This last post has started a great discussion! Thanks for “outing me”, Clay. I think that worship styles and ecclessiology ebb and flow from one another. And so it is interesting to see the conversations in worship look to define the church’s mission or seek to be defined by that mission. I wanted to keep the pot stirring and so here are a few of my thoughts on Clay’s post and the comments that have posted so far.
1.@ clay: what is church for? I think a clearer way of shaping this is to consider church as a verb- those Spirit filled moments (synchronicities, to borrow Jung) when Word and Sacrament are ordered to join and anticipate God’s purposes in creation. This is more incarnational and avoids the platonic urge to pre-design an air-tight formula.
2.@ clay: can deep shifts happen in a 1/3 of the congregation? I can;t think of a time when transformation does not originate in “practices” or “postures” that catch on. In other words, a few folks begin to “do” and “act” differently and their minds are then transformed. Until a few more join them. And then a few more. So why not start with this third and invite them to include those from the other 2/3rds to reflect with them on what is happening. The “traditional” services do not need to change their style to join this more participatory way. An imaginative Traditional Worship Leader like Tony describes is a great way for this to start.
3.@ david: what is contemporary? David, most american church goers who consume pre-fabricated worship formats see contemporary as a closed genre. It is the byproduct of CCM’s successful branding in the 80s and 90s. Try introducing the word “contemporaneous” (remember this from Greek tenses- I believe it was Aorist) and asking how does the worship style or material we use in worship come from the actual everyday world around us (you can grab You-Tube videos, newspaper clippings, popular music, folks music, movie quotes, and styles/chord progressions). We can learn from the Word of God whom/which we follow into the world (C-67) as much as from a Word of God remembered.
4.@ steve: Interesting to pair up “force feeding” and “calling.” CCM and denominational(or ecumenical) top down curriculum has created a consumptive Christian way. How do we reverse this tendency and equip worshipppers to produce, to make their own testimony? Borrowing some of Tom Wright’s pneumatology, the community is sent gifts from the Spirit almost like the Israelite sampled fruit from the promised land brought by the spies. As such, the fruits of enthronement, adoration, and lamentation are gifts from the promised eschaton for worshipers to taste and enjoy. So worship is born out of calling and not out of a top down “force feeding.”
5.@ tony: You wrote, “gatherings exist for the sake of the world.” I love it! Spot on. Somehow blending our “target audience” to include God with us, the body of Christ in which we are united, and the Christ of the Emmaus way- these are how worship looks beyond our congregations. A friend of mine says it this way: the church is not the end user of the gospel. I agree, and neither are we the end users of worship.
6. @ tony: to paraphrase you said, “our worship and everything else would be better if it were subservient to the Word.” I have found folks use this to marginalize order/art/testimony to only “illustration of the preacher’s sermon or the platonic idea presented by the Bible.” I would suggest that the Word is hidden and being revealed, and that the risk of missing is unavoidable… The Word is hidden in our past (such as Jesus’ exposition of the collective memory of the Emmaus road disciples) AND the word is also being revealed ahead of us (such as the angel instructing shepherds to go and see these things, and the voice telling peter to get up and go meet…). As such worship is discovery and not “explanation” or “illustration.” We meet God as we sing and pray. Our bodies are put into play as we kneel and raise hands and kiss one another and wash feet and ‘pray double’ through song. And as such, worship that serves the Word is less of a coersive predetermined posture and more of an open receptive posture. I might be splitting hairs here, but my purpose is to suggest that we cannot avoid the risks of stylizing or crafting or “ordering” our acts of worship by being more “Word” centered. Instead worship is to enter into that risk. Perhaps we can, however, make space for the hidden Word to be revealed in our sacramental habits. And, then, to make space for faithful-yet-risky responses of conversion.