Rethinking the Contemporary Worship Service
“It’s Sunday once again and we haven’t even pulled into the parking lot of the church but already the frustration is building. With a glance skyward I whisper a now familiar but heartfelt prayer: ‘Lord, let this be a meeting of the saints. Please let there be something real in the House of God today. No ridiculous nonsense, no overt heresy, no deceptive ploys cast in Your Name, no silly sales tactics. Let us hear some of Your everlasting and immutable truth; anointed and unfiltered. Challenge me through the singular preaching of Biblical doctrine. Dare me to strive for Holiness, to love more freely, and believe absolutely. Let this be the very church service where I die! Where my fleshly passions and desires are nailed on an ancient splintered Cross to be wholly absorbed into a pool of Regal Blood. Never to rise again.’
The words leave my heart but I hold out little hope. Not that I doubt my Lord but because I know the modern church all too well….”
My friend Jim over at LivingElect penned those words, but it could just as easily been written by myself or countless other Christians who have grown so VERY tired of the modern American church. A quick glance at those assembled on any Sunday leaves one thinking that everything is fine. People are smiling, sermons are preached, songs are sung, offerings are collected. But if we take Rafiki’s advice (Lion King) and “Looked Harder!” we see a different picture: believers who are spiritually mal-nourished, longing for just a sip of cold water and a stale piece of bread that never come. Week after week after week, the spiritual food never arrives, and the body becomes weak. This is where many of the Contemporary churches have led God’s people.
In an earlier post, I asked the question “Can We Bring Him More than a Song?” It was a question that came to my mind as we sang Matt Redman’s song “The Heart of Worship.” One line in particular stood out to me:
“I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required.”
It made me ask two questions: Why do we sing so much and What DOES God require of us in our Corporate gatherings? This post is a challenge to all my worship leading friends and pastors to re-think the elements that make up our gatherings. Rather than looking for an innovative market-driven approach, I am suggesting we look backwards, through church history. The wholesale dumping of the ancient path of worship has caused many ministries to become providers of spiritual fast food that neither satisfies or nourishes the hungry soul. That needs to change.
For the past 6 weeks I have attended a different kind of Contemporary worship service. It is what the late Dr. Robert Webber might call an “Ancient – Future” type of service. I stumbled upon it completely by accident. I had never been to anything like this in my 26 years of walking with Christ. I had always thought it would be dead and lifeless. I could not have been further from the truth. Each service has led me closer to Christ, and fully nourished my soul just as the 16oz Texas Roadhouse rib eye steak satisfies me physically! The service is simple. It has a worship band, and we sing worship songs. There is a sermon. But there are also several other elements, none of them new or innovative!
After we sing three or four songs, we recite the Nicene Creed. We take Communion together with our family and friends, praying together as we do. We recite a well though out prayer where we confess our sins. We recite the Lord’s Prayer. There is a reading from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Then we listen to a sermon.
I know, it sounds pretty liturgical. It is. Don’t let that scare you. The contemporary church has its own liturgy. We sing songs. We have announcements. We take an offering. We have a sermon or a talk often devoid of any meaningful teaching of the Bible. If you look at the recent studies, our modern approach hasn’t been very effective. What is unique about the service I’m talking about is that the contemporary praise band concept is blended with these other elements. It has elements that the church has included in her gatherings for over 2000 years as well as contemporary singing. I have been nourished and spiritually challenged to follow Christ more in these 6 gatherings than in the last two years of attending contemporary services combined.
If you are a worship leader or a pastor, I want to challenge you to rethink your meeting. Consider cutting the singing time by 10 minutes or more, so you can make room for these other things. Do you want the “seeker” in your midst to hear the gospel? Recite the Nicene Creed, they will hear it there! Take communion, they will also see it there. These elements simultaneously strengthen the believer and invite the unbeliever to consider the cross.
Sometimes we can be a bit arrogant in how we view the past. I know I have been guilty of this. We sometimes assume that what we are doing is the best way of doing things because hey, we’re doing them! But throwing out 2000 years of church history does not a wise man make. Twenty-seven hundred years ago, the prophet Jeremiah called on the people of Israel to:
“Stand at the crossroads and look,
Ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16
What would happen if today’s church leadership re-considered where they have taken the church, and returned to the ancient path? Perhaps Jim’s prayer, and the many like it would be answered and we would find rest for our souls.
Posted on May 24, 2011, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Early Church History, Worship and tagged christianity, church, contemporary church, El cristianismo, faith, Gospel, Heart of Worship, leadership, Not For itching Ears, pastor, religion, seeker-sensitive, singing, Worship Leading. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.