Thursday, July 2, 2009

Can Post Modern Worship Be Biblical?

One of the hallmarks of today’s post modern young adults is that they like to “experience” things. They are not as interested in sitting in a classroom hearing about rock climbing as they are in actually climbing the rock. They are not as interested in learning about acting theory as they are in actually standing on the stage and just doing it. They are not as interested in reading about South America as they are in visiting South America and meeting the people, eating the food, etc. Today’s post modern young adults like to be fully engaged in what they are doing. This has given rise to “extreme” sports and other experience based adventures.

Many churches have struggled in keeping young adults active in worship services because many churches offer little in the way of “experience” during a typical worship service. Churches hire student ministers to plan trips and activities, and young people flock to those events, but when it comes to actually attending worship services, the number of active young adults drops dramatically.

While some cutting edge churches are experimenting with “new” kinds of worship, perhaps we might consider going back to the ancient ways of the early church. In the early church a large group did not sit and just listen to a man speak. They often interacted with the speaker and asked questions. Paul even had to address this in one of his letters to the church of Corinth because the question asking was so great that it had begun to distract from the point. Early worship utilized the experience of communion much more than many evangelical churches today. On a regular basis they actually passed a piece of bread around the room and each person pinched off a piece and ate it. That is so different from the once a quarter pre-packaged communion wafers that some churches use today. Even baptism was an experience in the early church. They only practiced full body immersion of an adult believer in the first century. Just think about how much more a powerful experience that would be compared to the few drops of water sprinkled on the head of an infant that is often practiced today. Even the music was more experiential in the first century. The Psalms was the early hymn book of the church. When we read it we see that a number of instruments were used, not just one person playing the organ. And a number of people were leading the worship, not just one “worship leader.” All those people who were involved were part of the experience, not just observers of someone else doing it. Even the songs themselves were experiential. The early church sang songs TO God not just songs ABOUT God. When we read the Psalms we see that they are interactive exchanges between a Holy God and His people, much more so than many of the one way conversations of far too many hymns in our 1950’s era hymn book.

The reality was, first century worship was VERY experiential. And if we want our worship services to be biblical then they need to be experiential too. Interestingly enough, having more biblical worship services will actually help us reach more post modern young adults. Who would have thought?

11 comments:

  1. Great thoughts. I believe this is why many are moving to the house church model. This model allows for maximum participation which was a staple of first century worship...one with a song, testimony, praise, prayer, etc.

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  2. I changed denominations to a very liturgical denomination, and a solid, historical liturgy is very experiential. We'... Read Morere all bathed in the Word, by speaking it, or hearing it spoken to us. We respond to God's Word with hymns, we rise for the hearing of the Gospel, we kneel for the reception of Christ's true body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion. We recite the words of our faith in the Apostles' Creed and pray the prayer our Lord taught us in the Lord's Prayer. We confess our sins (and hear our neighbor confess his) and we receive the promise of absolution according to God's Word. We experience God's forgiveness in the form of external means. Not feelings.

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  3. I see your point, but I think that some churches in this day are trying too hard to be experiential in the wrong ways. We offer light shows along with the 'worship' music and if you aren't 'touched' by it then something is wrong in your life. I think the experience we need to be having is a constant change in our ... Read Morelives done by the Holy Spirit...through the teaching of the Truth of the Word.

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  4. Hershell StricklandJuly 3, 2009 at 7:38 AM

    Good stuff, I look forward to talking to you more about how to get everyone involved in our services and meetings.

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  5. Church is about preaching the gospel, and this preaching works to produce faith (faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ), it's not something we receive by comprehending intellectually, but is worked in us by God's Spirit through His Word. Children should receive this gift as well.

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  6. Part of the issue too is that in Evangelical denominations the sermon is the main focal point of the service. Thus, the sermon tends to be quite long. In liturgical denonminations the sermon is usually much shorter because it's one portion of the broader liturgy.

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  7. Yes, you nailed it … again.
    Thank you for articulating this important observation about post moderns and the ancients and the need of today’s church to change.

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  8. What I love about your blog is that you are not afraid to talk about controversial stuff. You don't claim to have all the answers but you do have many good suggestions.

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  9. I've watched you lead many church services and you really do incorporate many of those ideas into your services. Though you don't do every element every time, you use them enough to keep young adults like me interested.

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  10. Hey Terry, Found you from Fb (Christian Bloggers.) Excellent post and not just for young adults. The whole Body needs this.

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