Let’s divide the church into two giant categories—Modern Worship and Historical Worship. Actually, the church has already been divided into those categories, maybe we should try to bring them back together.
Modern Worship is very popular but it has plenty of critics and is a pretty easy target for abuse. Worshipsters can look goofy with their bedhead gel, clever shavings and flavor of the month fashion victim sensibilities. They might as well paint a bulls-eye on the back of their deep-v t-shirt.
“Is this a church or a rock concert?” the critics ask in disgust. They turn their nose up at the glitzy technology and production. The worshippy bland music usually sounds like a copy of a copy of some incarnation of the band Apple violated our iTunes with. There are complaints that the songs are marked by sentimentality, sameness, and individualism. The performances are thought to be showy, pushy, phony, or cheesy.
Modern Worship may have numbers on its side, but even this is used against it. Critics say it is popular pabulum desperately trying to be relevant, giving people what they want rather than what they need. Cries of “foul,” “Bait and switch,” and “Itching ears” as the critics attempt to overturn the tables in the sanctuary.
They would say the simplicity of modern songs are inferior vehicles for the message of God and His praise. Like serving filet Mignon on a paper plate and eating it with a plastic spoon. (By the way, if you can prepare a filet Mignon that can be eaten with a plastic spoon, count me in.) They would also say the modern songs do not teach the deeper things of faith the way hymns do.
To many people Modern Worship seems like a desecration of the richness of our identity and heritage, trading the deeper time tested treasures for shallow imitations. Others have proposed that the cultural elements embraced in Modern Worship are not innocent neutral elements but actually have dangerous psychological and unbiblical presuppositions at their core. They wonder if we have carefully thought through the long term implications.
On the other side of the great divide, Historical Worship is accused of being elitist and exclusionary. Promoters of culture instead of the Great Commission and having more interest in the preservation of historical liturgical practices than responding to God’s mercy and love. Obsessed with connecting the ministry of worship to a historic dead culture rather than connecting the Gospel to the living culture in the community where their church is located.
To the mission minded critic there are too many arcane trappings that come off as pretentious and unnecessary. Everything from Old English language, vestments, formal liturgical forms, pompous organ preludes, and somber singing and chanting are viewed as lacking authentic connection to real life.
Because of this, the Historical Worship is accused of lacking vitality. The numbers are not on their side, and the beautiful buildings grow more empty with each funeral service.
They are accused of serving stale, sour wine for which they have acquired a taste, but is repugnant to the uninitiated. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” is spoken like a dare on Fear Factor.
The battle rages, each side convinced they are fighting for Truth with God on their side. Each side building a straw effigy of the other to destroy with smirks when they are surrounded by friends. Blogs and podcasts hurled at each other like flaming arrows to the applause of those in their own camp, hoping for the destruction of brothers and sisters in the other.
Maybe we can find a better way.