Friday, November 6, 2009

A Letter to Modern Worship Leaders

Dear Worship Leader,

I am writing this letter to congratulate you on the long overdue success of a truly casual worship. Casual, comfortable and harmless worship is a magnificent masterpiece of our modern generation and must be maintained and encouraged at all costs. We have finally escaped the shackles of that stuffy reverence of the past, and I for one am glad to see it go. Well done! It is only through the innovation of this informal, care-free, friendly and frothy worship that we can really meet the needs of the spirit of our age and the soul of modern man. The church must recognize and respond to the climate of our current culture if it wants to provide a paradigm of worship that is relevant and meaningful. The modern trends in worship are doing well to further this cause, and I am entirely committed to promoting this progress.

Casual worship is necessary if the church wants to stir up within society any sort of interest in God today. If we want our neighbors to approach God, then our goal must be to make God approachable. The logic is simply irresistible. And once armed with the courage of this compelling argument, a whole army of opportunities come marching in. Deliberate alterations in church designs are a delightful development. Finally we have broken free from those architectural embarrassments such as pulpits and pews. Structures carry a silent but unmistakable message to our minds. The student’s desk makes it clear that the classroom is designed for study and instruction. Judges preside at benches to convey the solemn seriousness of the law. Kings sit on thrones to communicate greatness, power and authority. Therefore…barstools and soft chairs are perfect for church! Our message to the modern worshipper couldn’t be clearer now: chill, relax, make yourself at home, don’t worry…this isn’t going to hurt! By the way, big screen TV’s and Starbucks coffee were brilliant additions as well. Just keep your eyes open. Look at the structures in modern society that communicate “laughter, fun and entertainment” and do what you can to reproduce them in worship.

Let me just say that our modern worship music has gratefully come a long way in creating the right impression as well. Nobody goes to a pop-concert expecting to be changed or challenged. MTV doesn’t tend to engender deep contemplation or serious thought. And to the degree we can duplicate that design we will create exactly the same environment in church. And don’t think for a moment that it is only the quality and style of the music that have contributed to creating this valuable worship climate. That was the more obvious, but really far less important accomplishment. Our greatest advantage has been primarily the sheer quantity of focus and attention that has been given to what is helpfully called today “the music ministry” of the church. Until recently “music” was but one piece of furniture in the worship d├ęcor. Like a chair carefully selected and situated in your den, it occupies a place suitable to compliment the overall atmosphere of the room. But while Christians fussed and fought over the best fabric and color for this musical chairwe successfully managed to increase the size of the chair without notice! Our music today now occupies such a prominent and disproportionate place in worship that everything else is conveniently crowded out. However, even the best of our efforts sometimes fall flat, so wise worship leaders have learned to add sufficient servings of video and drama as well.

Oh, and kudos to all of you who have helped promote the most casual attire to accompany these helpful trends. This is so obvious; it is surprising the church has missed it for so long. Clothing communicates! A company dress code communicates to the customer what he or she should expect. If your heart surgeon were to show up in sandals, sunglasses and tattered shorts you might be inclined to reschedule! A serious message, matters of weight and moment, demand more formal attire. Thus the clever clergyman today will carefully choose clothing that is both casual and cool. Nothing about our worship must be taken too seriously! Trade in your ties for t-shirts and your jackets for jeans. Sermons in sneakers are easier to swallow, especially if they are short and sweet. Since the chief end of God is our comfort and happiness, we should get used to such comfort in church. Dress up for holidays and funerals and interviews and weddings…but by all means please dress down for church!

Finally, isn’t it just obvious that casual and comfortable worship puts the attention of our adoration back where it properly belongs…on you the worshipper! What sort of atmosphere makes you most comfortable? What environment tends to make you feel at home? The church must seek to create a worship service that caters to your wants, your needs, and your desires if it ever hopes to communicate something to our society, whatever that something might be. With all of the former adjustments now implemented, worshippers today will find themselves comfortably insulated from those touchy topics which often characterized the preaching of our past. Themes such as heaven and hell, sin and holiness, law and gospel, suffering and sacrifice, and the cross of Christ which is the real measure of God’s love…simply no longer fit in. Worship, once saturated with the superficial, is entirely safe from such serious stuff. And if, by some embarrassing blunder of poor planning these themes should accidentally appear, they will, with any luck, go entirely unnoticed. Keep your fingers crossed!

Well done my good and faithful servants,
Your affectionate father,

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