From Jonathan Aigner at “Ponder Anew”: Dear Church: Use music to tell your story, not to get butts in the seats.
Here’s a great piece by Jonathan, at Ponder Anew. Jonathan exposes some assumptions and problems with “contemporary worship,” but I especially love his conclusion. The way to grow churches is not through flashy concert-performances, but by living out missional lives in our communities. The whole article is worth reading, but here’s Jonathan’s conclusion:
“So what happens, then, if we don’t craft our worship services to attract unbelievers?
We’ll have to get serious again about Sunday. All of us. And then as the clock strikes noon, we’ll have to go.
Go out and feed the hungry.
Go out and clothe the naked.
Go out and associate with people who don’t look like us, don’t think like us, don’t act like us, don’t vote like us, and don’t usually like us.
Go out and fight for justice.
Go out and end oppression.
Go out and proclaim anew the old, old story.
Go out and reach out to those who are running from God and God’s church.
Go out and stop deflecting tough questions with our usual, tired cliches.
And do all of this in the name of the one who sent us.
And then open the doors wide again on Sunday morning.”
Doxology and Theology is an effort to raise the theological standards of contemporary worship. In their own words: “We exist to promote gospel-centered worship by connecting and equipping worship leaders. This is a community promoted by worship leaders/pastors for worship leaders/pastors.” Though I might be more old-school than these guys, I appreciate what they’re doing. We can learn from each other.
I’m going to be sharing more material from my friend Bruce Benedict, Director of Worship and Community Life at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (PCA – Raleigh). Bruce is on the forefront of the movement to bring ancient liturgical traditions into a contemporary setting. Bruce blogs and shares his song-writing work at Cardiphonia, which has a bunch of great resources. Bruce has also recently started a group effort called the Liturgy Fellowship: “The Liturgy Fellowship is a site dedicated to listing resources for Worship Leaders, pastors, musicians and other Worship Artists.”
Some recent insightful posts from Bruce’s blog include: “Liturgical Caffeine for Sunday Worship” and his reflections on the recent National Worship Leaders Conference. A tantilizing excerpt: “While the morning worship services were a bit more subdued, the evening services (not concerts according to the artists) were consistently hitting the 90-95 decibel mark. Which according to most charts means hearing loss with sustained exposure. The message I took home was that God is so powerful he will rock my ear drums to pieces in worship. Or possibly that in modern worship we are called to suffer bodily for Jesus. The technology present in much of modern worship is part of the DNA of the sound and experience. It really exists as a lesser member of the Trinity. (Or could possibly be a replacement for one of the other members that rarely gets mentioned).”
Bruce attended the conference with Zac Hicks, wh0 also has a helpful overview of the conference. Bruce and Zac collaborated on a eucharistic hymn, based on the Emmaus Road narrative. The song is typologically rich, Biblically-grounded, and reflects Calvin’s theology of the Lord’s Supper. It is also singable, which is a chief fault of many contemporary Christian songs.
As part of my dissertation research, I’ve fired up The Weekly Communion Project! (I had started to put it together a couple years ago, but now it looks like I’ll actually be able to move forward.)
Please tell any pastors or elders you know about it!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Next week, I’ll be meeting with a couple pastors and friends from our little town in North Carolina. We’ll be a diverse little group, but we will be exploring ways to work together in our town, to present a united witness, as well as create a network of Christians who can respond to needs and hurting people within our own community.
Now, I’m naturally a shy and retiring person. I’d rather write about this, than actually do it. What would motivate me to do this? Well, John H. Armstrong’s new book, Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission is Vital to the Future of the Church, would! I didn’t actually get the idea from Armstrong (I heard about a similar group in Colorado), but Armstrong confirmed my resolution, and gave me a solid kick in my sectarian, Reformed rear-end.
This a fantastic book! This week marks the official “blog tour” for the book. You can find other reviews at the Koinonia blog.
Here are some highlights:
“My thesis is simple: The road to the future must run through the past” (17). Armstrong is concerned with recovering a true sense of “catholicity,” a vision we share at the Reformed Liturgical Institute.
“True Christian faith is not found in personal religious feelings but in the historical and incarnational reality of a confessing church. Therefore, if we refuse to come to grips with our past, our future will not be distinctively Christian. The result will be new forms of man-made religion that embrace recycled heresies” (18).
Armstrong chronicles his journey into greater catholicity. He stresses the theological and Biblical mandate for unity, and shows how this unity must be Trinitarian–unity in diversity. While Armstrong appreciates the aspects of the “Great Tradition” preserved in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions, he does not surrender Reformed distinctives.
What is most encouraging are the stories of actual churches working together in their towns, guided by a shared love of Christ, and motivated by the Spirit that brings ultimate unity (Ephesians 4:4-5).
There are many details to consider, and much more work to be done in this area. Armstrong doesn’t claim to have all the answers. But, he does believe that Jesus actually wants a unified people, and he shows how this is our ultimate apologetic (Jn. 17:22-23). For this, we should all be grateful.
Providence Presbyterian Church (Chilhowie, VA – OPC)
Another church has been added to our growing list: Christ Covenant Church of Chicago.