A reader responds to the Attractive Worship discussion:
I’ve appreciated the comments about worship, and will make a point of forwarding these discussions to my Baptist in-laws, who attend a church with megachurch pretensions and who, as Mr. Hutchens points out, are alienated by their own music ministers because they are, apparently, expendable.
The arc of these discussions leads inevitably to the question of “style,” or, more accurately, taste. My wife and I, both 30, have developed musical tastes quite common to our generation, summed up by this creed: U2 is best played at floor-shaking, neigbour-rattling, cat-hides-under-the-couch volume. True, our most shameful family secret is my wife’s predilection for Neil Diamond, but aside from these few idiosyncrasies our “tastes” are quite modern, thank you very much.
Nevertheless, we have been driven out of our local evangelical churches by the relentless relevance of the market tested “worship team.” We now attend a church with conservative liturgy, and are thus spared the pseudo eroticism, self-conscious hipness and sheer noise that my in-laws complain about every Sunday afternoon.
Permit me to add two more comments to the discussion already underway: first—and I readily admit that this may say more about my own pathologies then about the subject under discussion—our experience suggests that the relentless modernization may be embraced and expanded by the young ‘uns but it is driven by baby boomers. It isn’t just the lack of a fixed order of worship for which the bills are coming due, as Mr. Reichert put it; no, we are witnessing the consequence in my generation of the self-indulgence of our parents. Oh, the irony of being told by the 50-year-old hipster that the introduction of the rock band into Sunday worship was done for our benefit! Um, no, but thanks for trying.
Second, changes in the manner in which we worship are rarely addressed on a substantive theological level and suggesting that these are issues only of “taste” effectively divorces our worship from our theology. The ubiquitous justification—the one that rolls over everything in its path—is that guitar rock about God is the cornerstone of the evangelism enterprise. Call me a skeptic, but it would appear that the modernization of worship is less a product of concern for those outside the church than a manifestation of the felt needs and unquestioned desires of those within it. The rapidly growing churches in our area appear to be successfully poaching Christians—friends of ours—from the other local churches who have been slow to introduce the big white TV screen and uber-casual pastoral team. I wonder how much true worship can take place when one eye is always half-open to make sure that we’re not more than one degree behind the fashion curve.
Finally—and I apologize for the length—we can regard these as mere intergenerational conflicts, yes, to be resolved over time. This bears a resemblance to the strategy used by progressive Anglicans to introduce theological innovation, the process known as “reception.” Here’s an alternative idea: if there’s a good reason that more mature Christians aren’t “worshipping” with a rock band, maybe there’s a good reason why us younger ones shouldn’t be “worshipping” with a rock band either.
Vancouver, British Columbia