Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pagan Christianity - Chapter 7


A good friend of mine responded to one of the chapter posts (I believe it was chapter 4) saying: "Criticizing a church's worship service is on a par with telling a mother she has an ugly baby."

This chapter covers an area of responsibility that has proven to be quite a volatile issue - namely the music part of worship. It's either too loud, not loud enough; too old, too new and unfamiliar; too slow, too fast; too much of it, not enough of it.... Therein lies the ancient problem. Music possesses a huge consumerist factor.

Leading up to the sermon, those who "lead worship" select the songs that are to be sung. They begin those songs. They decide how those songs are to be sung. And they decide when those songs are over. Those sitting in the audience in no way, shape, or form lead the singing. They are led by someone else who is often part of the clerical staff - or who has a similar stature.

This is in stark contrast to the first-century way. In the early church, worship and singing were in the hands of all of God's people. The church herself led her own songs. Singing and leading songs was a corporate affair, not a professional event lead by specialists.

...Much like oratory (professional speaking), the Greek culture was built around an audience-performer dynamic. Tragically, this trait was carried over from the temples of Diana and the Greek dramas straight into the Christian church. The congregation of God's people became spectators not only in spoken ministry, but in singing as well. Regrettably, the spirit of Greek spectatorship still lives in the contemporary church.

...At the front of the stage is a simple podium, some plants, amplifiers, speakers and lots of wires. In such churches, worship means following the band's prescribed songs. The praise and worship time typically lasts from twenty to forty minutes. The first songs are usually upbeat praise choruses. The worship team will then lead a lively hand-clapping, body-swaying, hand-raising, (sometimes dancing) congregation into a potpourri of individualistic, gentle, worshipful singing. (Typically, the focus of the songs is on individual spiritual experience.) First person singular pronouns - I, me, my - dominate a good number of the songs... ...a reform, but not a revolution.
I have discovered the last statement to be true - but only recently. The shifting of my own mind-set is fairly fresh. When "Purpose-Driven Church" by Rick Warren came out in 1995, I read it and read it, then read it again. It was refreshing for RW to lead the way (along with Bill Hybels) in transforming the methods used for music and message. Little did I realize that it is still music and message "driven" by the cultural malady of the audience/performer dynamic.

So now I understand and use the term "caught up" because I was and still am in some ways - as many, many are. As much as I challenged those while being in that context, it was like herding cats. Those in leadership were very dependent on the performer aspect and those who attended were likewise dependent on the audience aspect. All the while, very little was and is accomplished on a daily basis in putting the principles and teachings of scripture to practice.

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