Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dumbing Down Our Worship?

Interesting observations here at the SMH re participation in a service which, as far as I can tell, could have been just about anywhere in Australasia. (H/T Noble Wolf). Incidentally we need to make as much use as we can of the free access to the SMH which is about to go behind a paywall!

Not every service which begins casually is necessarily a "dumbed down" service. But there are some big questions facing churches Down Under as we work out what it means to prepare and perform services of worship in a culture which celebrates casualness, in churches which, for one reason or another, have absorbed deep presuppositions which are antagonistic to the former way of doing things, and in an atmosphere of fear that we will die if we do not capture the next generations for the cause of Christ. In such a context it is (in my view) too easy to 'throw the bathwater out with the baby', to change, for instance, every aspect of worship services, rather than, say, just the music.

In terms of the article, we have a challenge to think more carefully, and prayerfully, about form, structure and content for worship services in the 21st century. The 'feel' of them must be different to, say, the 1950s. But what in form, structure or content contributes to the right 'feel'?

One final observation re this article: I think we have gotten to where we are in many instances re the character of our services because we have adjusted them to suit the congregation as it gathers (which is often an eclectic mix of backgrounds in several denomination) but in doing so have lost sight of what constitutes an accessible service for the stranger, newcomer, or returner. There is always a missional edge to whatever we do in the church.


Janice said...

what constitutes an accessible service for the stranger, newcomer, or returner

One man's meat ...

Father Ron Smith said...

"There was a tiny contingent of regular worshippers in a congregation inflated by the families and friends of the children being baptised."

- SMH article -

How very interesting - that a non-traditional church worship service should have attracted so few 'regular worshippers' to a service of Christian Baptism!.

Just goes to show where the real priorities are, one supposes! Perhaps a later 'open service' would have attracted more of the switched-on locals?

I find it quite sad when the more sacramental liturgies are neglected in favour of 'hugga-mugga'.

liturgy said...


Thanks so much, Peter, for pointing us to that article here on this post.

I think your highlighting “an atmosphere of fear” important.

I think it is worth pausing with “Down Under … a culture which celebrates casualness”.

Amongst young people in education – that’s generally a culture of formality – classes, assemblies, graduation,… Often/usually with uniforms – a feature unknown in so many other places beyond Down Under.

Sport: uniforms, rituals, rules, traditions,…


Even the regular format of our TV news programmes. The list goes on. And on.

Yes, there are contexts of “casualness” – but, Down Under, are they really more prevalent than in other cultures?

Might the better question be: why are some Christian communities addicted to bringing casualness where the Christian heritage of worship has never previously had this?

The onus, on this site, is so often put on those who want to change the tradition – well?!!!

And let’s not forget that at least a good half of the worshipping Christians Down Under continue to do so in the context of formality rather than the revisionist casualness.



Jethro said...

The fact is that we live in a society that is obsessed with the new, so anything perceived as being old is quite often just dismissed without a thought. So in my very humble opinion traditional liturgies don't quite cut the mustard when it comes to engagement, but the casual service misses out on the richness and depth of the traditional, and if we are honest casual isn't really keeping young people either. So really we need some new creative ways of being engaging and deep, drawing from the old, learning from the new etc etc. But the thing is that both styles, traditional and casual, are easy. The vicar has enough on his plate without having to worry about having to come up with some new ground breaking worship style, let only being given permission from the congregation!

Kurt said...

The article appears to point out the worst in happy-clappy Evangelicalism. Fortunately, such services are rare in TEC, even among Evangelicals.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

The hard reality is that casual evangelical/charismatic services are almost always the churches that are large and growing, and atrracting and keeping young people and young familes, while formal prayer book services struggle to attract more than a few elderly persons.

Yes sometimes casual can go too far, but is this really a major problem? I dont think so.

There is a huge difference between churches that prefer services that are casual and contemporary, and for example, same sex blessings.

The first is a minor change in the tradition.

The second is rebellion against the Word of God.

Lets get our priorities right.

Anonymous said...

On a positive note, Evangelical scholar Darrell Bock, from Dallas Theological Seminary, is giving a day seminar here at St John's in July. This is a real treat and a wonderful blessing to hear an esteemed scholar. Bock is a staunch defender of the historical reliability of the Gospels, which will be the subject of his talk.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not going to publish comments in which the commenter tells another commenter what to do, and even less so if the comment implies that the other commenter is deficient in their Christianity.

Tell us what you think about the idea or argument at issue in the post!