Christian worship is a difficult to define Christian practice. A broad definition of worship could be that it is an encounter with God. It is God who initiates the meeting and we respond to God’s invitation. Worship is an opportunity where in response to God’s invitation, we affirm our belief in and our relationship with God and commit to a better relationship with others and the rest of creation.
We demonstrate in worshipful acts our love for God through devotion, celebration, and commitment to share the story of God’s salvation with others. These worshipful acts of love vary with individuals and among Christian communities worldwide. There is not now, nor do we have conclusive proof that there was ever complete uniformity in worship among Christians.
Culture and other contextual factors have always had an impact on how religious persons worship. This has resulted in the rich diversity of Christian worship today. However, alongside the diversity are some questionable practices that sometimes reduce Christian worship to cheap Christian entertainment. They also create confusion in the mind of some worshipers. Sometimes, it even looks like enemy lines are drawn between preferences in worship styles along the lines of the traditional versus the contemporary. Is there such a clear distinction though?
Contemporary Versus Traditional Christian Worship
It is not easy to answer the query as to what makes a contemporary Christian worship service. It seems easier though, to hazard a guess as to what makes a service traditional. The latter is almost always linked to the elderly in the church. The traditional worship service is sometimes called the ancient Christian worship especially by the youth. They do this to make a point that they cannot relate to what is coming from another era.
Contemporary Christian worship on the other hand appears to be the kind of service that is flexible enough to allow for just about anything. Of course you might disagree, because your church might not allow just about anything to happen. This is not so in all churches. In some places I have seen and heard of, anything goes. In one service I attended, their printed program read concerning the Order of Service - “subject to the Holy Spirit”. Huh?
Recently, I was talking with a young lady who gushed at how their modern church service now allows for one Sunday per month when all they do when they come for morning service is have a prayer, and then they sing ‘praise and worship’ songs for the rest of the service.
Such are the new trends in contemporary services. And they cause not a small amount of confusion.
Current Trends In Worship
As time goes by we will examine and clarify some of the confusing worship related issues. Not just that, we will also highlight meaningful stories as well. We hope you will share your experiences and helpful lessons with us as we cover broad areas including the following touchy ones.
Technology is an important asset to compliment not upstage or distract us from worship. Thus, the worship through media or communications departments need to be immersed in a theology of worship and what the experience means. Failing this worship can be reduced to a staged performance not a spontaneous response to God. We become more caught up with the latest worship software and forget about the people who gather in adoration to God.
Atmosphere and our environment help to excite the senses in worship. Therefore, we join other voices in rekindling a love for the use of the Arts in worship. Art suitable for worship and Christian symbols and images play an important role in stimulating the senses, which enhances the worship experience. Some churches are so stark with no care for creating an atmosphere of worship, and we wonder why people are bored. The inside of the chapel or worship space does not need to look like stark hospital walls even if we are all “sin-sick-souls”. Read more about the historical subject of Iconoclasm in this helpful article on The use of sacred images in Christian worship.
I will never forget the little fountain in the chapel of a Seminary I attended. The sound of the water running over the rocks made that quiet chapel such an amazing place. I got the feeling every time that this was surely fulfilling what Jesus meant when he invited his disciples, to ‘come aside for a while’. Worship should engage the senses and encourage the worshiper to let go, and focus on God.
So we will be discussing all this and more as we set out on making new discoveries in Christian worship.
Debating Worship: Traditional Or Contemporary?