What is going on in worship today?
This is the question with which Constance Cherry begins her 2004 article “My House Shall Be Called a House of… Announcements”. It’s a question that I frequently ask myself as well. Cherry’s article is challenging reading, not just because of the provocative title, but because of the evidence that she presents. No, it’s not a comprehensive study, and so we shouldn’t build an entire thesis upon it. However, it’s possible to ponder its conclusions seriously and so apply ourselves to some serious “worship reflection”.
Cherry makes it clear that she is operating on the assumption that “the way we spend our time is an indicator of what we consider to be important.” I think it’s a fair assumption. If we enjoy reading, then we will spend a fair portion of our time reading. If we think time with the family is important, then parents will spend time with their children. You get the picture.
What I found particularly disturbing, in the light of this assumption, was the amount of combined time spent in Scripture reading and prayer. This ranged at the top end of the scale from 18% (Traditional) and 17% (Liturgical) down to 10% (Blended) and 7% (Contemporary). In real terms that means that the most time spent on these combined corporate worship activities was, at the most, 15 minutes (Liturgical – given it’s longer average service time) and, at the least, a miserly 6 minutes (Contemporary).
6 minutes out of 87.
It’s easy to sit here in
and criticise the 31 anonymous churches from across 4 states in the (which
didn’t include a Salvation Army meeting). It would be easy to say that “it wouldn’t
happen here”. But the reality is… it probably is. USA
I think there is some benefit in re-evaluating what is important in our corporate worship. I mean really important. What is the point of the weekly gathering? What is God’s house for? Announcements? Performance music? The cup of coffee and conversation afterwards/beforehand/during? Or is it meant to truly be a “house of prayer for all the nations” (Is. 56:7).
I am convinced that many churches are in a place where their weekly worship gatherings are suffering from the effects of war. The “Worship Wars”, that is. Whilst there still may be some battles lingering on, I’m of the opinion that this war is over (thank the Lord for that!). Nobody “won”, of course, since it was a ridiculously futile and poorly run campaign on both sides of the battlefield. But even though the war is over, still there remains the devastating reality that many people have been genuinely hurt, churches have been split down the middle, and the effect on corporate worship is that those who plan services and meetings no longer know with confidence what worship really looks like. The battle over style has taken our attention hostage for so long that we’ve forgotten what is important for our weekly gatherings.
I think Cherry’s article demonstrates that in some fairly stark terms.
So, now we need to “rebuild the [worship] ruins” (Isaiah 61:4).
In an attempt to contribute to this I plan to write on the topic of worship frequently this year through this blog. I have no idea how many posts this will involve, but I feel that this is vitally important. It won’t be the only topic I write on, but it’s one I feel particularly strongly about at this time.
As always, I welcome comments, discussion, questions and thoughts from others. I’m not an expert. I’m just thinking out loud. Through it all, though, I pray that this may help others (particularly those involved in worship preparation and leadership) in very practical ways.
Most of all, I pray that the body of Christ may continue to be built up (Eph 4:12), for the glory of God and the benefit of his Kingdom.