Friday, January 9, 2015

Where's the beef?

Though many of the recent worship battles have focused on style, style doesn’t really matter, said J. Daniel Day, retired senior professor of Christian preaching and worship at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C., and author of the 2013 book Seeking the Face of God: Evangelical Worship Reconceived.

“Worship can be facilitated and used around any kind of style,” says Day, a former pastor of First Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. The music and sanctuary decorations can be tailored to fit the tastes of the congregation. “But the question becomes … ‘where’s the beef?’”  By that, Day says he means the object of worship, which should be God. But over the centuries, the purpose of worship in many evangelical churches has been to attract and evangelize new members.

You who have read my blog for a while have not failed to miss my skepticism about the separation of style and substance and my disdain against those who say Lutheranism's future lies in believing like Lutherans while worshiping like Evangelicals.  I have complained over and over again that people will not be satisfied by Lutheran wannabes who act like the people they are not in order to attract folks and about the whole idea and its presuppositions in making worship primarily an evangelistic venue.  Now, a Baptist is raising those very concerns.

Read more here. . .

“The gathering of the people becomes about the outsider rather than the community of faith,” Day said. “It becomes effort to evangelize rather than to worship.”  Another major shift away from historic Christian worship came even earlier, he added.  “The whole emphasis coming out of the Reformation was to convert worship into an educational experience,” Day said. “So you had these didactic, Calvinist lectures that became the models for today’s teaching sermons that go on for 45 minutes to an hour.”

At that point, churches ceased being places of worship. “The sanctuary becomes a lecture hall.”
Or they become entertainment centers, Day says, where worship is about “being impressed by the magnificence of the place, the costumes and the jumbo screens.”  Rather than just being an annoying difference of opinion with those who think differently, Day says these trends are damaging and contribute to the exodus of Millennials and others from American churches.

I can only assume that the good Baptist pastor who authored those words has been reading my blog:

“It’s really not about style, it’s about thinking intentionally about a seamless garment — a unity of word and deed in which all these things tie together,” Hatch says.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

I do not agree with all of this pastor's conclusions. It seems to me there is always criticism, criticism that is constructive, and also criticism given for the vain reason of just being heard. I do not think a bold brush can be painted across the canvas of worship to charge the church with turning services into lectures or entertainment. In some places, perhaps, but not broadly.

Dr. D said...

Both your observations and those of the Baptist professor seem to be on target. While teaching is one aspect of liturgy, and while preaching and liturgy do evangelize by proclaiming the good news of Christ, worship is not about public relations or recruitment. We do need to consider where people are and their culture and language,but we also need to maintain doctrinal standards and ties with the best practices of the church universal. Lutherans,in particular, should avoid being carried away by the emotionalism and puritanical iconoclasm so prevalent in contemporary culture.