Thursday, September 27, 2007

Worship Evangelism: The Ghost of Churches Past?

This is a must read. Powerful, insightful...and pretty long. But if you only read one article this month, make it this one.

Hey, if you find it important, invite your comrades here to hash it over.


void77 said...

Does anybody know of a Psalm David wrote that didn’t “resolve” though? I mean, I hear what the critic is saying about worship songs not having any anger, despair, etc. And David definitely includes those emotions/experiences in his writings… But it seems to me that he always included a “but” (albeit, sometimes short) that mentions something about the glory of God, or how he will pull him through, or something to turn it around.

I agree… To be authentic, we can’t ignore the “darker” emotions of humanity… But part of the message is that we have hope through the salvation of Jesus Christ. So we have to be true to delivering that as well, or why bother? That’s kind of the point!

….just rambling….

scott said...

Good points, Eric. And you are right, most of the time, David *did* "resolve" towards the end, even if briefly. But the thing is, how many of our worship songs even have ANY of that honest "darker" emotions of humanity?

We pointed out back here about how feminine much of the modern worship service is. I'm realizing that it's nearly impossible for me to look at worship from an unbiased, unexperienced perspective. That's why the part of the article with the "unchurched" person giving a description of worship was so interesting to me.

I really have no way of looking at it the same way that an unchurched person does. I've sat in churches nearly every week (multiple times per week) for 30 years. Honestly, what do *I* know about the unchurched?

Joe B said...

Interesting. I questioned the premise that the unchurched are looking for a bit more angst in their lives. What they want is authenticity, not anxiety. I see the connection, but we need to see the distinction, too.

I am not a "student of worship", but I'm into evangelism. I have always tended to think that the evangelistic power of worship is that it forces the outsider to witness and contemplate that these other people see reality in God, and that they identify with God and humble themselves for him. Really, and not just in a "bumper sticker or t-shirt way."

I remember going to a powerful charismatic service and actually saying under my breath, "What now? Now I've seen God." It forces a reckoning. I think the problem now is that people can not identify as a large (mass) group.

brian said...

I read Morgenthaler´s book back in 1999, and I didn´t buy into its premise then. I certainly don´t now.

But then, you guys know me well enough that I believe that when we curtail our worship to attract nonbelievers, it is a castrated mockery of our faith, completely devoid of substance.

Joe B said...

Gosh, was that the premise of Morgenthaler's book? "Curtail your worship to attract outsiders"? Sounds like you were in a mood when you read it. Every review seems to identify the premise as: "True Christian worship is a powerful tool of evangelism, contrary to the common perception that seekers services are the only way to mass-evangelize in the 21st century." Her four elements of (evangelistically) effective worship are: (1) Nearness - a sense of God's presence; (2) Knowledge - worship centered on Christ; (3) Vulnerability - opening up to God; and (4) Interaction - participating in a relationship with God and others.
Do you disagree with something in there?

Every curtailment of worship is a castrated mockery of faith, isn't it? So what IS acceptable, and how much IS enough? What MAKES it acceptable? Duration? Intensity? Exuberance? Brokenness?

Can our worship ever equal God's grandeur, and if not does that mean it is unacceptable?

void77 said...


void77 said...

I have not read the book. So I can’t really speak for or against what she wrote. But I do agree that IF we are using our worship services (the part with the band and singers) as just another Seeker-Oriented marketing tool, well, yeah… that’s wrong. It’s a question of motive. Glitz and glam is not the preferred method of “winning people” to Christ. As said before, that only happens through the MIRACULOUS involvement of the Holy Spirit. Jesus died to save everyone; but our own broken/human hearts are not capable of accepting it on our own. The Holy Spirit takes care of that for us.

So, what then would be the purpose of a musical worship service? Um, I don’t know… maybe to glorify God? Does it have to be any more complicated than that? To simply take a few moments to surrender our own pride, our own desires, our own vanity to submit to his ultimate authority and honor him through the gift of songs and music that he has given us all. And, at the risk of going “transubstantial,” personally, I believe that something supernatural does in fact take place during worship. That God really does let us feel his presence in a physical manner. Call it endorphins or what you will, but it is God. And coming into the presence of God is transforming. Granted, we don’t all come away with white hair and glowing faces, but when you’ve been touched by God, you’re changed. And if that’s not Seeker Oriented, I don’t know what is.

So yeah, I can see how the idea of Worship Evangelism can work. Its our own human pride and desires the get in the way and screw it all up!

Peace out, dawgs!

brian said...

Who, me? In a mood?!? :)

Let me expound and clarify. I think that when we engage in the physical motions of worship with any other intent than to glorify God, we are in error. That is why the general premise of the book turned me off. She had a lot of really good things to say, but my thought is that the premise is flawed.

Do nonbelievers need to experience God´s presence? Absolutely. It´s much more powerful than our cute little programming, anyway.

However, when we say that worship is a tool for ANYTHING, be it evangelism, (or a tool for spiritual warfare, or for emotional healing) or whatever teaching that has come out in the last 20 years, then we are in error. Our intentions in worship may be a little less than pure when we say it´s a tool for anything. Worship is meant for us to glorify God. If he chooses to do anything else in that act, then wonderful. If not, then at worst, we have glorified Him with a sincere heart.

Joe B said...

Is "to glorify God" meant in some private sense, like "not to glorify him before man and only to warm his heart in a way that cannot be observed"?

The very fact that worship is collective and public suggests that it is "for" something beyond God's private viewing pleasure.

It just seems like you're drawing a sharp line where reality is more of a fade. When one sharpens a fuzzy line one necessarily is getting in the business of defining who/what is on which side of it.

As a broad principle, heck yes: worship is for the glory of God, and it is not a church-growth tool. As you get more specific though, can one say that a given worship event may NOT be used as a tool? Like, "this is going to be a wonderful night of worship, lets invite outsiders." Or, "every time we have one of these worship-fests it seems like someone gets saved--lets start deliberately inviting people to them and filling the dunking-tank."

I don't think using worship as a tool in those contexts has crossed any line, has it?

That's my answer to everything: close one eye ad squint the other -- pretty soon everything looks just fine!

Joe B said...

Yeah, Brian. you are in the line of fire of a lot of silly things in the worship wars.

I see why the "tool" thing gets you raw.

void77 said...

I think that the problem is the age old question of motive. When we start trying to "use" God/Holy Spirit to win people, we're just getting in the way. Yes, worship can be both a "private" act and a "corporate" event that glorifies God. But when we are "using" it with the express purpose to "win" people, we're applying a formula to God's divine power. Just worship him, and get out of the way. Unfortunately, the way it has all gone, we think that we have to sell God to people, and that marketing channel is the production. I say, we can still have the production, and still be authentic, and God can still be glorified, and we can still be out of the way.

Kum-bay-yah, my Lord....Kum-bay-yah.... :)

Joe B said...

I think everything people touch, regardless of their sterling motives, gets tainted and periodically has to be burned to the ground for a fresh beginning in liberating poverty.

Hey! Ho! Let's Go!

McSpaniard said...

Amen, Eric!

BTW, I converted my google account into a blogger account, which is why Brian is now posting as McSpaniard.


Joe B said...

I like McSpaniard. Excellent turn of alias!

void77 said...

Awwww, come one! Whatever happened to Macca !!

Someone turn on the lights and watch the roaches scatter !!!!

(nobody else get's that...)

McSpaniard said...

Oh yeah, Macca. Forgot about that one.

There´s a lot of bad roaches in here.

Macca said...

There, are you happy, Eric?