“What is the future of worship when increasing numbers struggle with organized religion, seek individual spiritual practices apart from community, and spend hours in front of screens? Recent studies show that more and more people identify as none when asked to name their religious affiliation. Yet we who gather in worship each Sunday proclaim that God is present in word, water, bread, wine, and most particularly, in the gathered community.
“How will our worshiping assemblies be renewed and revitalized in an age of change and doubt? What are some of the challenges and opportunities before us in light of graying congregations, and young adults finding community and identity through Facebook, Twitter, and countless online sites?”
The above introduction on a post card for an upcoming conference, “God is Here,” to be held June 30-July 3, 2013 on the campus of Valparaiso University seems to suggest that congregational worship may need to change in order to “keep up” with the times. If so, this is an age-old plea. It is true that times are changing, but what kind of changes should congregations undergo to remain faithful to our Lord and His Word?
Much of the time, it appears that God’s Word is not the director of how Christian worship should be. Rather, it is the culture which often seems to direct how the body of Christ should function, how we should worship, what we should say, and how we should say it.
This is not to say that we, as members of Christ’s body, do not need to repent of our selfishness, our self-centered behavior, and our “holier than thou” attitudes. We do. Yet such repentance does not entail a change in worship and liturgy, if such is faithful to the Lord’s Word, even if such faithfulness means that society and culture will be turned off by it.
Consider Christ, who many rejected (and still do) because of what He said (and not due to the way in which He said it). So often we pay more attention to presentation than to content. And I’ll admit that this is much easier. Nevertheless, godly worship is not what I determine it to be, but what God determines it to be.
So what if the world, society, and culture don’t get it! They won’t, because they are not of Christ, and Christian worship has Christ as the center. This does not mean that we should go out of our way to offend nonChristians by what we do or how we do it. Not at all! Rather should we love them all the more, and look to Christ’s Word for help and comfort, praying for God’s Name to be hallowed, His kingdom to come, and His will to be done, even among us (Luther’s Small Catechism).
Believing in Christ, holding to God’s Word, and worshiping and living accordingly, we, as God’s people, have nothing to be ashamed of. We confess our sins, yes indeed, yet we more boldly confess Christ.
The future of Christian worship is not in doubt, as long as the worship is truly Christ-centered, and not man centered. Where Christian worship becomes man-centered (me-centered) it ceases to be Christian. If God is truly present in Word (Absolution, Liturgy, preaching), water (Holy Baptism), and bread and wine (Holy Communion) in the Divine Service, the future of Christian Worship looks good, very good (Genesis 1:31). Even with the world changing as it is, God continues creating, sustaining, and strengthening faith through these very means. Here, too, does our Lord renew and revitalize His people “in an age of change and doubt.”
I pray that the focus of the “God is Here” conference will be on the very Word of our Lord (which does not change), rather than on the changing society and culture….But I have my doubts.
Elizabeth Drescher: Religious studies and pastoral ministries programs @ Santa Clara University
Craig Mueller: Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church-Chicago
Martin Jean: Professor of Organ and Director of the Institute of Sacred Music @ Yale University
Benjamin M. Stewart: Gordon A. Braatz Assistant Professor of Worship and Dean of Augustana Chapel @ Lutheran School of Theology-Chicago
Filed under: Bible-Holy Scripture, Christian Denominations & Fellowship, Justification & Sanctification-The Christian Faith & Good Works, Law & Gospel-Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, Reviews (Books, articles, etc.), Worship & Liturgy | Tagged: Drescher, God, Jean, lutheran, Mueller, music, Nones, Stewart, Valparaiso, Wireless, Worship |