Archive for the ‘Liturgy’ Category

Get choo one

Athanasius Press has republished Jim Jordan’s excellent work, The Liturgy Trap. With the revival of interest in more historic liturgies, some, in their search for more full liturgical expression, have become enamored with practices that have no biblical support (praying to saints, bowing to statues, venerating the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, etc.). If you have questions about all this, you need to read this brief work (and give it to your friends).

AND, for a short time, you can order it at a great discount, ratcheer.

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From the mid-16th to the 17th century, psalm-singing in England exploded in popularity. English psalters were published at an incredible rate, and the people sang from them not only in church, but throughout their work day, and at home in the evening. Singing metrical psalms in four-part harmony was as much a form of family entertainment then as watching a movie is for us now.

John Jewel, an Anglican Bishop, wrote to a friend from London in 1560 describing a typical Lord’s day, “As soon as they had commenced singing in public, in only one little church in London, immediately not only the churches in the neighborhood, but even the towns far distant began to vie with each other in the same practice. You may sometime see at St. Paul’s Cross, after the service, six thousand persons, old and young, of both sexes, all singing together and praising God.”

Such wide-spread enjoyment of Psalm-singing was evidence of the influence of the Puritans who were hoping to bring to England the full-bodied reformation that was roaring along on the European continent. In their desire to reform the English Church from within, the Puritans took many of their cues from the Genevan reformation effort and placed Psalm-singing as a cornerstone of their liturgical reforms.

Yet this broad delight in the singing of the songs of Scripture was soon brought into question, and the peace disturbed by those whose hearts were three sizes too small. (more…)

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I’ve suggested that the various efforts of pastors and churches to ride the currents and model their worship in the image of pop culture are evidence that these Christians are essentially uneasy about the sufficiency of the Word of God and the sacraments. I’ve also pondered the question of whether unbelievers and the unchurched are even really demanding this sort of thing of the Church.

I have just a couple more thoughts on this.

In so many discussions about this type of thing, you will hear someone suggest that it is our evangelical duty to make the gospel relevant to the culture. And there is a seed of true concern there. We don’t want to conduct worship in Latin. We don’t want to be cold toward outsiders. We don’t want to put unneccessary barriers between them and worship. But at the same time, it isn’t the Church or her message that is to be made relevant to the world, the mission of the Church is to make the world relevant to Christ.

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Last time I asserted that the modern evangelical trend of trying to make the worship experience similar to what one would find in the movie theater or on the cable network is evidence that we have a fundamental lack of confidence in the preaching of the word of God.

But let’s just suppose for a moment that in fact, sincere Christians who are serious about the preaching of the Word are engaged in these sort of things only out of a concern to make the gospel relevant to a pop-culture-saturated generation. We would still ask – Are any of these innovations really necessary in the first place? Do they really accomplish what they intend to accomplish?

Why assume that what people in our communities want from a church is what they are getting everywhere else? They have lots of opportunities to be entertained or wowed or emotionally manipulated (if they are into that sort of thing)—but why should we assume that they are expecting the very same thing when they come to church?

People normally expect church to be very different from the rest of life. Just as they don’t want their doctor’s office to be run like WalMart, and they don’t expect their experience at the library to be the same as their experience at the deer camp, no one automatically expects their church experience to be the same as their movie or rock concert experience. (more…)

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No matter how good a preacher or Bible teacher you may be, no matter how seriously you take the task of preparation and presentation—in the back of your mind, it is difficult not to have this haunting, nagging thought that you are competing for the minds of your hearers; competing against the polished news anchor person, the hip music video producer, and the New York ad agency. Compared to what Hollywood is producing, the simple preached gospel can start to seem very archaic, very out-of-touch, very boring.

What makes it even worse is the proliferation of Christian television programming, where Johnny (or Janie) Hair-Do does something similar to preaching on much nicer platform than yours and with lots of slick video production. It is tempting to think that we are up against that, and therefore must do something on par with what they are doing, or at least something that competes with them in order to grab people’s attention, and to keep people’s attention long enough to teach them something.

So in reaction, lots of Christian pastors and churches make efforts to sweeten the impact of their message with all sorts of technological whizbangery, movie clips, drama, interviews, light shows, professionally performed music and so on (you know what I’m talking about). I believe that many of these churches are sincerely hoping that they can package the gospel in such a way that it will be heard and accepted by a generation that is saturated with special-effects-laden movies and over-produced pop music and frenetic television advertising. When we respond negatively to those sorts of things we sound really funny, really out of touch and horribly anti-evangelical. (more…)

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