OK, I will admit it. And I’m going to make this confession on behalf not only of myself, but I suspect a bunch of other folk.
I spend way too much time criticizing and all-around dumping on what I consider to be the spiritually empty “worship” practices of the non-denominational evangelical megachurches that seem to spring up everywhere, like toadstools after a heavy rain. You know, the kind of thing that evangelical writer Jonathan Aigner, who blogs at Patheos, describes as being
Assaulted by ‘worship’ that looks more like a rock concert than with anything to do with the sacred. Deprived of ritual and rite, sacrament and Scripture.
You know what I mean, the kind of worship that leads Christian websites to write click-bait headlines like this one: “6 Popular Megachurch Bands That Are Reinventing Worship.” Who knew? In a recent post at his blog, Aigner asks a simple question: Why would you keep going to a church where they do bad worship? This is not a question that we really want to engage with this week, but in laying out his argument, Aigner has some interesting observations on what might make “good” worship. Here’s some of the highlights:
- Trying to sell people on the gospel by giving them a good show may sell a product, but it won’t give them what they need to sustain full and abundant life in service of Christ crucified.
- Worship shouldn’t be merely about preference but about meaning. The language we use, the music, the attire of celebrants or officiants, even the architecture of the space, carries meaning.
- Sentimentality for how “things have always been done” doesn’t necessarily mean a “good” worship experience.
- Bad worship begets bad belief, and bad belief begets an unhealthy church.
Here’s how Aigner sums up his argument, and what he thinks constitutes good worship:
Find a place that rejects sentimentality and nostalgia; one where rigorous liturgy is practiced because life depends on it. Find a place that doesn’t attempt to manipulate people with a fun experience. Where the Word is rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered. Find a place that doesn’t dumb down as a strategy for reaching out. Find a place that doesn’t celebrate liturgical novelty just to keep people on their toes. Find one that understands the necessity of ritual and symbol in the life of the Christian faith.
So in our conversation this week we’re going to talk about worship. In your experience of worship, whether in church or other settings, where do you find meaning? What “does it” for you, and what do you find gets in the way? What does “good worship” mean to you? Have you experienced “bad worship” and do you believe it is as destructive as Aigner argues?
Join us for the discussion this Tuesday evening, Feb. 11, starting at 7 pm at Homegrown Brewing Company in downtown Oxford.