Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who is Fighting the "Worship Wars"?

One of my “Christmas books” that I am just getting to finish was a recent paperback by Gary Nelson entitled Borderland Churches: A Congregation’s Introduction to Missional Living.
The book is about missional living on the congregational level, about the church engaging the culture that surrounds it in the borderland between faith and unbelief. For the church to live out its mission in the borderlands, we will have to understand that the mission field isn’t over there, it’s in our back yard. Borderland ministries, to be faithfully relevant, must move from a “come to” (attractional) understanding to a “go to” (incarnational) one. Borderland ministry requires a great deal of willingness to embrace radical change. But to those of us who preach change, he warns this call to change is not mere tinkering. True change, he points out moves beyond the superficial, beyond simply changing the style of music, to changing attitudes and presuppositions. He particularly speaks to the time and effort those of us in established denominations have spent in fighting the “worship wars”…

Learning to sing in this strange time has little to do with choruses or hymns. The cosmetic worship changes of the last decades of church life, while at times helpful, have also proven distracting. The desire to be more appealing and relevant in the rhythms of our worship to those who live in the borderlands is genuine. For some churches, altering our songs of worship was the beginning of a journey toward relevance and impact. However, the worship wars of the last two decades of the twentieth century were moments of trivial pursuit. They placed simplistic and shallow characteristics on people outside the influence of the church, making it sound too often as if borderland people were simply sitting at home on Sunday waiting for us as the church to change our worship. If it only changed, they would come. If we seek to engage people in meaningful dialog, we must engage them at deeper ;levels. Borderland people are not superficial. They are unlikely to be drawn into our world by the simple alteration of our music. Your next-door neighbor is not likely to be asking why you do not sing choruses. People searching spiritually are not agonizing over the hardness of our pews. Many of them are simply living in the sincere belief that they have found a much more meaningful way to live their lives on Sunday, let alone Monday and beyond. The song we must learn to sing is much more profound than a chorus or a hymn. It is about attitudes and presuppositions. It is about atmosphere where we offer genuine community and authentic relationships. The song seeks to answer the question of what it means to be the church relevantly in this context and these times. Trapped in our memories, we only hinder the sense of urgency required to initiate change. P. 17

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