“Okay everybody,” shouted the leader, “It’s time to worship.” The 150 youth and young adults immediately jumped to their feet and focused on the video screens as the leader began to play guitar. Twenty minutes later, the group sat down and listened to a 35 minute talk given by another leader while a PowerPoint showed key points and a Scripture passage or two. The leader closed with prayer and then dismissed the crowd.
This is the standard form of “worship” in many Christian traditions today, especially in youth ministry circles. This routine form has almost became an established liturgy of what it means to be contemporary and relevant. I see this form all over America – and the songs are often played the same from coast to coast, near replicas of how they sounded on the latest CD. I’ve previously written that I think we’re headed toward a new shift in facilitating how people worship . The scene I open with was once thought of as a participatory form, but it has lost its uniqueness and often become a one-way experience where we ‘hope’ people are drawing closer to God… but we don’t really know. We hope the fact that they’re singing is shaping their understanding of who God is … but we’re not sure.
Here are 4 reasons I think we’re heading toward something new:
- We live in a visual age. I heard recently that a college survey showed that students watched 35 movies for every book they read. People communicate in images to each other and yet there are very few images in contemporary Christian worship. That will change.
- Experiences have profound staying power. I can recount to you every participatory worship experience I’ve ever had, the Scripture that was used, and the intimate prayer that each fostered. Every one of them. If curated appropriately, these won’t be relativistic ‘eastern’ moments of self-centeredness, but can be times of Christ-centered transformation.
- Experiences draw people into Scripture in profound ways. I’m getting more concerned regarding the quick wave we give to Scripture as it flies through our teaching time. An experiential form of worship can draw people into God’s Story and allow them to reflect and engage for longer periods of time that connect to real life.
- Experiences facilitate time for reflection, confession, and renewal. This may be the strongest argument for trying to move away from the tight transitions of concert-style worship. What if instead of nonstop music and performance, we helped people enter into worship, slow down, and create space to encounter God?
Now, I am keenly aware that this scares a lot of people, that we’re going to form a theology out of our own experience and preferences. I just talked with a pastor this month who had people leave his church because he referenced a prominent pastor who taught on spiritual disciplines. So, if classic Christian spiritual disciplines make people nervous, this will scare them more. But, it doesn’t have to. It can still Christ-centered and focused on Scripture. But it moves the process from just a mental construct to a prayer-laden time where our whole being is placed before God so that He can transform our lives.
I’ve just finished reading Curating Worship by Jonny Baker and I’ve been reading Clayfire Curator, a blog by Mark Pierson, author of The Art of Curating Worship. I’m hopeful that we can begin to take some small steps in our worship to incorporate more visuals and spaces for experiential. I’m even more fascinated about curating experiences that have appeal to non-Christians and invites them to participate in a God-honoring experience.
More on this tomorrow.