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Sun Jun 16, 2013
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What Kind of People Are We Forming With Our Worship?
Thoughts About Liturgy
Glenn Lucke: What would you say to someone who says, “We don’t have a liturgy. We’ve left the traditional church world behind. We’re passionate about creativity, about excellence, and about connecting to people where they are.”
Isaac Wardell: That’s a great question.
First of all, I think it’s worth clarifying some terminology. To use the word “liturgy” is really just a fancy way of referring to our regular public practices of worship. Many readers of this will be familiar with this viral internet video last year from the folks at North Point Church:
In this video the North Point folks spoofed their own worship practices and poked some fun at some of the more predictable elements of the contemporary/relevant worship format. What I found most interesting about the video was that the spoof was really only possible because the viewer’s familiar with this set of highly specific “liturgical” practices, even in a service that seeks to be spontaneous and approachable.
We also must recognize that in addition to worship expressing our love, worship also forms our love.
Concerning the more general question about creativity and connecting to people where they are, here are a few thoughts:
One of the main points of our new worship curriculum is that corporate worship always has both an expressive and a formative quality. That is to say, that worship, properly understood, “meets us where we are” in the way that the music and forms of our service allow us to express our love for God with authenticity and in a way that stresses the accessibility of our Savior.
At the same time, however, we also must recognize that in addition to worship expressing our love, worship also forms our love. When we enter into worship week after week, our hearts are actually being shaped and taught how to adore him, how to give thanks for his goodness, how to confess our sins, and how have hope for the future.
So the great challenge of creativity and excellence in worship leading, it seems to me, is to lead God’s people in worship that is deeply expressive, and at the same time forming us into the kind of worshipers that God would have us to be.
Are We Thinking Much, If At All?
GL: I may be misunderstanding what goes on in the many churches I visit across the country, so I want to be explicit with this caveat: this is my impression, formed by anecdotes, and I may well be wrong.
My impression is that almost all of what lead pastors, worship pastors, worship teams, and creative teams focus on is the expressive aspect of worship. I wonder a) how many leaders and b) to what degree these leaders give attention to the formative aspect? Do they realize that the forms of worship are shaping people? I deeply believe that worship is primarily about honoring our Covenant King, but worship also acts back upon the worshipers. When you talk to pastors and worship leaders about the formative aspect, what kind of responses to do you hear?
IW: I think that your observation is correct, and that most pastors and church musicians are not thinking much, if at all, about the ways that we are forming our congregations over time.
Do we realize that the forms of worship are shaping people?
It seems to me that one of the ways that consumerism has really afflicted the church, is in the urgency and pressure that churches are under to deliver an “experience” at every single service that will keep the attendee coming back. The result is that we grossly overestimate what is possible in a 75-minute format, and we tragically underestimate what it is we’re doing in a 20-year format. It strikes me that most of Jesus’ illustrations for spiritual growth are botanical illustrations—seeds, branches, vines—and that, by implication, Jesus is stressing that our long-term spiritual health may not be so much about mountaintop experiences as about faithful practices and obedience.
So all that is to say that when it comes to the corporate worship, it seems there is an enormous amount of literature and teaching on how to improve or maximize the experience of worship, but a relatively small amount of resources that really address what kind of people we are forming with our worship, over the course of their lifetimes.
To be continued...