The Chronicle began its journey to examine worship by requesting three essays by ministers Jack Reese, Dan Dozier and Prentice Meador. We planned to run the three in one issue. Soon it became obvious that the weight of
what was said, the intensity with which the issue is regarded and the scope of what binds, as well as divides us, was immense. For those reasons we have extended our coverage to a three-part series and expanded our dialogue. From the beginning of the series we have asked for responses from our readers. We have been gratified by the scope and number we have received — from hand-written missives to e-mail messages. We have excerpted a few responses below. All responses are posted on: www.christianchronicle.org.
The notion, so prevalent in our churches, that "every act of worship must be authorized to be acceptable" and that Christian worship must be performed according to "ordinances of divine service" is an import from the Old Testament temple service (See Heb. 9:1). ... But all that was done away at the cross. --Kurt Simmons, Lyons, Kan.
When people use the words, "style," "personal preference," "tastes," "feelings," "excitement," "relevant," and "cutting-edge" the church is simply borrowing the dominate vocabulary of a consumer, therapeutic, entertainment culture. In other words, the terms of the discussion have already been framed and stacked against a thoroughly Christian reflection and resolution to this debate.
It is my prayer that any discussion or debate about worship be borrowed from scripture, the household of faith, and the consensus of the faithful through the ages as opposed to the passing winds of the moment. Let us pray for wisdom, patience, humility and a spirit of love as we worship God in a worthy manner. --Robert M. Woods, Montgomery, Ala.
The "worship wars" waged in the Church today seem clearly to be the result of members not "setting their minds on things above" (Col. 3:2) and refusing to allow their spirits to "be still and know that [He] is God" (Ps. 46:10). Sadly, far too many church members are far too busy setting their minds on their own desires and believing that they, rather than God and His purposes, should be satisfied by their worship. --K. David Kenser, Antioch, Calif.
"Is not this the type of fast I have chosen: ... Is it not to share your food with the hungry." ... (Isa. 58:6-7). Could it be that the Lord would prefer that we bake cookies for persons with AIDS instead of squabbling over the selection of songs for our assemblies? At a time when more and more people are searching for spiritual meaning in their lives, churches of Christ are declining in membership. I wonder why ... --Paul Ammons, Athens, Ga.
Ours is not a war of "petty disagreements" with those who advocate departures from biblical teachings and examples, neither is the issue one of "worship styles" or "preferences." We are instead engaged in a battle for the very survival of non-denominational Christianity according to the pattern handed down by Jesus Christ through his apostles. "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:13, NIV). --Hans Wasner, North Richland Hills, Texas
As many of our congregations move away from our suburban "roots," and become more urban, diversified congregations, we sometimes find ourselves "killing the spirit" of our brothers and sisters of different cultural backgrounds, who express their joy at finding the freedom that Jesus Christ gives to us all.
Unfortunately we who are "established" members take away the very freedom that is the basis for their joy! We place restrictions on clapping; on standing up to express joy and enthusiasm for a worship team, or visiting group. Lord forgive us!
On the other hand, those of us who claim to be "progressive" (whatever that means) fall into a similar trap. At the same time that we lament the strident "traditionalists," we, too, create "laws where Christ has set not laws." We, too, want everyone to "follow our progressive way." Again, in our arrogance we fail to see that we miss the mark no less than the very ones we condemn. --Arthur and Carlotta Wint, Fresno, Calif.
Jack Reese would agree with Bruce Leafblad in "Worship Leader," April-May l992: "The crisis in worship today is not a crisis of form but of spirituality. ... It is possible to totally redo a congregation’s worship service, replacing its basic format, forms and style with a totally new set and yet be entirely outside the renewing work of the Spirit....The great need of the church today is neither to cling to the old nor to create new formats and forms. Our greatest need today is to recover the priority of God in our worship and in the whole of life." --Ann Sewell, Searcy, Ark.
If we are going to offer the worship in spirit and in truth which God desires, this will require us to have first surrendered our will to His will. What God has prescribed will gladly be offered up.
The fundamental war over worship is the battle which rages over who will be the love of our hearts.
We do not need a new message. Perhaps the old message with new metaphors can be helpful in reaching out to our society and even to the church, but we do not need a new message. --Lynn Newton, San Jose, Calif.
If people attend services to have themselves fulfilled and entertained; if they go because they want to fulfill their sense of need for worship they go for the wrong reason.
We should be there for others and to fulfill their need to be built up, we should be there to see Jesus and Him crucified and to remember his love for us, and however that is accomplished, well let it be. --Dick James, Jr., South Williamsport, Penn.
Certainly understanding what worship is truly about should help resolve some of the current difficulties in our churches. This should at least be the first step. I am not certain that it will eliminate the problem because we must still decide how we will worship, after we understand why. --Dick Stephens, Brighton, Mich.
Clapping, choruses, praise teams etc. is adding to God’s word. If the worship services are dull and embarrassing to some, may I suggest that this is a heart problem and in these cases there is a surrendering that does need to take place and a realization as to whom we belong (Rom. 14:8). --Jodie Boren, Abilene, Texas
I'm afraid if we don't make some changes in our worship, we will lose many of our younger generation. I think we've already lost the first round with the 20 to 30 year olds. They have a sincere desire to worship, but they are from a media world. They have a great desire to serve. If they can't find it in our traditional services, I'm afraid they'll form their own churches as some have been doing, or not go anywhere. --Girree Notter, via e-mail
Dozier charges "The worship found in many congregations is lifeless and without the kind of passion that touches our heart and soul." That depends on whose heart and whose soul. If a soul requires hand clapping and praise teams to stir his heart and soul, that soul would be disappointed in many churches. He even endorsed "holy laughter." If you saw Peter Jennings’ show in 1996 that included a worship service of "holy laughter," I think most devout Christians would be revolted. --Lewis Hale, Oklahoma City
I have read, with interest, the Chronicle’s series "Worthy is our Worship?" It is a subject that, I believe, deserves the space and effort that the Chronicle has dedicated to the subject. ... It seems to me that worship in the New Testament is not confined to a building or temple edifice. Worship, praise and glorifying God seem to take place twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in the "temple" of the disciples’ life. I hope that our fellowship will continue to "search the Scriptures" and not lose the spirit of Restoration and kindness. --Randy Foshee, Canon City, Colo.