Ran across this video (thanks Jalysa Smith) this past week as we’ve been discussing the church, modernity, and how consumerism has shaped ecclesiology in our senior seminar class that I teach. One of the comments on the video says, “I miss the church. I hope it’s rediscovered in my life time.” My take is that things are better than this video portrays. We’re experimenting with ways to connect well, to build community, to reach out, and to speak to the times. And I love those initiatives. So, I’m positive about the church and its efforts, and deeply committed to it.
However, there are some potential fundamental problems if we’re not careful moving forward – and this video illustrates them. First, consumerism often (sometimes unknowingly) drives decision-making, even leadership decisions. We choose leaders or programs or content based on attraction potential, finances, and marketing. Of course, church attenders do the same and look for a church service that “appeals” to us. And, if we don’t like it someday, we’ll go to a church that does.
I know the title is a bit unfortunate, to have worship and war in the same sentence as church. I only use it because it was a phrase in-use 20 years ago when congregations struggled with, and at times battled over, newer expressions and methods of worship.
I was a director of music at a church in the early 1990s, about the time “contemporary worship” became the main format for music during Sunday services. It was an intense time in local churches as the “traditional” folks wanted to retain the singing of hymns while the “contemporary” people desired a more expressive and affective worship experience. Hymnals were replaced by projection screens, sitting and singing in four part harmony was replaced by 2 part choruses sung back-to-back while standing for 20 minutes. The intensity was so strong that people left churches over music styles, board meetings became shouting matches, and the whole thing was described as a “worship war.”
Nearly 20 years later, most churches have a drum set in the sanctuary, huge sound systems make many churches feel like a concert, and when a leader says, “Hey, let’s worship,” people automatically stand to their feet to sing.