A tone deaf call to worship

I recently received a Sun morning church bulletin that also contained a promo brochure for a new, “authentic” worship service that would target “this”, “emerging”, “current” generation. I’m willing to assume that this church’s effort toward outreach & “authentic” worship is well-intentioned and sincere, but the brochure’s theme(s) sounded biblically tone deaf to say the least:

The name communicates relevance, setting and atmosphere – for emerging generations…

maybe you, like many others, seek a more relevant venue…

expect a totally different look, sound, touch and feel…

People that seek this type of venue look for a concert atmosphere and setting.

Recent paint, updated seating plus the soon-installed, brand-new sound and lighting systems gives [location X] a whole new look, touch, feel, and sound.

Expect volume, lots of volume, along with fresh music…

The setting for worship means everything to every generation…each generation needs the right setting.

Previous generations needed aesthetic and formality. This generation needs high tech and informality.

Who/What exactly are we worshiping here?

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

4 thoughts on “A tone deaf call to worship”

  1. So is it wrong for “setting” to play a role in our worship when we are specifically utilizing the mode of music for worship?

    1. Not sure I follow the connection between setting & using music for worship so I may be totally missing the point…Nevertheless, I can’t think of any relevant NT passages that would emphasize setting–seats, paint, venue, etc.–in worship. Biblically speaking, I’d have to claim ignorance as to what role setting is to play in “authentic” worship. If setting is to play a role, I pity the underground churches who risk imprisonment or even martyrdom for inauthentic worship.

      1. Having a setting that is condusive to worship is what churches all across the country do each and every Sunday morning. I am not implying that worship does not occur in difficult circumstances, but the whole purpose of a “worship leader” in a church is so that he/she will create a setting that is condusive to worhip.

        I understand what you are saying about the paint, seats etc. But do you publically rail against the people who must have their very traditional and liturgical setting in order to “worship”? Traditional church settings can be worshipped just as easily as the light shows and performances of modern worship settings. I have a church you can visit for a case in point if you need one.

        In the intial paragraph you say that you assume they have the best intentions but then your last line indicates that you think they are worshipping something(one) other than God. Have you attended one of these events? Maybe so and you saw that they are worshipping a golden calf, but from your post, you seem to be drawing a heck of alot of conclusions from their brochure.

      2. In reverse order:

        1. I reprinted their words from their brochure. From their own words I implied that the focus was off target. When you spend more time talking about where you worship rather than who & why you worship something ain’t right. So, yes, I assume they are trying to reach people but I stated up front that the message was off and closed by implying that the real focus of worship was being obscured [file it under “What you win them with is what you win them to”]. Don’t see a misstep in taking them at their word and expressing disagreement.

        2. Rail — to revile or scold in harsh, insolent, or abusive language. I wouldn’t characterize the post as “railing” although it was public comment on a public brochure. As to whether or not I publicly speak to those who must have their traditional setting it depends on whether or not they seem to define worship by a venue or style. In those cases, yes, I have made public comments (even in their presence).

        3. I won’t dwell on this one except to say that there’s a significant difference between having a venue that doesn’t distract over against having a venue that is meant to attract. I realize this may be a minority view but so be it.

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