Friday, October 19, 2012

What I Wish the Church Would Change Part 2

So much has changed in the world since I went to my first church service as an infant in the 50's. I'm pretty sure that I could recreate every Sunday from the subsequent memories I had growing up as a pastor's kid: prelude, three or four hymns, prayer, announcements, offering, special music, sermon, closing hymn, postlude.

Half of a typical church service involves music and related art forms. I maintain that the art itself might inform the worship experience in ways that are non traditional.

A typical church service in 2012 would be along these lines: piped-in pre-music, several worship songs, announcements, offering,  sermon, closing song, piped-in closing music. The only real variable is the musical style.

To look at a  church service from the previous century you'd think God inhabited only praise of the organ and chordal hymnody. Enter cultural revolution. A look at the modern church might make one think God's favor rests on the guitar, drum set and syncopated crooning. God, of course, isn't the one with the preferences. We are. And sure we've changed from the 50's, but we're still in a rut of another kind. Must we be limited to an era-correct group of composers? My apologies to Hillsong, but they are not the end-all answer to corporate worship.  Are we limited to "christian music" ? Doesn't God own all song, all melody, all rhythm? Have I lost any of you here?

After centuries of musical revolution, millions of choices present themselves. What if churches were open to all forms AND styles of music? What if they sung or performed something from Les Miserables or Rent, *gasp* in order to illustrate a point in a way that most Americans are going to experience at least once in their lives outside a church setting. What if the congregation brought their personal forms of art to share publicly? Some of these ideas have been implemented in some of the mega-churches but they are still considered somewhat avant guard. It's not the way we've always done it. We might be able to integrate contemporary music but don't mess with the song and sermon template.

What if a church Christmas program consisted of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol in it's original form? Stravinsky's Rite of Spring just before Easter, and Handel's Messiah after? What if the organ and the guitar could lie down together? Kneeling benches AND hand raising?

What if we turned off the amps every now and then? What if the singers sang without a microphones, or we sat while we sang and stood up while the preacher spoke, like they did in Shakespeare's plays. For that matter, how about a Shakespearean play at church? There's some pretty pithy stuff in the The Merchant of Venice, for example, that still resonates. Isn't all wisdom God's too? Or, a simpler solution might be encouraging members to attend a local theater production and then host a discussion time at a local coffee shop about the concepts the performance explored. Most Americans spend time and money at Starbucks and the Cinema. Why doesn't the church join them there, spreading the fragrance of Christ intentionally in everyday places as the main focus of their ministry? It would also save a lot of time and money by cutting the number of corporate services.

Can you tell I'm feeling restless? I confess I'm more than a little bored of songs, message, go home,  and come back on Sunday and do it all over again. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for meeting together as believers. I just think a little 'pull focus' could revitalize our mission.

If God is God, He is bigger than life. It's time we began integrating our real lives and our worship experience.  Who's ready to stop trying to pretend that we're satisfied with worshiping Him through a pinhole when the universe itself cannot contain Him? Christians, of all the people on earth should be the ones presenting the vastness of God and His creativity to the world.

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