Working through Webber’s “Ancient-Future Worship” has once again brought me colliding with statements that conflict not only with contemporary thought, but in many instances, contemporary practice of worship. Consider this:
“I am concerned over how worship has become a program, a show, and entertainment. Once again the problem is a self-centered and presentational approach to worship. If we think worship is about me, or if we are trying to sell people on worship and lure them to receive Jesus into their lives, then I can see the value of all entertaining programs. But once again, presentational worship turns true worship on its head. If worship is truly doing God’s story and calling people to find their life and story by entering God’s story, then the style of worship is prayer.”
A few years ago I taught a study based on Mark Dever’s 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. In the introduction Dr. Dever pointed out that in many traditional evangelical churches, the time of gathering for corporate worship has become nothing more than a stationary evangelistic rally. I think that point is echoed here by Webber. The influence of Finney and others on worship can be clearly seen as the work of the worship-leader is not bringing people before God to hear and respond to God’s saving work and overarching narrative, but rather to produce a well crafted, emotionally driving, response inducing place where salvation is whittled down to an “event” versus a life-journey. We worry and fret that if we are “too formal”, or “too laid-back”, “too high church” or “not enough substance” that people won’t return, and our churches will fail. I am struck by this reminder again… “worship is doing God’s story”. But so often, we resort not to faith but to pragmatism. This is all good in theory, but this often times falls by the wayside when the pressure of practice meets the demands of a restless congregation.