August 19, 2017

Let Me Restate That…A Rant Clarified

By Chaplain Mike

Yesterday, a spirited discussion ensued regarding my “Rant as a Loser of the Worship Wars.” I think many of the comments missed the point of the post. So I thought I’d post a clarification. I hope this makes the most important aspects of what I was trying to say clear.

  • When I say I am a loser in the worship wars, it is not just because most churches today have chosen a style of music that doesn’t suit me. I like and play all kinds of music, and have used a great variety of styles in leading worship.
  • When I say I am a “loser” in the worship wars, I mean that I feel the evangelical church took “worship” away from me. It changed the definition and ethos of worship. The church growth strategy that has overwhelmed today’s evangelical church uses music as a tool to attract people to church and stimulate them into particular emotional states, then calls that “worship.”
  • When I describe my new friend as a “casualty” in the worship wars, it is because of the way her church and church leaders dismissed her. I feel for her because I think it shows that this church growth mentality has also changed the way we understand “church” and “pastoral ministry.” She became a casualty of that change.
  • “Church” has become a corporate entity with a mission in the marketplace. My friend’s gifts and contributions were considered “last year’s model,” no longer capable of being used because “we’re about catching the next big wave,” not continuing the past.
  • “Pastoral ministry” has become about envisioning, providing charismatic leadership and powerful preaching, and not the cure and care of souls. The code word is “leadership.” Rather than seeing themselves entrusted with a family of individuals and called to encourage a community of spiritual formation that will lead them to depth and maturity, today’s pastors think it’s about vision, strategy, stirring up the troops, deploying them, and keeping them active in growing the church.
  • Now the bottom line is, when you start defining church and ministry in these terms, you have departed from NT ecclesiology. The church, the Body of Christ, the fellowship of believers is no longer practically understood as the whole family of God; it’s just those who are strong, active, and attractive. The old, the weak, the shut-ins, those with limited gifts or resources, and friends like mine who have gifts that no longer fit with the program are made to feel left out. It’s no longer the pastor’s primary duty to know and feed his flock—all the members of his flock—but to motivate, equip, and use the strong to fulfill the mission.

So, my friends, you see that these posts are not about music per se. Wars in the church over music styles is one manifestation of a much deeper, more fundamental problem.

  • Is our church a congregation for everybody? Do we honor our elders, for example? Do we involve our children? When people look at our church and attend our services do they see both unity and diversity? Do they see people loving and getting along with each other despite different tastes and preferences? Do they see a willingness to humbly learn and grow in areas that might make me stretch so that I can appreciate those who are different from me? It’s about character, humility, Christlikeness, love, not about putting on a slick program (no matter what style it may be).
  • Do our pastors and church leaders grasp that their first duty is to love God and love people? To deal with the specific people God brings and to work with them on a personal level? To form a community and environment for them so that they may experience spiritual formation? To walk with them in their daily lives and have conversations with them in all the situations and seasons of their lives? The pastor’s calling is not to be a visionary or a program director.
  • Can we embrace the simple concept that we gather as believers for worship, and then scatter into the world to do our service? “Worship” was never intended to be an outreach to the lost and unchurched. So, worship together as God’s family, with grace and hospitality, of course, to those who may visit you. But then learn that the “Christian life” is not one lived in the confines of the “temple” (the church program). Make Monday-Saturday your primary context of outreach and service and attraction to Jesus Christ as you live out your vocations in the world. We are called to win people by our lives, not by having them attend an entertaining program.

What the church needs now is repair of the ecclesiological foundations. I hope this clarified the intent of yesterday’s post. Get this stuff right, and you can play the didgeridoo every week in worship for all I care.

Comments

  1. Glad you added this- obviously a lot of folks homed in on the traditional vs contemporary style, though there was a lot of good discussion on content and intent as well.
    Now, I have witnessed/participated in great worship in many styles, many settings, but come on – didgeridoo??? Come on, you’re really stretching it. I mean, is that biblical???

  2. ‘The church growth strategy that has overwhelmed today’s evangelical church uses music as a tool to attract people to church and stimulate them into particular emotional states, then calls that “worship.” ‘

    early on in my evangelical stupor i noticed this occurrence, and i did not like it. i did not appreciate being manipulated and being emotionally coerced into praising God.

    on a side note, i never understood the whole outstretched arms thing either. i even recall a sermon where my pastor at the time said that, ‘ this was true praise, because it signified that you were surrendered and abandoned to God. if you’re not comfortable with raising your arms then you’re not fully worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth.’ he then added, ‘ but don’t worry, God loves you and won’t leave you where you’re at. He’ll see to it that you worship Him with outstretched arms in Spirit and Truth. ‘

    i remember becoming a bit nauseas.

    ‘Make Monday-Saturday your primary context of outreach and service and attraction to Jesus Christ as you live out your vocations in the world.’

    been saying this for years, though not quite as well!

    ‘We are called to win people by our lives, not by having them attend an entertaining program.’

    truth.

    i would go further and say that the ‘entertainment’ path has become so well worn in our day and age, due in part, to the marginalization that we have suffered Christ to endure so that we may be more content with our suburban lifestyles, and as a result, we no longer extend to a broken world an alternative to its brokenness, but rather, the church has settled for offering merely a ‘jesus’ product/experience that leaves the brokenness of this world unaffected.

    what i said in yesterday’s post still stands, in so far as the church continues to be driven by the church growth values that CM has been speaking about:

    like i’ve said here before: let the church renounce its tax exempt status and we’ll see how many of the faithful are left. we’ll see how many pastors remain.

    i think we’d be shocked to see the void that would be created. many who are regarded as “called” and “set-apart” would no longer be there.

    why?

    because being in ministry can be lucrative. it is a tax-free enterprise, and modeling the church growth paradigms that it does, the north american evangelical empire successfully ‘design(s) and run(s) an organization that will get and keep people involved in activities.’ it’s a business. period.

    wake up brothers and sisters, the game is fixed, the fix is on, and Jesus wept.

    it’s a numbers game anymore. period.

    mlk was correct:

    ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.’

    and to salve the injury of knowing deep down that we have lost our moral and spiritual authority with a growing number of humanity, the north american evangelical empire adopts the ruthless and cut-throat business model of our day and age and strives to be “louder”, more “present” and more “relevant” to cover this sad fact over.

    i’m out. thanks.

    • Well said.

      Re: The outstretched arms……I’d LOVE to know what that pastor would tell a quadriplegic! It’s got to be Truth for all people…..or it ain’t truth!

      • ‘ It’s got to be Truth for all people…..or it ain’t truth! ‘

        yup. i’ve been sayin’ that for years, but the old/new pharisees of our day prefer for the Truth to be concentric. and as i’ve said here before, it would be comical if it weren’t so damnably tragic. the old/new pharisees within the north american evangelical empire are definitely loading the people down with unnecessary (dare i say un-scriptural – gasp!) qualifications and tenets.

        i like what you said the day before ( i believe it was you ) about the freedom that we have in Christ being so broad and absolute that we have the freedom to, as well as the freedom not to do a given thing. amazing.

        • Suzanne says:

          It’s on both sides of the coin. I have a friend who teaches at a Lutheran school and several years ago, the very liturgical pastor at the church associated with the school, told the staff that they WOULD cross themselves during chapel services. This is not something that was traditionally done in the staff member’s churches and they expressed discomfort in doing so, but they were told that it was mandatory. Pretty much “if you’re not comfortable with raising your arms then you’re not fully worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth” with chanting and incense. Same mentality, different denomination.

          • “Same mentality, different denomination.” I think this is an important observation, one which CM acknowledged in the original post, that “traditionalists” could be intransigent too.

            Denominationalism used to insist on a certain way and gave it particular names (e.g., Lutheran, Presbyterian, fundamental Baptist). As the original post notes in the case of the woman who was shut out, a megachurch which downplays denominational identity or says that it’s learned from the sins of our denominational past can still stake out a particular position and declare anything outside of it “beyond the pale.” Same essential problem, but in a supposedly “new wineskin.”

    • Is there any other phrase in the Bible that is used as often, with as little clarity of understanding, as “Worship in Spirit and Truth?”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      on a side note, i never understood the whole outstretched arms thing either.

      Note from the outside world, Jason, everybody: It’s become a running joke. My roomie was relating a horror story of some friends of his getting invited to a Christian Concert bait-and-switch and related how the invitor was spaced out and tripping the whole time (while her guests were bored out of their skulls and looking for an escape route). All I had to do was go “You mean like this?”, close my eyes, and start swaying slowly waving my hands over my head. “Yeah — That’s IT!”

      …as a result, we no longer extend to a broken world an alternative to its brokenness, but rather, the church has settled for offering merely a ‘jesus’ product/experience that leaves the brokenness of this world unaffected.

      Just like the other aspects of Christian Bizarro World: “Just like fill-in-the-blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

      • Wy Dave says:

        A long time ago I started categorizing those folks according to which football singal they were using. Fair catch and touchdown seem to be most common, but I do hold out hopes of spotting the elusive intentional grounding call some day. Grumpy people can be spotted by their use of the signal for offisides.

    • Why outstretched arms?

      Two thoughts.

      The first is… one of the Hebrew word for praise “yadah”, has as its root “yad” which means hand. That is, the concept of praise and hand is tied tightly together in the Hebrew language, and thus in the Old Testament. Now, what were they doing? The text is not clear. Clapping? Waving? Raising your hands? Raising hands certainly has scriptural support especially when it comes to both prayer and praise.

      1 Timothy 2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
      Psalm 28:2 Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.
      Psalm 143:6 I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
      Psalm 146:2 I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
      Psalm 63:4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
      Psalm 134:2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.

      One prof of mine once commented that when Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength” he was talking about worship being a whole body experience. That is why I like to express my worship with my hands.

      My second thought is this. Related joke…

      I was attending my local Pentecostal service once when right in the middle of the service their was a power failure and all the lights went out. The Pastor reacted quickly, “Everyone start praising God!” We did and the lights immediately came back on! I was amazed and decided I had to ask the Pastor about this miracle after the service.

      “So Pastor”, I said. “How did that miracle work?”

      “Mike”, he assured me, ‘that was no miracle. Have you not heard the ancient chinese proverb?”

      “Huh”, I replied.

      “it is simple”, he said. “Many hands make light work!!!”

      • @ michael:

        thanks for your learned and detailed response.

        i understand the “hand” thing like this:

        thomas merton once said after meeting with thich nhat hanh ( a buddhist monk ) during one of his visits to the east, that he knew that thich was a true monk after watching the way that he handled a door knob when opening a door. in other words, our lives are to be so filled with the knowledge and presence of God that even the mundane tasks ( opening a door ) that we engage in with our hands reflect / emit the very heart and reality of God.

        think luther’s reflections on vocation(s) being masks of God.

        moreover, rather than worship being merely a whole body experience that one engages in on sunday mornings in the sanctuary when the band is rocking out, worship is supposed to be an all inclusive experience that we engage in throughout the hours of all of our days; i.e., folding laundry, preparing meals, hugging a loved one, hugging one who is in the throes of despair, rejoicing with one who is soaring in the heights of joy, typing these very words, so on and so forth. everything that we do with our hands should be worship. our lives should be worship.

        and that is part of the problem that i have with the whole outstretched arms thing. it’s too narrow and too little to encapsulate the kind of worship and life that i believe God calls believers to.

        i hope that i was clear in this articulation.

        • Very good points Jason. I agree… up to a point. The outstretched arms thing is a valid expression of worship, more specifically as an expression of praise. Does it express the whole of what worship is? Of course not. Rather than consider it too narrow, I consider it a part of what worship is. There are many other scriptures that talk about praise and worship in other ways and other contexts as well.

          1 Cor. 10:31 – So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

          Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
          And what does the LORD require of you?
          To act justly and to love mercy
          and to walk humbly with your God.

          Doing these other things does not subtract from the first, but rather adds to them.

          • @ michael: thanks for the response.

            for sure i agree that it is valid, even if i don’t get it, and even if i don’t participate that way. where i draw the line, and i think you’d agree, is when raised arms/hands goes from being a valid form/expression of worship, to being elevated to a place of being mandatory. when it is made mandatory, or somehow construed as indicating a certain level of attainment in one’s relationship with God, i say no. and in my personal experiences within evangelicalism, it was not the latter, but rather the former that predominated.

            i remember one time, after the worship band got done shredding some hot licks on one easter sunday, i wasn’t clapping, and a lady turned to me and said, ‘haven’t you ever heard of a clap offering!?!’

            well no, i haven’t actually. and even if i had, i still wouldn’t clap because that music was dreadful. i’m not going to clap for some dude who can’t let the glory days 80’s metal/hair bands go.

          • i confused former and latter! it WAS the latter that predominated and not the former. rookie!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            …even if i had, i still wouldn’t clap because that music was dreadful. i’m not going to clap for some dude who can’t let the glory days 80′s metal/hair bands go.

            You have just given me a flashback to 1984, when I discovered my new MTV hookup was really a 24-hour TWISTED SISTER Marathon. TWISTED SISTER, followed by TWISTED SISTER, followed by TWISTED SISTER — “WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT…”

            You’re paying for my brain bleach, Jason.

          • Thanks Jason for making me spew oatmeal on my screen. Hahaha

          • @steve: you’re welcome. i do what i can, you know? how could i NOT share this with the world!?! it’s awesome!!

  3. Ethan Magness says:

    I just posted this under the original rant but now see that the conversation has moved on. With trepidation I will risk a double post.

    Thank you Chaplain Mike for this post,

    I want to learn from this so I am trying to be sure that I don’t focus too much on musical preference and attend to the issue at hand. It seems that one way to phrase the issue is this. How do we maintain the integrity of the church as the gathered family of God even while we must make decisions about the patterns of our common life?

    This question has particular application to our gathering for Sunday services, but of course it plays out in so many other ways. My grandfather (a long time preacher in Chicago and Tennessee) tells the story of a church that split over the fried chicken dinner. For years the fried chicken was cooked in lard, but many were excited about a new product called Crisco. As long as the older generation held a majority in the ladies home circle they insisted on using lard. And then at one meeting the younger group realized they were now in the majority and the next supper they switched to Crisco. The hurt feelings from that use of power formed a wedge in their relationships that ultimately split the church between traditionalists and non. I like this story because it makes it clear that the issue is about power not about fried chicken (or even drums vs. organ).

    Raising the issue of course is only part of the problem because the question still stands. Churches do make decisions about their patterns of communal life. (Even the decision to do the same thing each week is a decision.) And when we must make a decision that is not unanimous, we open ourselves up to the abuse of power. This is why Phil 2 and Romans 12-15 should be essential reading and regular reading for all those who lead the family of God. In my church, we regularly face the reality that patterns of communal life (programs, groups, classes, mission projects, music styles, worship formats, etc.) no longer serve the needs of the body or the purpose of the church, or that it requires resources that should be used other places. You can be sure that even when this reality is clear to many people it will not be clear to those who have loved and sustained these patterns of our family’s life.

    This is heart-breaking difficulty of being a family together. My heart breaks for this woman. And I am angry with the leaders of this church. But my heart also breaks for the leaders of the church. They are likely right that their choir needed to be disbanded. However if this action was done in a way that damaged the body, or failed to find the value for every member of the body, then they were wrong even when they were right.

    I have written too much for a blog comment so I will end with this suggestion. The key issues are how does God’s family makes decision about their patterns of family life and in this process how can we use power in a Christlike way that serves and builds up without dividing or tearing down.

    • “How do we maintain the integrity of the church as the gathered family of God even while we must make decisions about the patterns of our common life?”

      IMO that is probably the best re-statement of the corollary issue that is raised by Mike’s post.
      When we as church members equate our patterns of worship and common life to our own identity within the body, we unnecessarily constrictions on the rest of our church family.

      • Very well said, and restated by Steve; the HOW of the decision is every bit (or more) as important as the WHAT is decided. The HOW will tell people how valued they are, or aren’t.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My grandfather (a long time preacher in Chicago and Tennessee) tells the story of a church that split over the fried chicken dinner. … (Lard vs Crisco) … I like this story because it makes it clear that the issue is about power not about fried chicken (or even drums vs. organ).

      More like “the issue is about Pettiness and Stupidity.”

      This sounds like a story from The Gospel Blimp Guy.

  4. “Now the bottom line is, when you start defining church and ministry in these terms, you have departed from NT ecclesiology”

    Many would say the church departed from NT ecclesiology with the Constantinian shift.

    • So what was NT ecclesiology? And once we know the answer to that, where is the injunction to emulate it? I get the impression from the book of Acts that there are as many ways to do it “right” as there are ways to do it wrong.

      • I hope my understanding was clear from the two posts, Rick. It includes proper understandings of church, pastor, and worship. It’s not about specific methods but about fundamentals, and I hope you can see that in the rant and the follow-up clarification. It is one of the main themes here at IM, at least when I write, and you can find plenty of posts here at IM with that theme.

  5. I just found your blog today and your concerns echo some of mine, although I am more concerned about “children’s programming” than the worship. At my church families are separated in infancy and rarely worship together after that unless families rather pointedly reject the push to send their kids to nursery, sunday school, and youth church–the last activity has gone through so many name changes that I don’t even know what it’s called now.

    I have taught Sunday school for years and I have finally stopped because the curriculum made me so angry! We built beautiful rooms that were giant themed playrooms and kids are encouraged to shout answers at the screen a la Blues Clues. Bible stories are changed to make them simpler and “nicer”, or dissected into bits to teach a character trait. The jr high youth pastor can’t figure out why his students are so ignorant of the Bible.

    I have noticed that some of the families who consistently brought their kids into the service with them are no longer attending…

    • ‘ I have noticed that some of the families who consistently brought their kids into the service with them are no longer attending… ‘

      i’m not surprised.

    • As VBS director for my church, I see the same thing in the VBS curriculums every year. Increasingly there’s more and more fluff and less and less good meat for children. It makes me want to scream. Or write my own, if only I had the time!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Wiccans have a term for a lightweight wanna-be: FLUFFBUNNY.

        All those VBS curricula are doing is training “Christian” Fluffbunnies. And fluffbunnies have NO staying power. When they get to an age where they want something more substantial, they’ll go find it somewhere else.

    • We’ve just successfully eliminated “children’s church” and now families worship together. It’s great.

      It is very unwelcoming to visiting families when their kids look around and there are no others in sight.

  6. sara hughes says:

    WOW!!! Thank you!!! I agree

  7. Perhaps the focus on music with respect to the Worship Wars is an attempt at synechdoche — a figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole.

    In my experience, nearly everyone who dislikes the shift to market-driven music also dislikes the changes in preaching and fellowship which go with it and which are also market-driven. What they object to is not merely the change in music but the abandonment of practices that worked well in their community for decades for the sake of pratices that have been tried and found wanting in very different sorts of communities than their own. Music is the easiest and most obvious handle in discussing the topic, but I guess it isn’t the best one. It appears to leave too much out. Many of us who fuss quickest, loudest and most often about music are really thinking about much more.

    When Chaplain Mike says: My friend’s gifts and contributions were considered “last year’s model,” no longer capable of being used because “we’re about catching the next big wave,” not continuing the past, he is showing the personal cost of the market-driven change. And he’s right to focus on that.

    I am also a loser in the Worship Wars. The church I attend has abandoned hymnals with vocal parts in favor of a slimmed down book of tunes. They did this for obvious and defensible reasons. But not one of those tunes lies within the range of a man with an ordinary baritone vocal range. I will never again be able to sing in church without awkward octave shifts, embarrassing falsetto leaps or monotone droning. By choosing to make singing in church easier, they have made singing in church impossible. (Yes, I do read a lot of Chesterton.)

    That plaint of mine is specifically about music, but it too is more generally about decisions made at the highest levels of even the most tradition-loving denomination. The decision to dumb down worship has a price, and the people who make the decision aren’t the ones paying the price.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      I was gonna say something along those lines, but you both beat me to it and said it better than I could have 🙂

    • Very well said, Andy Z

    • Yes, this. I actually find I like many of the contemporary songs sung in our church, but as a musician am continually frustrated by the fact that I can’t actually *sing* them. Listening to a mixed congregation in which 90% of the singing is coming from the pop-tenor on stage and the women in the congregation just doesn’t seem right. And keeping to the topic of this post, the problemof the music is being sung in an inappropriate tessitura is not fundamentally a musical one. Rather, by doing this, the music is actively alienating a large number of people in the congregation who simply can’t participate. Why would we design worship in a way that unintentionally excludes men who wish to praise God through singing? Most of the time I’ve expressed this thought I just get blank stares. I suppose my desire to sing counts less than the perceived need to market successfully. It is reassuring to know that I’m not the only one out there frustrated by this, though.

    • Worship in a key that is difficult to sing, needs to be brought to the attention of the worship leader. Song select by CCLI allows you to print the songs in which ever key you desire. If people can’t sing the songs that I am leading, then I am not leading well.

      • Changing the key won’t help, though. People with very different vocal ranges can’t all sing a single tune, regardless of the key it is pitched in. If you google ‘vocal range’ you can find a listing of the basic ranges by voice type. This one shows that the soprano and baritone ranges overlap by only five notes:

        Soprano C4- C6
        Mezzo-Soprano: G3 – G5
        Alto: E3 – E5
        Tenor: C3 – C5
        Baritone: F2 – G4
        Bass: C2 – E4

        You could shift the tune up a step or down a step, but you won’t ever find a key where baritones and sopranos are both singing in their natural voices throughout the tune. Faced with this, a church must either choose a key for the convenience of one group and disregard the other, or else write music with multiple parts. That choice has been made throughout modern Christianity, from the hippest PowerPoint-driven contemporary evengelical community church to tradition-bound Catholicism, to accommodate women and tenors and let the baritones and basses fall mute.

        This is not just a musical issue. It hides a serious question of what the church is and what it is for. For centuries congregational singing was deemed worth the effort because it kept all members of the congregation involved in the service. In America especially, congregational singing was tied up with notions of democracy and the priesthood of all believers. And it was a source of great fellowship, from “Daddy sang bass, mamma sang tenor,” to the wonderful shape-note conventions that went on for nearly 250 years.

        People used to understand that there is nothing elitist or off-putting about general participation and that people usually appreciate it when they are told what is expected of them and shown how to do their part well. Back a century or two ago, illiterate peasants and rugged frontiersmen were all enabled to participate in the service meaningfully by a church that saw its job as raising up people from where they were to begin with. Today we have a church that is content merely to meet people where they are, and which, ironically, has chosen a course of action that precludes fully half of the congregation from participating.

      • Micahel – you can find YouTube videos of Chris Tomlin (or maybe it was Crowder) explaining to worship leaders that he likes to put songs in higher-than-normal keys to force people to work at it a little more – as if straining to hit the note forces your body to express the devotion described in the song lyrics.

        I have noticed that younger gatherings (say, college age) do not seem to have a problem with these keys, but a mixed or older congregation just can’t make it work. Most modern songs in key of B or Bb need to be brought down to A or G.

  8. David Cornwell says:

    ” the shift to market-driven music”

    That the church even thinks in terms of “market driven” says a lot about what is wrong. We live and serve in the market place, but the church and its worship should not be market driven. This is Capitalist ideology, not Church.

    • + 1!!!!!!

      david, bringing it again.

    • Taking the market place and adding God to it can be summed up in an e-mail I received from a well known ministry today, the first words I read were……..

      Strengthen your relationship with God

      40-80% Off

      I laughed out loud then hit the unsubscribe button. There are just some things we should ensure are free. Always!

      But…..what do I know? *wink*

      I actually am aware that it was an e-mail letting readers know the resources that were on sale. It just happened to strike me funny. And sad. All at the same time.

      My sincere apologies if this is in any way off topic…..

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I can’t speak for God, but I know *I*d be mighty pissed if I got dumped into a Clearance bin at “40-80% Off”.

        • Unless, Headless, it’s “40-80% Off Your Time In Purgatory”, which would certainly motivate *me*

          Hmmm – I should go looking up the “Enchiridion of Indulgences” online – 1986 revision, of course, don’t want to fall into the mediaeval excesses!

          😉

  9. ■Now the bottom line is, when you start defining church and ministry in these terms, you have departed from NT ecclesiology. The church, the Body of Christ, the fellowship of believers is no longer practically understood as the whole family of God; it’s just those who are strong, active, and attractive. The old, the weak, the shut-ins, those with limited gifts or resources, and friends like mine who have gifts that no longer fit with the program are made to feel left out. It’s no longer the pastor’s primary duty to know and feed his flock—all the members of his flock—but to motivate, equip, and use the strong to fulfill the mission.

    This gives voice to something that happened last year that bothered me at the church I attend. It was our anniversary as a church, and on the back of one of the bulletins, a list of names was printed of thanking those who had given so much time and effort in service to the church. Now, I am not opposed to thanking people for their contributions, and the names on the list were all faithful, devoted members. BUT – all the names were of people who were there every time the doors were open. They were participants in many of the ministry programs. There were single people and married but childless couples who had much time and energy to devote to the church. My question was, what about those who are not so visible and yet just as sincere in their “behind-the-scenes” support? The disabled who have a hard time getting to and participating in many of the “visible” activities? The married couple with several kids at home who need their attention? People working multiple jobs or full-time students who are doing good to be there on Sundays? I think it would have been best to have thanked all who contributed, in whatever way they could, to the continuing ministry of the church over the years.

    • Bill says:

      > it’s just those who are strong, active, and attractive. The old, the weak, the shut-ins, those with limited gifts or resources, and friends like mine who have gifts that no longer fit with the program are made to feel left out. <

      I think along with what Bill says, there is another dynamic in some churches which is at least partly honorable. I think some churches have a commitment to missions that begins with dumbing down the service in consideration of and preparation for the seekers and non-believers "out there in the community." (A friend explained to me not long ago that old hymns aren't fit for church because, “They (meaning those seekers) don’t know what a diadem is.” )

      The best contemporary churches complement the dumbing-down-slash-jazzing-up process with outreach efforts to actually go out and find some seekers and bring them in. But there are other churches that take the process only as far as dumbing down the service, and never get around to going out and doing any missions. So the leaders believe they’ve done their part for outreach even though they’ve done very little, and the congregation (which hasn’t changed) wonders where the pulpit and the altar rail got to.

      • I just wonder if those churches and groups who do dumb down their services and then reach out for the seekers, ever manage (or try to) smart them up again later…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Perfectly Parsed Truly Reformed Theology, Perfect Eschatology, or Ass-Kickin’ “Worship” Rock Show — and pastors’ widows are still eating out of dumpsters.

  10. This is timely: the church sign over at Sacred Sandwich.
    http://sacredsandwich.com/archives/8305

    But don’t stop there. It’s all good food over at the Sandwich.

    • dumb ox says:

      Ouch.

      I think some churches make this error, that inclusiveness means more menu options. Big churches espcially, because they may actually have the resources to pull this off. It still approaches worship as entertainment – just more screens at the mediaplex: second door on the right for traditional; third door on the left for contemporary.

    • JoanieD says:

      Consumerist Church of the Sacred Demographics…that’s funny, Ted! And there is a comment there by someone named Carol where she adds in a few more things that are quite good too.

    • That’s awesome, Ted! Wish I’d seen it earlier; I might have included in these posts.

    • But what is the answer for a larger church? Four identical services? When you need to start a new service, do you simply clone an existing one? Or do you go for the mega-church 1000 people in one service model?

      Honest question.

      • sarahmorgan says:

        Having four identical services does work, there is a church in San Diego called Flood that does just that. The music team jokes about how the first morning service is the sound check for the later services, but everyone who attends any of the services on Sunday hears the same message & sings the same songs, so there’s cohesion in the community.

      • I’ve come to the hard conclusion that if you have 4 services your church is too big and needs to split. In so man ways. Been there. Been a cog. Seen others there. Bad things usually happen. To the church institution, the pastors, the congregation, all over. But it sure looks nice on the outside.

  11. The problem is, as Eugene Peterson puts it, that “we have traded the handcrafting of saints for the mass production of sheep.”

    • Thanks, CJ. As I will explain in our upcoming review and discussion of his memoir, the word “craftsman” comes immediately to my mind when I think of EP.

  12. Glad to see that social networking allowed you to engage us so that you unpacked that thought for us…utilizing a contemporary Christian praxis for the sake of momentum.

    I think that it might be that the transformative emergence found in the communal dialogue of these thoughts and feelings are unpacked and shared amongst the smaller groups which are a microcosm to the meta-narrative’s macrocosm.

  13. Radagast says:

    Chaplain Mike,

    I heard you clearly the first time and agree from my observations and perspective. I am watching people leave my tradition. They are leaving for the music, for the emotion, for the sermons. They want a preacher who is going to be interesting. A program that is going to entertain their kids. But nowhere in these discussions is what they will be doing, or should have been doing – going deeper in their faith, looking at things differently from a soul’s perspective instead of a worldly perspective – or “What’s in it for me?”

    And I see the marketing signs out there – a new church cafe stating – we are redefigning how you do church” , another talking about combining palates ans scripture – trying to reach each demographic, like any marketing arm of a business would do. Give the people what they want, get them in the doors and entertain! Tell them how wonderful Jesus is and fill them with surfacy shlop. So now those who have moved on are entertained, don’t need to go any deeper, and to boot they are taught all the touch points on how to slam their former tradition.

    One day you should do a blog on Bible study – an area I absolutely enjoy – except that you first have to figure out what is meant by bible study. Another marketing technique in some circles – instead of actually studying the Bible we might be subjected to applied bible – bible study with a theme like – how to succes in business through the bible, or “How to parent your kids as the Bible teaches” etc. Whatever happened to pondering the word in a group setting with people who develop a closeness because they are sharing as the Word envelopes them -OK, that still exists but is different from a lot of the marketing models out there…

    I hear you Chaplain Mike – and pray that your tradition is not swallowed up in the greater “Give them what they want for the sake of more membership” mentality.

    As for me – I’ll still be here even when there’s only a few of us left – at least it will be more peaceful…

    My thoughts…..

  14. S.J. Gonzalez says:

    I speak as a 21 year old who came out of a contemporary Southern Baptist Church tradition that now attends a conservative Presbyterian, PCA.

    While I agree with Chaplain Mike (and have gone on likewise rants) I wonder if perhaps, we are being consumer driven as well. I’m not saying that we ARE being consumer driven as people that prefer a more traditional style, but I wonder.

    Maybe God meets people in the bad song and the weak sermon? I would say no, but, there are pious people that come out of that tradition. I’m not one of the.

    But I’ve seen Mike write on this. It’s like watching somebody shoot but miss just the edge of the bullseye. Yes, forgetting what worship is, is a bad thing. But I think Mike hinted at the issue when he said the problem is bad ecclesiology. We have forgotten what the Church is. We’ve forgotten the story of Scripture (remember, alot of these churches are dispensational roots).

    I think that is the issue. Maybe our ecclesiology is wrong because our Gospel is wrong.

  15. Mike, I got it the first time… it seems to me the confusion might well stem from the problem you’re trying to identify. Irony of ironies that we could read a post on worship and reduce that to a post on music styles.

    At the end of the day, consumerism is doing much to kill the public-expression of the church.

  16. I have experienced twice friends who were music ministers being shown the door at the churches they worked at because they no longer fit in with the church’s marketing strategy (although it was never put in those terms). The second time involved a wonderful music minister, who had personally *ministered* to me, helping to care for my soul in a difficult time in my life, fired after 19 years because his “season had passed”…they wanted someone younger and hipper. My wife and I left that particular church, but ironically they eventually let their new person go as they realized that worship had become too much of a concert. This type of situation can wear a soul down over time and lead to cynicism, and makes me very thankful that I did not follow the advice of well-meaning Christian friends who once thought I should use my musical gifts in a church ministry. Thank you again Chaplain Mike for pointing out that this is less about music and more about how we treat each other while trying to be the church.

    • Suzanne says:

      So much the problem with the business model of church. You have to keep reinventing yourself to make yourself relevant, but let’s face it, that isn’t even working for businesses in the country anymore! Yes, it is about how we treat eachother, but sadly, having been a lifelong church member, I have seen that the secular world often treats eachother better.

      • @suzanne:

        ‘ I have seen that the secular world often treats eachother better. ‘

        yes! i have noticed this as well, which is why i have decided to distance myself from certain people recently. christian or not, what is more important to me is that a person treat me and others well, with dignity and understanding. sadly, the church should have the corner on this, but they don’t. more often than not, in my experience(s) within evangelical-land, as well as the experience(s) of many of my non-christian friends, christians are sometimes the worst sort of just plain nastiness. no bueno, no bueno.

        it is so incredibly sad to see the Gospel used as a club to beat people down who already feel beaten down. i just don’t think that that’s what Jesus had in mind.

  17. Christiane says:

    ‘Stages’ and ‘entertainment’ . . . brings to mind the ‘Passion Plays’ of the Middle Ages, when people did not read, and the stories of the Bible were taught in dramas, and in the visual aspects of the Church: the baptismal font, the stained glass portrayals of the Word . . .

    But still there was in the ‘sanctuary’, a place of peace and a time to respond to the ancient call to worship:
    Sursum Corda: “lift up your hearts” . . .
    and the people, as a people, would respond: ‘WE have lifted them up to the Lord.’

    Seems to me there is a time for all things, but when we come to worship God, we enter that realm which is holy to Him.
    We need to praise Him with reverent voices in the place we call Sanctuary. Entertainment? We need something more.

  18. Dan Allison says:

    Frankly, I’m convinced now that the war is lost and that the churches in America have entirely gone off the rail. I saw a “performance poet” in a bar the other night who preached a better sermon to the beer-drinkers than anything I’ve heard in a church in years. The Jesus People in the 60s and 70s worshipped Jesus freely in the streets, the parks, and the coffeehouses. They didn’t need worship teams, PowerPoint jockeys, pastors with cushy pensions, or three inch pads on the chairs. I’m confident that God is moving again and that most of the churches will be (haha) “Left Behind.”

  19. One more Mike says:

    “Do our pastors and church leaders grasp that their first duty is to love God and love people? To deal with the specific people God brings and to work with them on a personal level? To form a community and environment for them so that they may experience spiritual formation? To walk with them in their daily lives and have conversations with them in all the situations and seasons of their lives?”

    There’s no MONEY in that.

    The money’s in “be(ing) a visionary or a program director”, putting the butts of young, financially stable “seekers” in the seats, “financial ministries” (to insure the church gets it’s tithe, portion, cut, share of the “storehouse”), and sales of Jesus junk. Simple GREED is the driving force behind the emotionally manipulative “worship” segment of the “Church growth strategy” and we should just tell the truth about it. Churches are tax-exempt cash cows and whatever it takes and no matter who it hurts (like Chaplain Mikes friend and so many of the rest of us in the post-evangelical wilderness), they’ll derive the most profit and justify their actions by telling critics “Don’t be messin’ with what God is blessin’!”, and say it with a straight face. I’m not sure that ANY church is immune to this. I’ve been out of regular church attendance for 3 years now and am feeling no strong compunction to go back. Anytime I go now I walk away all pissed off (Preaching from Galatians 1 on Christmas Eve night? Really? You can’t stand the gospels for even one night?!) anyway and who needs that?

    The sooner the whole rotten enterprise collapses (HT: St. Michael Spencer) the better.

  20. Thank you, thank you CM — water in the desert for a weary, wounded sheep. You put into fine words what I’ve been muttering incoherently for a while. Maybe I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t been sidelined and thus can’t look down my nose too much at the sincere Christians who’ve fallen into the trap, but it’s frustrating/angering to watch and excruciating (hopefully redemptively so, as all “excruciations” in following Christ are) to live.

    I’m also glad you re-iterated that this isn’t about worship styles. I think traditional/liturgical folks are also quite capable of abusing and neglecting sheep in the name of “ministry.” My unformed, unsubstantiated theory is that part of our current difficulty is the fruit of inadequate ecclesiology that goes far back; when extended family and community ties are strong and everyone has at least a civil religion ethos it’s easier to slide on real community in the church. Knock those external props away in the broader culture and suddenly the church is left scrambling with precious little to build on.

  21. Andy Zook says:

    Excellent clarification…I get it now. 🙂

  22. According to Psalm 40:3, music CAN be used to attract people to God….”He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God. Many will see it and fear and will trust in the Lord.” Sounds like evangelism to me.

  23. I find this very interesting – as a member of several churches over the past, I feel the more authentic Christians were from the “growth” churches. BTW – the change of churches were due relocations.

  24. I come here for the first time from a peculiar fellowship of Christians which has no choirs or praise bands: churches of Christ, part of the Restoration Movement. Virtually everyone sings, and no one plays instruments, and we still haven’t been immune from the Worship Wars. In our case, it’s been about old songs v. new songs and clapping v. non-clapping … but we pretty much all still sing. It isn’t the sum total of worship, but since we have very little in the way of responsive readings or even liturgy and really no female leaders/readers/proclaimers, it’s where everyone can participate.

    All that to explain where I’m coming from when I disagree slightly with one closing point in the post: Actually, I think there is a sense in which worship is an outreach for the lost and unchurched. Clearly, there were expected to be visitors to the church addressed in 1 Corinthians 13-14, and worship was not to be tainted by selfish chaos that would perplex them and give them an inaccurate picture of Christ reflected by His followers. Courtesy was to be shown to others. Translating services were to be offered so that the gospel was clearly communicated. Patience was to be shown to those who might show up late for the meal. Jesus was to be the main course, the Host, and the center of the proceedings.

    That’s what we lose when we put our own desires, preferences, talents, interpretations or customs in the center of worship instead. Old isn’t better than new. New isn’t better than old. Christ is better than anything else, and worship gives us a chance to recognize Him for who He is, right in front of other people He loves, whether they believe yet or not.

    So, while I think the notion of “gather to worship; scatter to serve” has a charm to it, it’s not accurate. (In my fellowship, it was often expressed by a cross-stitch near the door of our sanctuary/auditorium which said: “Enter to worship; depart to serve.”) Romans 12 tells us that a lufe of self-sacrifice is our spiritual act of worship, whether we’re in the sanctuary on Sunday or not. Doesn’t it? So we worship and serve 24/7. Sunday is when we most often do so together. (And with music!)

    • Keith, with all due respect, you pick out the one verse in the NT that suggests the presence of an unbeliever in a worship service and suggest that my entire perspective is inaccurate. I affirmed in the post that we may have nonbelievers in our worship services and that we should be hospitable and welcoming to them. That’s a different thing than saying the purpose of the gathered congregation is to reach out to nonbelievers (which is the church growth attractional model). Everything in 1Cor 12-14 except the one verse you point out is in the context of the church gathered for mutual edification. Of course, “worship” in a broad sense concerns every aspect of our lives. Nevertheless, I hold that there is a critical priority to gathering for the purpose of worship and mutual edification. I think it is more important than ever before to maintain this distinction, not only to preserve what happens when we gather, but also to recover the doctrine of vocation and help Christians appreciate their place in the world among their neighbors.

      • Brother, I think we can agree that worship is not exclusively for either believers nor for those who don’t yet believe! But what’s done in gathered worship must recognize Christ to the benefit of both. The other extreme (from which believers have swung, I think) is to come off looking and sounding like members of an exclusive club with its unique but rather inscrutable customs and bywords.

        In neither extreme should anyone be treated as abominably as your friend was, or made to feel excluded and unwelcome – believer or not.

        Those who like one style of worship or music or custom should be willing to bless others by participating in the kind of worship that is their native language. That’s what 1 Corinthians 13-14 recommends; a worship environment of selflessness. That speaks of the presence of Christ, which wins the hearts of those who might be visiting. That’s the only reason I brought it up.

  25. wondering says:

    doing worship in forms that make sense culturally serves believers too. it’s not all about doing “pop music” for unbelievers.

    The cultural language/forms of the next generation of Christians changed a long time ago. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not all about some calloused church marketing ploy. That complaint may be true in some cases and places, but it also sounds like a rhetorical tactic.

  26. Jim Ellis says:

    So sad, but we actually have a church out here in the Seattle/Tacoma area called “Club 1”!!!