EB week 3 post: where to?

January 30, 2009

For:The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University,Essentials Blue online course with Dan Wilt

I love the idea Dan Wilt brings up; that contemporary music in the world we’re in (postmodern or whichever) is a proper and possibly necessary response to the formalism of the past. [1]

What fun!  We’re on the right track!

We can see that it’s true since the formalism of the past flies so much in the face of people today, both the young and the not-so-young.  And it might be that in a decade or two, church formalism will be (even more) widely regarded as a pet preference for a very few.  The formal church might already be just that to larger society, as evidenced by the seeming fact that famous churches and cathedrals of the world are visited many times more by tourists gawking in horror and awe at the architecture (having no conception as to what purpose the building could have served) than by the congregants or parishioners themselves.  Wow!

Or, alternately, N.T. Wright could be onto something with his critique of the lack of formalism – he seems to be arguing for a Book of Common Prayer-style Bible reading for Sunday mornings [2] (nothing wrong with that, by the way). Maybe he’s correct and we’re in for a push back the other way, if these trends really swing from one to the other.  We’ve seen, after all, almost 50 years of folk-rock worship and its offspring.  Maybe it’s the next new thing.

Or, it’s something else.  A blend, perhaps, and not so wide a swing back.

My guess is that we’re caught (the Church, that is) in popular culture like a rip tide.  It may be that – despite the call of many in the Church – the Church cannot and will never lead the way in culture.  Culture is too big – not bigger than God, for sure, but it’s possibly the thing we’re to work within, to inform and shape as best we can.

We can catch a wave in thinking about and worshiping God that is in line with the flow of culture – and perhaps see many starving souls find the living God.  All the while being careful not to serve culture.  (The secret formula for a wildly popular church, perhaps?)


[1] Wilt, Exploring Our Roots: The Contemporary  Worship Movement (IW Master All, p.  325)

[2] N.T. Wright, The Word In Worship (IW Master  All, p. 183)


EB week two post: BREAKOUT!

January 24, 2009

For:The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University,Essentials Blue online course with Dan Wilt

I confess that one of my criticisms of Vineyard-type worship is that it seems like we’re all worshiping  in one place together, but all having our own close-eyed, personal experience with God.  We never open our eyes & engage those around us (unless it’s a moment of self consciousness) until church is over & everyone goes for coffee.

Eddie Gibbs gets at a bit of what I’ve felt when he (rather sharply) criticizes modern worship ; “When our worship songs focus mainly on the individual and how he or she feels in relation to Jesus,  then worship becomes self-centered to an unhealthy degree.  There are only so many ways to say how much we love Jesus.” [1]

Gibbs and others stop short, though, of an experience that takes place in some Pentecostal settings – the experience of people engaging with each other during worship.  Not only do we try to engage a God who is a community, but we engage and celebrate with, and encourage each other.  Try a gospel song that says “God’s got a blessing with your name on it,” [2] for instance.

And rather than assume it’s all performance (easy for me to do) – that it’s people in the congregation or (more likely) the worship leader taking the attention away from God – I want to sit with the possibility that maybe it’s just culture.  It’s not native to me, but I want to learn something by trying it on.

[1] Eddie Gibbs, Time In A Bottle: Reflections On Worship (Inside Worship Magazine), 9

[2] DeWitt Johnson, “God’s Got A Blessing (Toughing The World) copyright 2003


EB week one post

January 16, 2009

For:The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University,Essentials Blue online course with Dan Wilt,

I was struck by Brenton Brown’s comments on the importance of Theology in worship.  He said that he’d been hearing that worship songs are better remembered than sermons – that people would hang onto the words in the song as true about God, versus whatever is said in any sermon. [1]

And his observation is true to my own experience.  I’ve found that I quote songs (as though they were scripture) in moments of prayer or speaking. I’ve heard trained ministers do the same, even when the song wasn’t quite a quote from scripture.

It’s simply that songs are memorable – the music package they come in makes it easy to hear, and the fact that we repeat them often (especially if we’re leading them) is a perfect set-up for memorization!

So, since it seems we remember songs better than sermons, Brown stresses the importance of good theology in worship song-writing.

But he continues by saying that the song writer (and by extension, the person picking the worship set/repertoire) has to have ‘heart’ in the expression – it’s a song/art-expression, not a dissertation, after all. It seems good to be holding both.

Dr Peter Davids says that worship leaders come in all varieties – some with substantive scripture background and others with less – and that those with less must “have sufficient biblical depth” in order to do their jobs well, especially when writing songs. [2]

So a dilemma arises when a capable musician comes along with a heart for God and the moral qualities to be a worship leader, but whose scriptural background is weak (and so, presumably is their theology). The demands on that person in the role of worship leader (on a high pressure Sunday morning setting) might be greater than they could bear without proper guidance. The question for those putting this leader in this particular position seems to be, “Can this person get sufficient scriptural background to be in the role they’re in, and can this local church live in the tension in the mean time?”

My take is that worship leaders always need to learn more scripture (no kidding! and who doesn’t?) and always strive to work and write from their hearts. And it’s appropriate to always strive to be in this tension: expressing from our hearts while allowing good theology (thoughts about God) to inform our hearts. If we’re not feeling the pull, I’d guess that something’s amiss.

But then, how do I move forward? Can I trust that this song I’ve wrote or chosen is accurate? What about the things I say or pray? How can I honestly say anything?

David says in Psalm 24:3-4: Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, who do not put their trust in an idol or swear by a false god. [3]

I’ve got to do the best I can to think rightly about God and still move forward trusting in Him and leaning on Jesus’ forgiveness, always seeking to receive correction well – to ‘have clean hands and a pure heart.’

1. Brenton Brown, Theology and the Worship Leader (St Stephen’s University, Posted June 13, 2008 )

2. Dr Peter Davids, The Importance of Scripture Study for Modern Worship Leaders (Inside Worship Magazine, Issue 48, Oct. 2002) 8

3. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, Today’s New International Version TNIV. (International Bible Society, 2001, 2005)


January 15, 2009

Hey There,

This blog was created as part of my class in worship theology through St Stephen’s University, NB Canada.

So, a little background on my background in theology.  Exactly zero in any formal way, but lots gleaned in church or Bible reading.  Or my own experience.

I’m a worship pastor by accident, having first approached worship from the music/performance angle, but later coming around to leading & pastoring.  It seemed like a good fit to someone.  And I even find I enjoy my job – shock!

What I hope to see happen in a worship setting is folks connecting with God, with each other, and themselves in an exciting musical environment.

Now, that said, is there more to it?  Is there something of cultural relevance in there?  Is there anything to do with cross cultural relevance?  Maybe pushing the boundaries past the familiar and favorite?  It seems to depend on the church, the congregation & the community.

Why am I in this position?  What vision do I have to offer?  Do I have any, or am I only here cause I can carry out orders well enough?

But I’m here.  Now what?

Questions, questions…