Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Worship: Bored or just Not Working?

A provocative and insightful article at Musicademy (HT Jonny Baker) on why contemporary worship has become boring.

We don’t want to say it. It sounds like we’re consumers, wanting more entertainment, and we know that’s not the problem. Worse, it might sound like we’re tired of God...

(Joel Edwards recently said):
“There is something about the charismatic movement which brought something new and fresh. It came out of something new God was doing.

I am thirsty for something new again. I have to confess to you that mostly on a Sunday morning I am bored! And I wonder if one of the reasons why people are not singing is because they too are bored.

It may be a good thing to discover what you would write down if you spent two months noting what songs are sung on a Sunday morning. I cannot believe that so much of our repertoire has become so narrow. So predictable. That the formation of what we do on a Sunday is so utterly predictable....”

Like going to any shopping centre and finding the same stores, we seem to be able to go to almost any contemporary evangelical church and find the same songs, the same themes, the same ‘one-size-fits all’ worship solutions. But do they? We know of the tragedy when colonial missionaries export a western worship style into a non-western context, squashing indigenous response. But don’t we ‘import’ the styles we find at the latest conference, or the successful church, or the hit CD, and expect them to work in our context?

Problem – Narrow Aims
Contemporary worship has had intimacy with God as its primary aim for the last twenty years or more, and we should never grow tired of drawing close to God. But isn’t there more? How do we engage with a broader picture of who God is? How do we come to him with more of our emotions, needs and experiences?

Possible solution – Rediscover different ‘Movements’ of Worship
Do we need to turn back to some of the traditional ‘movements’ within corporate worship – gathering, praise, thanks, confession, intercession, lament, creed, testimony, communion, etc – and learn how to draw them into our worship life, expressing them through songs and other creative artforms?

There's plenty more in the full article, but it really got me thinking at how safe I often play it, and how little creativity goes into my worship preparation. Even in our fairly innovative cafe service, we've settled on a bit of a format for the service - partly because it's hard work reinventing the wheel every month.

On Sunday evening, inspired by a line from Spring Harvest, in place of a sermon I asked people to think in groups of what they'd be doing 'This Time Tomorrow', to choose one of those situations, and then think of what Bible truths, passages and stories might connect with it. Simply seeing the whole congregation (all 11 of them) each with their Bibles open was a thrill, as well as helping them to relate scripture to their daily lives, rather than just their Sundays..

Many commented what a good experience it had been, though one said 'I hadn't come this evening expecting to do any work'. Isn't that an interesting comment? Liturgy means 'work of the people', but our worship is now a place where people come not to work. Go figure.

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