October 21, 2014

Renewing The Evangelical Worship Service

16651The last two weeks I have written about saving evangelicalism. I do believe it is worth saving—or, perhaps I should say it is worth renewing. If evangelicalism is simply to be saved in its current state, a self-indulgent movement where each person is a church of one and is taught how to become the person of destiny they were designed to be—then I say let it die, and the sooner the better.

But there is a spark in evangelicalism that, if done right, can be fanned into a flame that will be a light that illuminates Jesus to a very dark world. Today I want to look at one aspect of evangelicalism that needs to be renewed—to have its wick trimmed, as it were, sticking with the flame metaphor. Last week I said there is something missing in many evangelical services these days: The Gospel. I want to suggest some ways that the Gospel can once again be the focus of our worship services. Michael Spencer wrote extensively on evangelical liturgy, essays you can find by using the drop box to the right and scrolling down to Evangelical Liturgy. I recommend you spend some time reading (or re-reading) his thoughts. I do not agree with all he wrote, at least not for today’s evangelicals. His suggestions were coming, at least in part, from his time as a supply preacher at a local Presbyterian church. Not many evangelical churches will want to mirror this mainline denomination’s style of worship. Having said that, we evangelicals can learn much from our mainline brethren, as well as from Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox styles and means of worship. I am writing as an evangelical to evangelicals. If you align yourself with another aspect of Christianity, I welcome your insights and suggestions. Obviously, we need all the help we can get if we are to renew this movement.

Let me first start with a few observations. I said evangelical services are missing the Gospel. So just what do I mean by “the Gospel”? Let Isaiah say it for us:

Hey there! All who are thirsty,
come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway—buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money—everything’s free!
Why do you spend your money on junk food,
your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?

Isaiah 55:1,2, The Message

The Gospel is Good News. It is the Good News that those who are hungry and thirsty yet are broke can come and eat and drink for free. Our privilege as Christians is to steer those who are dying of thirst away from drinks that won’t satisfy their longing, and those who are starving away from junk food that won’t nourish. It is not a plan or a program or a way of life. Our meat and drink is a person, Jesus of Nazareth. In our worship services, the focus must be Jesus or we are wasting the time of everyone who comes. More than that, we are asking them to spend their money on junk food and cotton candy. And this Good News is not just for those yet to begin their faith journey. Christians need to hear the Gospel daily. I know I do.

Another observation. I realize that there is a lot more to a church than just the Sunday morning service. If that were all there was, what a waste. It would be like erecting a building, outfitting the interior with a large kitchen and dining areas, bringing in tables and chairs and glasses and silverware, hiring a staff, preparing food and beverages, and printing a menu—then only being open for breakfast one morning a week. What a waste. There are many other things a church does than just host a worship service on the weekend. But for the purpose of this essay we are just going to look at the weekly worship service.

One final observation before jumping in. I still believe regular attendance at a worship service is important to one who claims to follow Christ. Our eyesight is not as good as we think it is, and life often knocks us out-of-focus on the one whom we should be looking at constantly. Thus the worship service must have as its goal to get us to focus on Jesus. If this is not the purpose of the service, then it is worse than a waste of time. It is serious mismanagement of the souls of those in attendance, and those in charge should be greatly afraid of standing before the God who will hold them to account.

Now, let’s begin.

A good place to begin is at the beginning, don’t you think? Evangelicals have, for the most part, abandoned the call to worship. It needs to be reintroduced. Many churches offer coffee, donuts—even full breakfasts—before the service. This is a time to visit with friends, greet visitors, and get your caffeine fix before the service starts. But evangelicals, being rather informal, can stretch this over the beginning of the service. A chat with a friend continues beyond the start of the service, with people wandering into the sanctuary in the middle of songs, finding their seats, telling their spouses where they were and what they were talking about. It is distracting and discourteous activity, and it occurs with regularity. This is not a baseball game where it’s ok to miss the first couple at-bats as you get a dog and a Coke. And even baseball games have a call to worship—the national anthem. This is a way to say “the event you came for is now beginning. Please focus your eyes on the field of play.”

A good call to worship will quiet the voices and thoughts of those in the sanctuary. It is a time to put aside the thoughts of what happened before you reached church and what is going to happen after church. It is a way to say, “You have stepped into the court of the King. Act accordingly.” A good call to worship is a scriptural admonition to praise our God, followed by a brief prayer asking the Holy Spirit to accompany us in our praise.

This takes us to the song service. It is the part evangelicals like to call “worship,” as if we only worship God with music. We have discussed the full-fledged assault contemporary Christian music has made into the song services in great detail often on this site, so I am not going to revisit those refrains. For today, let us remember that the purpose of the worship service is to focus our eyes on Jesus. Any song that does not help the worshipper to do this should not be included in the service. We need to be singing about who Jesus is, not what he means to me. To be honest, what he “means” to you or to me is irrelevant. What President Obama means to you is of very little consequence. Who he is is the leader of our nation, and thus one of the leaders of this world as it is. How I feel about him and what he means to me does not affect who he is.

Hymns. Where have they gone? Why have we abandoned hymns, so rich in theology (which is how we think about and talk about God)? I can tell you why many evangelical churches have done so. It’s because they don’t “test well” to meet the “felt needs” of seekers. Really. So instead we get cute young people wearing trendy clothing singing songs about who Jesus means to them. And many of these songs are not meant for congregational singing; thus, the congregation is left just watching—especially men. If you attend an evangelical church, look around you this Sunday during the singing of a non-hymn and tell me how many men you see singing along. I’ll wager the majority of men in your service are staring at the lyrics on the screen without singing, or are looking at their phones. Now, if you attend a church that still sings hymns, do the same thing. If you are holding a physical hymnal it is hard to hold a phone. Even if the lyrics are on a screen, I’ll bet those same men are at least trying to sing along.

RIMG0020Yes, evangelical musicians will beat the pants off of most Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Lutheran musicians. The kids can rock, can’t they? And they love to. But the Sunday morning service is not a concert. It is not a time to show your chops. It is not for guitar or drum solos, unless you can show me how they focus my eyes on Jesus. Please lose the directions (“Let’s all lift our hands to Jesus!”). Just lead us in songs that lead us to Jesus. Stop with the show.

The final thing we will look at this morning is something that gives many evangelicals the vapors. It is the saying of the creeds. If ever there was a way for Rome to wiggle its way into evangelicalism, the thinking goes, it is through the creeds. Have you noticed how evangelicals get really suspicious over anything that is done the same way week after week, insisting that the Holy Spirit should not be restrained in this way, but given “liberty” to act spontaneously in our services?  As if the Holy Spirit needs our permission to act as he will. Do we really wield that kind of power over God?

This is, in a great extent, a knee-jerk reaction to formal liturgy found in other services. It is a mark of an evangelical service to not do anything so formal as to recite a creed. Yet this keeps evangelicals from developing a sense of unity with other believers who are reciting those same creeds at the same time in other parts of the world. It keeps them from a sense of their place in the history of the church. And it keeps them from learning the foundations of the faith that are articulated so clearly in the creeds.

It takes less than a minute for the congregation to read the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed aloud together, so the specious argument that there’s no time in the service for the creeds holds no water. And as for the idea that reciting the creeds will turn one into a Catholic, well, if it were really only that easy.

We will continue this conversation this afternoon.

Comments

  1. Why do baptists and pentecostals who wave the US flag and proudly say the pledge of allegiance get the heebiejeebies about saying the creed? Think of it the same way. It confesses who your allegiance is to.

    • >Think of it the same way

      They don’t – think about it.

      > It confesses who your allegiance is to.

      No, not really. Listen to Evangelicalism talk about our nation’s political leaders. They certainly do not feel allegiance to them. It is simply pro-forma; “patriotism is good” [or at least United Statesian patriotism is good; obviously by implication Iranian patriotism is bad]. Sigh. Patriotism is a delightfully vague virtue – one without any implications I can’t define for myself. This relates to the above author’s notion of the church-of-one, although I don’t know if he intended to say that.

  2. True worship is primarily about what Jesus does in serving his people through the preaching of his word and distribution of his sacrament. The problem is that the focus of the evangelical liturgy is on what the church is doing for Jesus. There is an evangelical liturgy, as much as they try to claim they reject liturgy. This is satire, but I think it’s pretty representative:

    OUR SERVICE

    GREETING AND AFFIRMATION
    A MEDLEY OF MOOD-SETTING SONGS is sung. Stand spontaneously during the final Guitar Solo
    The sign of applause may be made by all in gratitude to the PRAISE BAND.
    P. Good Morning!
    C. Good Morning.
    P. Aw, come on now. Say it like you mean it. Good Morning!
    C. Good Morning!
    P. Give yourselves a hand.
    Applause
    MESSAGE
    Silence for Preparation of the Power Point Projection.
    P. Let’s lift our hearts to God in prayer.
    A MOOD-SETTING MELODY is played quietly in the background. This MELODY continues through the prayer and for 2 minutes into the MESSAGE. It begins again 2 minutes before the end of the MESSAGE.
    The Pastor speaks an EXTEMPORANEOUS PRAYER.
    P. Lord, we just want to thank you…
    …because You’re an awesome God. And all God’s people said…
    C. Amen.
    P. Aw, come on now. Say it like you mean it.
    C. Amen!
    A RELEVANT, GENERALLY INSPIRING MESSAGE is spoken by the Pastor, as well as a series of ANNOUNCEMENTS AND PROMOTIONS, concluding with another EXTEMPORANEOUS PRAYER.
    MORE AWESOME MUSIC
    A MEDLEY OF INCREASINGLY UPBEAT SONGS is sung. Standing Ovation
    P. Have a great week everybody!
    Applause
    P. Aw, come on now. Clap like you mean it!
    Applaud until the Pastor smiles and signals to stop.
    P. Give yourselves a hand.

    • “Aw, come on now. Say it like you mean it. Good Morning!”

      Years ago The Wittenburg Door described this as an extra special layer of hell. They weren’t wrong.

    • “Silence for Preparation of the Power Point Projection.”

      That one kills me.

      Tony Campolo once said something like, “When I get to Heaven, if I see an overhead projector, I’m outta there!

      • They should redo that Simpsons episode depicting Protestant and Catholic heaven:

        One has power point, the other incense.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Tony Campolo once said something like, “When I get to Heaven, if I see an overhead projector, I’m outta there!“

        Overhead projectors are so day-before-yesterday…
        How about a giant Telescreen with Mark Driscoll’s kewpie-topped mug?

      • Absolutely CLASSIC!!!

    • Mark Twain said that if the phrase “and it came to pass” were removed from the Book of Mormon, it would make it only a couple of pages long. I get the same impression with “just”; eliminate that faux humility from impromptu prayers and they’d get to the point much faster.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Mark Twain said that if the phrase “and it came to pass” were removed from the Book of Mormon, it would make it only a couple of pages long.

        Cute…

    • Boaz, I’m laughing, but then I feel badly because I think I should be sad instead of laughing. So whether it’s funny or sad, you’re spot on.

  3. Former, emphasis of Former, evangelical here.

    > I do believe it is worth saving—or, perhaps I should say it is worth renewing.

    I disagree. Evangelicalism is poised water. The swamp must be drained, and then surrounded by fences. Hang a sign on the fence – “failure”.

    > If evangelicalism is simply to be saved in its current state,

    Impossible. I like to surf around while I drive, listen to all the different stuff. Right-wing political talkies, Left-wing political talkies, EWTN (Catholic radio), and then there is “Evangelical” radio. Wow! Some of the absolute unadulterated *CRAP* those guys can get away with saying… over and over into a myriad of ears. It just saddens me I once supported them. They haven’t grown-up, they’ve just grown higher in their own esteem.

    > a self-indulgent movement where each person is a church of one

    Yep. All this emphasis on THE WORD, and Evangelicalism is a realm of savage unassailable ignorance.

    > and is taught how to become the person of destiny they were designed to
    > be—then I say let it die, and the sooner the better.

    I pray for the death of the movement. We should pray for forgiveness that there is Evangelicalism.

    >Hymns. Where have they gone? Why have we abandoned hymns, so rich in theology

    No surprise. Theology has been abandoned, period. Preachers hide behind bilge about law vs. grace and demand that the purpose of a sermon is not educational; and theology fades from view. Shocking. How could it happen? The blame for all this, IMNSHO, lies primarily on the seminaries. Boy howdy, their graduates a confused bunch. They were supposed to be our specially trained leaders and guardians of theology and learning; they turned out to be children easily distracted by the new and shiney, and perpetually fascinated by gimmicks. And they quite reliably demonstrate a very low confidence in what they claim to believe. You have the word of God, the Holy Spirit, … and you are going to fail without Power Point and a big-screen? They can’t grasp the difference between being-relevant and trying-to-be-relevant. If you have to “try” then the question has answered itself. Scripture is chuck-full relevance.

    >Have you noticed how evangelicals get really suspicious over anything that
    >is done the same way week after week, insisting that the Holy Spirit
    >should not be restrained in this way,

    Isn’t it odd that the loudest decriers of human sinfulness and brokenness [Grace! Grace! Grace!] are befuddled by the notion that humans need to be restrained? (Creed focuses, which is restraint, the perpetually wondering human mind). Restraining the Almighty is a laughable concept. Can you restrain the cyclone, the hurricane, or the collapsing core of a star? And those things are infinitesimal fragments of the Lord’s footstool.

    That a praise-and-worship calls down the Holy Spirit. That is Occult thinking. And absurd. Call a spade a spade.

    >Yet this keeps evangelicals from developing a sense of unity with other
    >believers who are reciting those same creeds

    And the Evangelical answer is – as I heard on the radio just this week – that there is no unity. So reciting creeds and thereby creating a sense of unity would be deceit. No unity with Eastern mystics who renounce the Trinity, or with papists who “pray to dead men”, or “mainstream liberals” who “promote” homosexuality. If Evangelical clergy was intellectually credible he would get up and inform his congregation that these are all gross misinterpretations or simplifications. But he won’t do that. Education isn’t his job. Reform isn’t his job. He can’t get involved in politics [sort of, except for,....]. Discipline isn’t his job. His job is to preach the Good News. And Theology is pushed even further from the church’s door. It is Good News about something, but nobody can quite remember what.

    You can’t save Evangelicalism by reforming the practice of the service. It is poisoned water, pour in fresh water and the bitter will flow up into it. The bitter has been institutionalized.

    • I find the posts on imonk almost always helpful. But something I do notice in discussions about evangelicalism, more in the comments than in the actual posts, is a consistent tendency to portray evangelicalism as far more homogeneous than it actually is, and then to dismiss it all for the sins of some. I have lost count of how many times over a hundred million people (in just the U.S. and U.K) are pilloried as stupid, self-focused, ignorant of history, self-indulgent, perverse, power-hungry, gimmicky, childish, befuddled, theologically empty, cultish, clueless, and poisonous. Oh, and they are judgmental too. Have we forgotten that these are our Christian brothers and sisters? Or does our arrogance even exclude them from the family?

      On the recent death of evangelical leader John Stott, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote of how generalizations and stereotypes of evangelicals were common among the “New York cocktail parties”:

      “Partly because of such self-righteousness [of Falwell and Robertson], the entire evangelical movement often has been pilloried among progressives as reactionary, myopic, anti-intellectual and, if anything, immoral.

      Yet that casual dismissal is profoundly unfair of the movement as a whole. It reflects a kind of reverse intolerance, sometimes a reverse bigotry, directed at tens of millions of people who have actually become increasingly engaged in issues of global poverty and justice.”

      Kristof goes on to note how diverse evangelicals were, with a Jim Wallis and a John Stott balancing a Jerry Falwell and a Pat Robertson.

      Modern evangelicalism is far from a monolithic movement. It encompasses Pentecostals and Presbyterians, Primitive Baptists and Episcopalians, Mega-churches in the suburbs and inner-city African-american congregations. Over 40 denominations are full members of the National Association of Evangelicals, and countless congregations from other denominations would describe themselves as evangelical in orientation.

      It would be a shame if a non-religious (from his own description) writer for the New York Times can show more sensitivity toward the diversity of evangelicalism, and more charity toward evangelicals, than we on this discussion board.

      • Daniel said, I have lost count of how many times over a hundred million people (in just the U.S. and U.K) are pilloried as stupid, self-focused, ignorant of history, self-indulgent, perverse, power-hungry, gimmicky, childish, befuddled, theologically empty, cultish, clueless, and poisonous. Oh, and they are judgmental too.”

        Daniel, I agree with you in theory, and you’re right that the John Stotts and the Jim Wallises balance out the Jerry Falwells and the Pat Robertsons. But unfortunately the worst is what’s most in front of us, and those people (and institutions) tend to bluff their way into positions of authority.

        In my area, Christian radio presents itself in exactly the manner you’ve described. If that’s the voice of evangelical Christianity, it’s no wonder the public sees us like that. We don’t even need “the liberal media” to pillory us. It’s being done from within.

        • Christian media in our country tends to present the worst side of Christianity for one reason: money. It costs a lot to produce and broadcast these shows, so the shows themselves often become driven and shaped by the need to get more money. I suppose the same is true to some degree in Christian publishing.

          But most of the evangelicals I actually talk to are not like John Hagee or Creflo Dollar, and I refuse to let the movement as a whole be defined by this type of person. Yes, it is more difficult to discuss actual people, in all their variety, than to berate a movement based on its worst leaders. But it is also more charitable.

          • Christian radio and television tends to represent the views of, well, the people who consume such things. Unfortunately, that seems to be a more vocal and extreme segment of evangelicalism. It’s the same reason Christian bookstore are full of such tripe. They have to sell tripe because that’s what the people who go to Christian bookstore want. It’s even worse now, because if someone wants to get good Christian literature, they can easily get it from Amazon or another online seller.

        • btw, I like your blog, Ted.

          • Thanks, Daniel. I’ve been pretty lame about posting lately though. I think the election and some of the things we’ve been chatting about here have burned me out a bit. Maybe I should go back to Calvin & Hobbes cartoons and youtube clips.

            I don’t remember yours forwarding to slicedsoup. Great photos of trips on there.

          • I changed the name of the blag last month

          • *blog

      • You offer great insights, Daniel. We do need to remember that we’re speaking of our brothers & sisters in the holy catholic church which we profess in the Apostles’ Creed. However, in many of the comments I hear the hurt that people have experienced at the hands of the church or church leadership. Hurt that has nowhere to go but a forum such as this. I applaud Nick Kristoff for writing in a way many of us can’t. It helps to listen to someone who can bring that outside perspective.

        Regarding the topic here, I agree with every point Jeff made. This is not just for evangelicals but mainlines as well who are following a mega church model in order to grow. The problem is I don’t know of many/any success stories from those who’ve tried to raise some of these issues/concerns to church leadership. So we circle back to my comment about being hurt with nowhere to go.

      • Evangelicalism has no boundaries or solid definition; therefore, it tends to become the mind of the contemplator. If evangelicalism is Ed Young Jr., and Joel Osteen, then I want nothing to do with it. But evangelicalism also includes everything from holiness pentecostals to some Lutherans. I know I’ve heard this before on iMonk, but I’m not sure how we can talk about “saving the movement” of evangelicalism. Not only is a definition difficult, but what this really boils down to is, “can a bunch of churches who believe that they are their own final authority coexist in a peaceful and meaningful way?” After all, you could have every single evangelical church in America take Jeff’s recommendations here, but that doesn’t mean they won’t fight tooth and nail against other Evangelical Christians. In a way, the individualistic nature of evangelical churches means that it can only be renewed “as a movement” if the individual churches begin once again to focus on their relationship with one another (a perspective which Carl Henry actively promoted).

        • I think Joel Osteen gets a bum rap on this site. Yes, he is shallow and his theology vacuous. But he’s not harmful to his followers. He doesn’t try to micromanage them or guilt them. I look at some of the holiness churches and am freaked out over how much they attempt to take over their followers’ lives.

      • Stott was a major reason I gravitated toward Anglicanism. We do all have much to learn from each other, for sure. Personally, I love liturgies, but find that liturgies with a healthy mix of music “styles” interspersed are very encouraging. Reading of the Word, Creeds, and the Eucharist are vital. These things may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are the predominant idea of Sunday worship for the first 2000 years of our faith…even if they aren’t always central here in the West.

        • Lee, John Stott made a huge impression on me when I was a new believer at age 23. His little book Basic Christianity was just what I needed, and I still peek at it from time to time. Not just for beginners. I was so enthusiastic I ordered a case of 16 copies and gave them out to anyone I thought could use one. Not sure if they thought I was nuts, but the copies are still out there somewhere.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      > a self-indulgent movement where each person is a church of one

      Yep. All this emphasis on THE WORD, and Evangelicalism is a realm of savage unassailable ignorance.

      The eventual end state of a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

      >Hymns. Where have they gone? Why have we abandoned hymns, so rich in theology

      No surprise. Theology has been abandoned, period.

      Unless you’re Truly Reformed, at which point Theology is argued and argued and argued and anathemas fly while pastors’ widows keep eating out of dumpsters. Kind of like Thirty Years’ War theologians or Communist Party Ideologists.

      That a praise-and-worship calls down the Holy Spirit. That is Occult thinking. And absurd. Call a spade a spade.

      No, call a Summoning a Summoning.

  4. How many of today’s evangelicals are still reacting to liturgical worship?

    Is it possible that a majority have moved past that and are now merely continuing traditions of their own?

    If this is so, it is not so much that they are afraid of things like creeds as that they are ignorant of them.

    • I’d agree with this, and that ignorance is the “momentum” that keeps things as they are. I would say that some kind of fear got things started in that direction yrs. ago, but by now, good ol’ “habit” (tradition??) has taken over, and the original fear(s) are not needed. People just do what they are used to doing , without self (or communal) reflection: as in: hey, maybe a brief statement of what we believe is not a bad idea……

      • The danger is that evangelicals are still pretty set against anything that doesn’t look spontaneous. So there is some danger to people not liking–or not seeing–the difference between someone getting up and saying what “I believe…” in their own words, and a collection of people reciting a common creed.

    • You would think this would happen eventually. But where I am in the southeast, I still here radio ads (and see billboards) with phrases like “are you tired of churches with organ music? Come to our new relevant, contemporary church! You’ve never seen anything like THIS!!!

      • are you tired of churches with organ music? . . . You’ve never seen anything like THIS!!!

        Wow. That is just mind blowingly stupid. That is shamelessly treating the Bride of Christ like a consumer product. Words fail me.

        • There multiple churches within 20 minutes of where I live (close to Charlotte, NC) that purposely market themselves this way. One had a picture of an comically bemused old lady with the caption, “Grandma says it doesn’t even look like a church!”

          • Not too long ago, I sat as a visitor in a mainline church that had recently been adopted by a mega-church half way across the country. When discussing the church’s future, the pastor failed to finesse this message, and said: We have Jesus, and Jesus is “a better product” to “sell” than all the other things people are “buying.” Also, he had a plan that would guarantee a certain number of new members by a certain date.

            Got a flier from the same church a short time later, promising marriage improvement sermon series.

            Ah, I thought: And so it begins.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Wow. That is just mind blowingly stupid.

          “Stupidity is like hydrogen — it’s the basic building block of the Universe.”
          — Frank Zappa

          “Because people are people and the world is full of tricks and twistiness yet undreamed of.”
          — one of The Whole Earth Catalogs

        • Maybe I am one of the mind blowingly stupid ones. To me it seems like it is aimed at those who wouldn’t want to set foot inside your church. The paraphrased ad counters a commonly held assumption about church (that churches are boring and outdated) and lets people know that there is an option.

          • Right…. because the vast majority of people in those type of churches really had no background in faith whatsoever before coming there. No, it’s targeted not at people who would never go to church, but at people who have gone where the Word was taught and got bored. It’s directly telling people, “Is your church boring? Join ours, because we have more fun.” The add is aimed at religious consumers, not the unbelieving, uninformed, and unevangelized.

            If you think the church is outdated, perhaps you are looking for a new religion anyways. But I think that the bride of Christ is a timeless institution, and there’s far worse crimes than being boring. Like changing the message to draw a crowd and exploiting cheap gimmicks to draw people from other congregations.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            It’s directly telling people, “Is your church boring? Join ours, because we have more fun.”

            And what if, after they go there for a while, they find someplace/something else where they have even more fun?

          • We had a new church a couple years ago send out a series of postcards to the whole town (around 10,000 addresses). One of them pictured a whole basket of eggs. They were all white and identical [read:boring] except for one, which was like a psychedelic Easter egg. The message one the back said something like, “We’re different than other churches”. The actual message conveyed was, “We are WAY cooler than your church”.

            Curiously, until just recently, if you googled my church’s name an ad for their church came out on the top of the page. Hmmm……

          • cermak_rd says:

            It’s possible both Miguel and Michael Bell are correct. That these unchurches are more attractive to people interested in Christianity but not yet in and that they are also interesting to Christians with one foot out the door.

            I think Miguel might like to ask himself, would you rather the folks in your church with one foot out the door go to another church, however it might not suit your fancy, or that they just stop bothering at all and become SBNR or Nones or something else?

          • Cemark, your question is right on the money. When people have one foot out the door in an old boring church, they go to a new cool church. But what happens when the people there have one foot out the door? They leave the faith. We might drive the bored to look for thrills elsewhere, but the “cool” church drives the over-entertained to find faith irrelevant.

            That’s aside from the stereotype that liturgical churches are boring. Yes many are, but the never have to be, and with good leadership, they can make their music just as compelling without vacuous lyrics. But in all honesty, I can’t think of anything more boring than a church trying so hard to be “cool,” whether they succeed or not. I’ve just been to too many big, large, flashy churches, and they’re all the same. I just can’t bring myself to experience excitement there. I used to visit their Saturday night services. It feels like watching paint dry to me.

            But even if the music or worship is never super exciting, that’s ok. There’s so much more to Christianity than that, and I refuse to believe the success of the kingdom of God depends on our ability to snag attention with snazzy productions. The power is in the Word of God and the means of grace. I believe God is alive and moving at the boring, grey haired, organ led, dying congregation of ancient heritage because his Word is proclaimed there, and He cannot be separated from it. I’m not sure I can say that about the “cool” churches. The Word tends to be among the first things to go. It doesn’t have to. If a “cool” church wants to major on faithful teaching and proclamation, more power to them. But let’s be honest: it’s not remotely the majority report.

      • Well, I have to admit, that having a large pipe organ used in worship is enough to turn me off to a church, but I don’t like this sort of silly marketing either. I don’t think trying to be the coolest church in town is a good strategy in the long run.

        I do think there still a very real idea in much of evangelism that liturgical churches are “faking it”, and I think that’s a big hurdle for people. Hell, it’s still a big hurdle for me, to be honest. For example, my wife and I have attended a local Eastern Orthodox church off and on over the last year and half or so, and while I really do love the liturgy for the most part, I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t feel contrived to me at times. I really do miss spontaneity in a service, especially as it relates to the music. I’m not saying that churches need more guitar solos, but I do think there’s something to be said for allowing everyone to have a hand in what happens in a worship service – not quenching the Spirit and all that.

        • “…something to be said for allowing everyone to have a hand in what happens in a worship service…”

          This really seems nutso to a lifelong Papist. Everyone DOES have a hand in worship service in a liturgical church….it is called “worshipping God”. Together. What is the point of having everyone physically or verbally express themselves…..couldn’t they stay at home and do whatever the spirit is calling them to do without interuption?

          What if someone wants to yell testamony all over the place, and the guy next to him is grieving and needs some quiet to pray? I would think that all of that spontaniety leaves the pastor in the role of herding cats…..

          • Well, by spontaneity I don’t envision everyone simply doing whatever they want to do anytime during the service. But I do think there should be time set aside for some “planned spontaneity”, even if that means simply having a period of silence. I have been in services where it’s as simple as a pastor asking people to share if they believe God is sharing something with them. And it doesn’t mean just handing the mic over to anyone usually. Most of the time, people do filter it.

            I guess it’s just interesting to me that Scripture doesn’t really give us a whole lot of guidelines as to what a service should look like, but the passages where it does, like 1 Corinthians 14, a lot of Christians simply ignore. I’ve been reading Gordon Fee’s massive book, God’s Empowering Presence recently, so a lot of this is fresh in my mind. But he makes a convincing point that the Apostle Paul envisioned the Holy Spirit’s role in the church to be at the center of our life together. It was the Spirit’s activity, in fact, that served to prove that Christ was risen and in the Church’s midst.

          • My experience is that ‘spontaneity’ means ‘the pastor can structure the service anyway he/she wants to.’

            Our church doesn’t have a formal liturgy, but I have a fairly standard service structure which sort of makes sense. I had a guy come and complain that our services were all a little predictable. So every once in a while I’ll move the kids’ time to AFTER the Scripture reading. He’s much happier now.

        • Well, I have to admit, that having a large pipe organ used in worship is enough to turn me off to a church

          I grew up thinking that. Then I heard one, and it was played well. Those 32′ pipes were rattling the air and windows like nothing I’ve experienced at a rock concert. Personally, I think it’s a majestic instrument, and it get’s a bad rap for being so boring a lot of the time. If it’s done well, it can actually be quite an exciting instrument.

          Regardless of whether you are high church or low church, there’s always days when your heart isn’t in it. But for me, having to recite these texts that are all about my heart being in it is like rubbing salt in a wound. I’d rather just get on my knees and pray Lord have mercy. I like that I can be honest in worship and still pray to God if I feel emotionally dead inside. I couldn’t do that before in any of my previously churches, and it wasn’t emotionally healthy (especially considering I was the worship leader).

          FWIW, I did play a few 8 bar solos on my Les Paul last week, to a Paul Baloche song. I’m not against the solo, but how it’s done can make all the difference in the world.

          I like your idea about getting everybody involved. I’m big on fostering artistic community within a church.

          • My problem with pipe organs is that they’re like the musical equivalent of Gorgonzola cheese. Once you add one to the mix, it’s absolutely the only thing you hear. They totally drown everything out, and being the full frequency, full spectrum instrument they are, it’s not simply a matter of volume. They just take over the entire sonic canvas.

          • That is the most hilarious analogy EVER! The organ is the Gorgonzola cheese of aural texture! There is truth to this, indeed. They take over the sonic canvas because they really are diverse enough to cover the whole spectrum of sounds. It’s like an acoustic synthesizer. But generally, it’s not meant to play with other instruments so much as it is for the purpose of just accompanying singing. The instrument “breathes” with the congregation, which gives subtle cues to help us all sing with one voice. That is it’s strength: it’s supports congregational singing from underneath.

        • There’s really no reason anyone has to like organs. It’s just that the irony of these ads to me is that these “contemporvant” churches are STILL (rather self-indulgently) convinced that this is some NEW thing, and that the dominant image of churches in our time is of old people in frocks singing to organ music, whereas THEY are the cutting edge, the ones in touch with the culture.

          In reality, the dominant image of Christians, in the secular west (I believe) is of mostly young-ish, hip looking people who speak Christianese and think that they’re “not religious” because they dress down for church and listen to CCM.

          Sorry to the folks out there who thought this was some maverick new thing, but it’s actually like 35 years old now, and it never was intrinsic reflection of substance.

          • It’s old enough, in fact, that we have a predictable generational progression in our family:

            My husband’s parents worship with guitars, in blue jeans (after a stint in circles that regarded all rock music as satanic).

            My husband did the same growing up, and hated it. Started sneaking NPR and NIN.

            He now he goes to a church with a liturgy. (Tellingly, he wears blue jeans and tosses a coat or blazer over it.)

            It remains to seen what our baby boy is going to do.

            But my point is…the hip blue jean “youth” are my baby’s grandparents….

        • Not to mention that contemporvant music, with it’s studio-syrup, fuzz guitar, and pop hooks, is so waaaaay behind the artistic cutting edge that it’s comical.

    • Chaplain Mike I confess ignorance to the creeds. Could you recommend a source for reading them?

    • I think you’re right—there are new traditions growing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

      Many evangelical churches and denominations began as a reaction to some perceived wrong in it’s parent organisation. My own denomination, for example, started because our founder (or, as we call him, The Founder) wasn’t able to evangelise poor people the way he believed he was called. So he started to do it anyway, and before long a movement had grown around his work.

      Many of the practices that worked in middle class Victorian England didn’t make sense in the East End of London, so new practices and ways of doing things evolved, and became an intrinsic part of the way the organisation ran. Some of those changes:

      * Dispensing with the observation of the Sacraments
      * the introduction of brass bands as musical accompaniment
      * the adoption of military styles and vocabulary to reflect the war we believed we were fighting against sin, as well as the hierarchical structure of the organisation.
      * women were able to fill all positions of authority, including the pulpit and all administrative positions

      …and so on.

      Over the last 130 years those practices have evolved and seem normal to those who have grown up with them. Many things have failed the test of time and have become odd footnotes in our history books.

      Our traditions aren’t quite as old as some of the others in the Church, yet they are still with us after several generations. Should they be critiqued? Of course. Should they be jettisoned because they don’t have the same pedigree as some of the traditions in the Catholic church? I’m not so sure.

      If Evangelicalism does survive as a tradition within the church, some of the things that now seem silly will stay. Remember, the organ was once considered a terrible innovation in the church, yet now it is almost synonymous with staid traditionalism! Other things will, thankfully, disappear.

  5. Yes, End the “Worship Hits” mentality. That doesn’t mean that the band has to go away, or that new/CCM songs should either. It means that you don’t need to introduce whatever hot new worship song you heard on KLOVE/YouTube/Conferences every week. Remember that music existed before Chris Tomlin was born. If your worship musicians can play Hillsong but stumbles over Immortal Invisible, work on teaching them or find people with a wider understanding.

    Oh, and I came across a ‘worship’ song where the first line is “No one else can love you like I love you, Lord.” If you’re leading people with this at church, you may need to reconsider a lot of choices you’ve made in your life so far…

    • I was a little shocked at that song lyric, so I googled it. Unless it is a different song, the full verse is this:

      No one else can love You like I love You Lord
      For I was made unique in Your heart
      I was made to bring You joy

      Now I have a purpose
      Now I have a destiny
      You made me for Your glory
      You made me for Your glory

      I don’t think I would use this song, but it seems to not be saying “No-one else has as much love for you than I do”, as much as “you made me unique, so I have a unique way of relating to you”. At least, that is how I took it.

      • Yay me! God, You’re so lucky to have me!

      • I’ve heard the whole thing, and it’s deeply individualistic and self-centered. Yes it’s an extreme in CCM, but it’s still an example of a worship service going off the rails at some point.

    • Best. Comment. Ever.

      Totally Classic Justin! I about died laughing when I read, “Remember that music existed before Chris Tomlin was born.” At a church we used to attend, my wife and I used to jokingly say, “It’s a good thing that Chris Tomlin was born or else our church wouldn’t have any music to sing.”

    • There are times where it seems that Sunday morning worship singing is little more than a vehicle for the musicians to live out their latent rock-star fantasies. The light show, the extreme volume, the prancing singers–it all can be quite distracting.

      If not for the excellent teaching from the word–which is truly God- and grace-focused rather than self-improvement talks–and the relationships (especially within our small group) I would likely search out another church.

      I’d like to see “This is Spinal Tap” re-made as a mockumentary on Evangelical-dom’s LOUDEST WORSHIP BAND(!).

  6. Richard Hershberger says:

    “Yes, evangelical musicians will beat the pants off of most Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Lutheran musicians.”

    The heck you say! Yes, Evangelicals can put together a pop/rock band which will beat the pants off most Anglican or Lutheran, etc., pop/rock bands. But how will they do when presented with a Bach chorale or a Vaughn Williams anthem? A local Anglican or Lutheran church with even a modest music program will typically have a trained organist, a volunteer choir that can take a reasonable shot at an anthem, and congregants who sing the hymns. The major exceptions to this are churches that have tried to adopt Evangelical music practices, typically with limited success. But when they stick to their own musical traditions, they tend to do it at least competently, and sometimes spectacularly. (Roman Catholics, alas, have not done so well. They largely abandoned their musical traditions with Vatican II, and have yet to figure out what to replace them with. There are notable exceptions, but the typical local Catholic parish music is very not good.)

    • The major exceptions to this are churches that have tried to adopt Evangelical music practices, typically with limited success.

      Oh man, I went to a contemporary Mass this past Sunday, and it was painful. All of the songs had the stereotypical weaknesses of contemporary music (which have been discussed at iMonk before, and which I won’t get into here), but none of the talent or enthusiasm that you’ll find at a typical evangelical service. At least at an evangelical service, they’ll play the crappy songs really well.

      And I do think that when Jeff said evangelicals musicians were more talented than Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic musicians, he meant in terms of more contemporary styles. In which case, I heartily agree–that has been my experience, without a single exception.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “And I do think that when Jeff said evangelicals musicians were more talented than Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic musicians, he meant in terms of more contemporary styles.”

        I expect you are right. It is not, however, what he wrote. I’m not just being pissy here. It is about the unspoken assumptions. Coming immediately after a paragraph about bringing back hymns, it is entirely on point to remember that pop/rock is not the only musical form out there.

        • I did mean more talented in the pop-music sphere.

          • Ever listen to Kione or Alex Mejias (High Street Hymn)? There’s some good Anglican and Lutheran representation of modern music. There arrangements are much more dynamic than Crowder or Tomlin, imo.

        • The title of the old book is still valid….

          “Why Catholics Can’t Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Tiumph of Bad Taste”

    • I object strongly to this phrase as well. Here’s why: The vast majority of CCM does not actually require talent to perform, even well. I would argue that their best stage productions are completely devoid of not only musical training (how many of their “worship leaders” are musically illiterate?), strong instrumental or vocal technique, the ability to think critically about the texts, melodies, and settings used, completely inept pastoral application of music, complete ignorance of music’s history, and cliche imitations of rock star trends. Not to mention extreme lack of creativity song selection. Where is the talent in any of this?

      It’s a rock show, not the fine arts. It’s more about volume than finesse. The reason more traditional churches can’t compete with this is because since they didn’t sell out to it immediately, so any kids interested in rocking out for Jesus went where expressing themselves was given full reign. That’s not talent. Talent is when you’re over 50 years old and churches are still employing you to make music. These musically illiterate glorified song leaders are going to find themselves shockingly in need of a new career path when their hair begins to grey. I’ve seen it happen: you get old, you’re not cool anymore. Out you go.

      • The vast majority of CCM does not actually require talent to perform, even well.

        I understand what you’re getting at, but the sheer fact that I’ve seen so much of it performed badly proves your point wrong. It does take some talent to perform, it just doesn’t take a classical music background. Someone strumming chords on an acoustic guitar still should have a good grasp on the fundamentals before getting up in front of people.

        I’ve played in worship teams a long time, and although I’m kind of taking a break from that world at the present, I think the idea that all modern worship music is simple to perform is kind of untrue. The fact is that unless someone spends a good deal of time up in front of actual audience playing, they probably aren’t going to be very good at whatever they do. I have met some people who seem to have born to play the instrument they play, and they seem to never hit a bad note. But those people are rare. I think that if someone is going to do anything, they need to learn to do it well. And with everything, it’s all about the fundamentals.

        • Just because the completely inept keep trying doesn’t mean it’s difficult. Yes, it does take some talent, but not a whole lot, especially if you compare it to what’s going on at the Episcopal church down the street around Advent time. Comparing rock star licks to classical music technique is not apples to apples. It’s like comparing paint-by-numbers to real painting. Those with skill can always do more with the CCM stuff and make it sound great, but even then, all the leading songwriters intentionally make their songs simple so that everybody will use them.

          And it still doesn’t change the fact that as soon as you get old they throw you out. The glam driving the CCM industry has little tolerance for whatever isn’t youth or beauty. If it’s your good looks that sell your records, you might not be as talented as an ugly old choirmaster that packs a lessons and carols service.

          • “Those with skill can always do more with the CCM stuff and make it sound great, but even then, all the leading songwriters intentionally make their songs simple so that everybody will use them.”

            I am a fairly prolific songwriter, and I have a PERMANENT mental block against using the I-V-vi-IV chord progression for anything. Because of CCM and modern worship.

          • I still don’t see what the problem is with simple worship songs. Is there some unwritten rule that music must be of a certain level of technical difficulty before it can be used in a worship service or that musicians must be classically trained. I hesitate to go here, but you really seem to be importing a Western European bias into Christianity even if you aren’t saying it directly. I don’t believe, for instance, that Bach is the pinnacle of musical perfection as beautiful as his work is. He comes from a certain culture and a certain time, and he speaks to a certain person. But spend some time with some Christians from other cultures, and you’ll find that simply not the language they communicate in.

            I’m sort of odd duck, I suppose. I’m an engineer by training, but I’m also a musician, and I’ve also been a pastor. Being in all these worlds has given me the opportunity to interact with all sorts of people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that not everyone sees the world the way I do, and not everything values the same things I do. I gave up trying to convince everyone of my viewpoint, and I’ve been trying to be respectful of others. I guess that’s why many of these ranting posts bother me. I do not sense respect in their tone at all. Using phrases like “mind blowingly stupid” is simply disrespectful and adds no value to the conversation. There are legitimately stupid things, and people need to be corrected, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. Resorting to trench warfare is the wrong way.

          • Wow, Phil. The more I learn about you. Engineer, musician, Pastor? Quite a diverse resume there.

            Nothing wrong with simple music in worship. There is a genre that makes CCM look complicate from which I frequently pull (Taize). But the simple stuff is just generally easier and does require less talent, that’s all. There is nothing wrong with that. I know that many of the Vineyard songwriters have explicitly stated they write songs in order that anybody who knows basic guitar chords could lead them. They do this in order to equip and enable other churches, and that, imo, is very admirable. Churches do have to work with the talent they have, and more traditional worship styles have not done an adequate job, imo, of equipping beginning contemporary musicians to explore their repertoire.

            Believe me, I understand Bach is not for everyone. My only objection is when his catalogue is thrown away as “useless” or “irrelevant” so that we can clear the way for disposable consumer pop. It should not be an either/or. The two genres has much to learn from another and finding ways to integrate both can be deeply rewarding, just like most churches explore hymnody and songs from culture around the world.

            Don’t get me wrong: I’m very opinionated when it comes to church music, and a terminal aesthetic contrarian to boot. Trendiness grinds my gears, I can’t help it. But I am not suggesting, and have not stated anywhere, that my way is the only right way. It seems like people begin to feel that when their way is criticized, but I refuse to take the either/or line with music. Both/and has been the dominant approach of historic Christianity, as a cursory survey of the historical genres represented in any hymnal will conclusively prove.

            Believe me, I am open to differing viewpoints. In my church I actively solicit input from the other musicians and lay persons to let them know that if they speak up, everybody can benefit. I get your aversion to trench warfare. But I am sticking to my guns on this one: shamelessly treating the bride of Christ like a consumer product is mind-blowingly stupid. Period.

    • cermak_rd says:

      My local Episcopalian church has wonderful Bach chorales and other classical events. And the space is beautifully laid out for it. They team up with a local music college and deliver a series of concerts every year at the church (proceeds go to the food pantry and shelter). Heck, I’m not even a member (or believer) and I go to these. I’m also friends on FB with the Vicar so I keep up to date.

      • Sounds quite typical for Episcopalians. Down the street from me in NYC, all the Episcopal churches have BY FAR the best music programs of anywhere. The amount they invest in the arts is unbelievable.

  7. I say the first thing we should change is using ” The Message ” as a translation period !!!!

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Ouch! Not “period!!!!” It is a paraphrase. Paraphrases have an honorable function of providing the gist of the original text in an accessible way, but they serve poorly when you want to burrow deeper into that text. A good paraphrase is a useful tool, but should not be used exclusively.

      Also, paraphrases tend not to age well. Contemporary language is a moving target. Do people still use Good News for Modern Man or The Living Bible? Probably, but it seems to me I haven’t seen them in quite a while, where they used to be piles of them around.

      • Richard,

        At least the New Testament is not a paraphrase. Peterson worked with the acutal Greek text and translated it into the contemporary idiom. It is a translation at the far end of “dynamic equivalency” to be sure, but technically it is a translation.

        A paraphrase is taking the thoughts expressed in a language and rearranging them in that same language. That is what Ken Taylor did. It is not what Eugene Peterson did.

        Dana

    • It is good to keep in mind the Peterson produced the message with the intent of getting people to read the bible in contemporary language. He has publicly stated it was because as a pastor he found people more into reading the news than scripture.
      You can be sure he probably did not intend it for being a study bible.

  8. MattPurdum says:

    I don’t think evangelicalism can be saved, or mainline-ism, and I oppose any more efforts to draw lines and create in-groups and out-groups, which inevitably lead to self-righteousness and to scapegoating the out-groups. I’m more with Phyllis Tickle, I see people coming out of these various traditions and “converging” at some balanced Christian center point, a point far from evangelicalism.

  9. Richard Hershberger says:

    “A chat with a friend continues beyond the start of the service, with people wandering into the sanctuary in the middle of songs, finding their seats, telling their spouses where they were and what they were talking about. It is distracting and discourteous activity, and it occurs with regularity. This is not a baseball game where it’s ok to miss the first couple at-bats as you get a dog and a Coke. ”

    This is one of the aspects of Evangelical services which always startle me. I think it is related to the demise (hardly unique to Evangelical churches, alas) of the idea of “Sunday best” clothes.

    I went to high school in southern California. The custom there was (is?) for graduating seniors to go to Disneyland the night of graduation. I assume this was instituted as an alternative to getting drunk and killing yourself on the highway. Instead, the kids are loaded onto a bus and driven to Anaheim. Of course there is considerable potential downside to having a park filled with thousands of celebratory teenagers, and precautions were taken. The place was crawling with security, and everyone was searched before going in. (Successfully sneaking a bottle of liquor into the park was considered quite a coup.) Another precaution was that everyone had to wear formal attire: coats and ties for the guys, and the equivalent for the girls. People respond to clothing, both their own and others. By insisting that everyone dress formally, instead of like they were going to a drunken frat party, the park led the kids to act appropriately for their attire.

    So if people are acting like they are at a baseball game, part of this is that they are dressed like they are at a baseball game, and responding to this. I’m not saying that all the men should be in suits. I am saying they should dress nicely, for whatever that means within their specific cultural context. If you dress worse than you would ever do at work, even on casual Friday, that sends its own message about what is important to you.

    • Dressing up sends a message too.

      I visited a church in Clearwater Beach once. Everyone on the street was wearing shorts. As I didn’t know what the particular church culture was like, I decided I would wear pants and I nice shirt. As it turns out, I was severly underdressed. All the men in the church were wearing suits. Had I wandered in off the street for whatever reason I would have immediately felt self conscious and out of place.

      So in this case dressing up sent a message to me loud and clear: “We don’t care about being welcome to those in our community who are outside our walls.”

      • Maybe they were listening to pastor-fashionista, Ed Young Jr., who thinks the people of God should be proclaiming the Gospel by making a fashion statement. “Who you wear connects with what you wear.”

      • It sounds more to ME like “we have standards for meeting formally with the Lord God of the Universe”.

        • True enough, but just what would the standard for “meeting formally with the Lord God of the Universe” be? I doubt I’m going to be able to measure up there, and even my best clothes are going to be as filthy rags.

          I’m sure there’s a point I’m trying to make, but I’m not quite sure what it is!

          • I always think it’s funny when people resort that argument, too… My retort is always the same – do they dress up when they go have dinner at their parents’ house. I would think most people would say no.

      • Should a church service be considered an “event”? Obviously, it’s an event in some sense, but should it be treated as something that a person has to make himself presentable to attend? That sort of seems like opposite the spirit of the Gospel to me.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “So in this case dressing up sent a message to me loud and clear: “We don’t care about being welcome to those in our community who are outside our walls.””

        This is the sartorial version of every seeker-friendly argument: any element the experience that isn’t immediately accessible to anyone wandering in for the first time must be eradicated, lest that newcomer find it the least bit offputting.

        The thing is, even if you think that being seeker-friendly is the solution rather than the problem, you can’t win. What one person finds warmly welcoming will put another off, and vice versa. Where you found church-goers to be a sign of exclusivity, I would see it as a sign of substance, and would be immediately more disposed to return. This is the abiding flaw of seeker-friendliness. In its dive for the inoffensive lowest common denominator it ends up satisfying only those who don’t want more. When I give my three year old a slice of cake, she happily eats just the frosting. Indeed, she would happily eat this as her entire meal. That desire is fine in a three year old. An adult should be looking for something more substantial.

        • Seriously, do we need to have a dress code? Does everyone have to dress up? Or down? Wouldn’t it be far better to people to wear what they believed was most appropriate?

          I say this as someone who belongs to a church with an official dress code.

          I remember going to church one Sunday night. I’d been out that afternoon and I didn’t have time to go home to change into my prescribed uniform, but I decided to go anyway. I got in trouble for that. When I asked if it would have been better for me not to have come at all, the answer was more or less in the affirmative.

          I really don’t care how you dress. I’d much rather see you than not.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Wouldn’t it be far better to people to wear what they believed was most appropriate?”

            Bare midriff with lots of cleavage, and short shorts? (And that’s just the men!)

            “I say this as someone who belongs to a church with an official dress code.”

            There is a vast difference between my “I am saying they should dress nicely, for whatever that means within their specific cultural context.” and an official dress code. I suspect the dress code was put in place because some people lacked the common sense to dress appropriately, and the powers that be went overboard the other direction. The secular version of this is the guy who interprets “casual Friday” to mean a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and flip flops, with the result that management cancels casual Friday for everyone.

            I really am entirely open about what constitutes dressing nicely. It need not mean the same thing to everybody, even within one congregation. It is about how the individual approaches the sacred. People respond to clothing: others’ clothing, and even more strongly their own. My original comment was that if people are acting like they are at a ballgame, perhaps it is in part because they are dressing like they are at a ballgame.

    • If you dress worse than you would ever do at work, even on casual Friday, that sends its own message about what is important to you.

      I could wear shorts to work if I wanted to. The number of professions that require people to really dress up is shrinking now. It’s pretty much limited to the finance industry, lawyers, politicians, and morticians. I guess these are all industries where people want to convey a sense of tradition and permanence. Personally, I thank God everyday that I don’t have to wear a suit and/or a tie.

    • cermak_rd says:

      I would contend you can’t have an expectation of high church attendance figures and have fancy dress requirements at the same time. When I was Catholic I was always happy that even if I didn’t want to be at Mass (and I usually didn’t want to be but figured I ought to), at least I didn’t have to spend more than 2 minutes getting ready.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Notice that my “I am saying they should dress nicely, for whatever that means within their specific cultural context” has been turned into “fancy dress requirements”. Surely you understand that there is some middle ground between a tattered housecoat and a diamond tiara.

  10. “Yes, evangelical musicians will beat the pants off of most Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Lutheran musicians.”

    My church’s string quartet would like a word.

    • In addition, in most Orthodox churches the only music is that produced by the human voice. We do not use other instruments, except in some Greek parishes in the US where there are organs. The organ was a status symbol for many immigrants, and when they were able to afford to build their church buildings, putting in an organ said they’d “arrived,” at least socially. But organs or any other instruments will not be found in the vast majority of Orthodox churches.

      That said, small Orthodox parishes have to assemble a choir from the people that are actually there, and many have not been trained, and so the Ev singers would probably “beat the pants off” them. Trust me, it’s painful sometimes for me as a musician to visit a small parish and listen to the technical quality of such singing, but as a parishioner I have to thank God that those folks show up and do what they do faithfully. I know my own judgment of the singing closes my heart off to God much more effectively than the actual quality of the singing ever could.

      Dana

      • The day a pipe organ was installed surely meant something in an immigrant parish. But the symbolism is much deeper than just having a showpiece. A cathedral organ produces sound you hear and wind you feel. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth. I’m speaking from an Anglican perspective; I love the organ in worship and for me deserves its title as the voice of God.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Ichabod,

          There are few things I love listening to more than a masterfully played organ… and even played softly, a well-built organ does tend to drown out the people’s voices. That used to bug me a lot. Preference.

          Dana

          • At the Greek Orthodox church we go to, they do have an organ, but it is used very tastefully. Most of the time you can barely hear it, actually. They use it more as a guide for the singers’ pitches than anything.

      • and so the Ev singers would probably “beat the pants off” them

        Most Evangelical singers would be extremely disoriented in a chant services the likes that I’ve visited in Orthodox churches. Given a test, I doubt most of them would recognize it was Christian worship by sound. Chanting is not about training, finesse, or performance (except for maybe Anglican chant). Chant is nothing more than sung scripture or prayer, and how “quality” it sounds is extremely secondary to what is being said. That, imo, is how it ought to be.

  11. No turning back to the evangelical world for me, as much damage as it did, it was where I first heard the message that Jesus Christ loved me and would forgive me if I asked… That was some 30 years ago, I reeked of Kools, and was one hell of a wild woman. I look back now on that gal & know she would have never stepped into a Lutheran or Catholic church. I think it appealed to my senses to be in a hip place. Not so much today, but in a way, that wacky world was the launching pad to my faith in Christ. Perhaps, there are other folks out there like me, one without any church background, lost-wild, surely the evangelical place could be a starting place, not a staying place by any means…

    • You make really good points, Gail. I was raised Catholic and was a good little Catholic girl for quite a while and then I got sidetracked a bit. There was an evangelical drop-in center where I stopped in one night when I just had to talk with someone and it was there that I encountered Jesus in a different way than I had for years, maybe ever. I stayed involved with them and their independent little church (which also had elements of a Pentecostal church) for a couple years, but eventually found my way back to my Catholic roots. But I will always remember those folks with love and I have some peripheral contact with a couple of them now.

  12. Joanie- Perhaps our Lord is more creative than we can imagine. I would like to believe He is seeking us with whatever means it takes to draw us into His orbit! I have many stories of heart-break from my time spent being a evangelical- but, the ironic thing is: Evangelical Christianity was a spring board into the deeper mystery of Catholicism, even though I have not converted, I am resting in her pews.

    Now, I might be breaking rules here, but I am curious if you read what JB said/asked back on Jan. 28th. You are a a gracious voice here…

    JB says:
    January 28, 2013 at 3:58 am

    Joanie,

    Feel free to ignore this question (if it is too personal), but why do you not go to Mass? Echoing Gail, your comments are one of the reasons that I read this blog for years as I have struggled with whether or not to stay in Evangelicalism or move *towards* Rome. I have much enjoyed attending Mass on several occasions, and the thought that there were godly Catholics like yourself (you are Catholic, right?) gave me a sense of permission to do so.

    If I am out of line, please forgive me. Like it or not, there are others (me) that see you as a leader.

    Under the Mercy-

    • Oh dear, Gail, I did NOT see that question for me from JB! Thank you for repeating it. (Is it on another post? I can put my answer there too, in case JB misses it here. I have my computer set to give me new comments from this site, but it doesn’t work correctly! I only get a few comments in there. Darn.)

      Anyway, JB, I don’t attend Mass hardly at all because my husband is so opposed to it on many grounds…religious and “practical” in the sense that if I go to church Sunday morning, that interferes with his plans for me to be with him to go fishing, traveling somewhere, something. You may say, “What about on Saturday evening then?” That would be right when the evening meal would be prepared. He was an only child so he has no brothers to do things with and most of our friends have moved away. So I am it. He has a son who doesn’t live far from us, but he is usually busy with his two children, wife, friends though once in a while he will come fishing with us. On religious grounds…he feels like Catholics are non-thinking, mundane people who believe in totally outrageous things. So, to keep the peace, I don’t hardly ever attend Mass except once in a while I can make it to a morning Mass (there is usually one and sometimes two depending upon what else the priest may have to do…funerals and the like) but I take time out from work to do that, so I am “cheating” on my employer to attend those Masses. But the morning Mass is short, like 30 minutes, so I don’t feel too guilty. There is usually only around 10 people at those Masses and there is no music, no reciting of the Creed, but it is intimate and still very special.

      And that’s MY story!

      JB, thank you for your kind comments and I wish you well as you discover all the love that God has for you and for the world.

      • Joanie- What am I missing? Jan 24

        • Thanks, Gail. I was going to ask you, “What do you mean by ‘what am I missing’ but I now found that you were referring to a post by that title, but it’s so long ago now (over a week on internetmonk is an eternity in terms of things posted since then!) that I don’t know if JB will see my answer if I post there. He or she may not see my answer here either. JB, if you are reading this, please just reply that you have seen my answer. Thanks!

  13. Jeff,

    The NT describes so much more than what we all typically know as a “worship service.” I think we should practice the “one anothers” during the meeting. We should use our gifts for the edification of others. It would also do us good to have a real meal with real food (i.e. feast) during the meeting, and have the Lord’s Table be part of that meal.

    The Evangelical 11th commandment “Thou shalt go to church on Sunday” (aka Heb. 10:25) is not actually in the imperative, but rather the context of what the writer of Hebrews is saying should happen when we gather. Namely, this is spurring one another to love, to good deeds, and encouraging one another. Why has evangelicalism missed all this? Of course, all this could take place when we meet on Sunday and not force the call to worship, singing, or reading of the creeds out the window.

    What think ye?