking for a church in college, my only requirement was that they had to have contemporary music because I believed anything else would be inauthentic worship. God placed me in a church that had (and has) a very similar philosophy.

Since then, I have actually come to appreciate the old hymns. When I visit my parents' church or sing in hymns at a Trinity chapel service (which is never this semester, unfortunately) it would be unnatural for me to not lift my hands and sing with all my might. I have learned to worship because of the words but in spite of the form.

In the 19th century, missionaries tended to confuse Christianity with Western culture - the buildings were European architecture, clothing was European, and missionaries looked down upon the indigenous "tribal" cultures. And of course, they all sang Western hymns. Since then, we have figured out that Christianity must be properly contextualized within each society. Churches should be as authentically native to the culture as possible, and music especially should use culturally appropriate forms, not an imported and foreign culture.

With increasing globalization, the line between what counts as missions and what doesn't has become blurred or perhaps even non-existent. We must view our churches from a missional perspective. Does our worship adequately reflect the forms of the surrounding culture? In general, hymns represent an alien musical form to people in today's society. (And honestly, most of what passes as 'contemporary worship' is really only half-way there. But that is a topic for a different post.)

Let me be clear: this is NOT about evangelism. I argued earlier that worship services are not for unbelievers. This is about meaningful worship. It is about breaking the unbiblical distinction between 'sacred' and 'secular.' Worship is us coming honestly before God, not putting on some religious show.

1 comment:

Jake said...

I agree. I like a lot of older hymns (since they're "new" for me and they remind me of all God has done throughout history) and I like a lot of newer songs, but there's not a lot out there that really connects with our culture.

Where are the catchy worship songs that just stick in your head all day? If I say the words "Hey, Jude," instantly the whole song plays in your head.

Where are the songs that are so well-written you can't stop thinking about them?

Where are the songs that seem to take you into God's presence simply by hearing the music?

I think we need to contextualize worship in our modern culture, but we also just need to be anointed. It seems (sadly) that most secular music is more anointed than worship, in terms of musical and lyrical power.

Our whole modern church culture seems to have forgotten how to be excellent and passionate in art. Our novels are mostly poorly written (even our best novelists are no match for the secular bests). Our church buildings are ugly, brown Office Max-shaped buildings. Our movies are written poorly and acted even worse (compare the Christian One Night with The King to the secular The Nativity Story). Our TV is lame, unappealing, and boring.

I don't think it's so much that we need to adjust the form of worship, but that we need to get some life, passion, and anointing into it.