Not long ago, in a church not that far away …
We’re trying to do different styles of worship at Green Pastures. This is a relatively new experience for the ‘little church on the prairie’, although there have been short-term forays into ‘contemporary’ worship. Basically, this meant that they used the rainbow of books, rather than the ‘black book’ or the supplement.
Green Pastures—and I would guess many small country churches throughout Australia—have been worshipping in the same way for so long that they no longer need books (except to avoid making eye contact with the pastor).
The ‘rebellion’ from traditional worship has created worship wars. But strangely enough, the conflict is rarely ever about the content of the message—it is about music.
The traditionalist will wield the light-sabre of truth that says the ‘rebellion’ is as Ken Collins proclaims: ‘We have actually invented a new, contemporary religion that is based in contemporary marketing techniques and expressed in contemporary entertainment genres. It is inherently narcissistic, because it is worship the way I want it, in ways that please me.’
If the shoe fits, says the contemporarian, wear it. The traditionalists would say that traditional worship is all about what fits ‘them’, not just hymnody, but also worship times, worship attire and worship etiquette.
Few will listen. As we have tried to compromise, I have noticed that, by and large, those who appreciate traditional worship will not attend the non-traditional—and vice versa. Whether this happens simply because of worship time or for another reason, it matters not—because we have fulfilled the Ken Collins prophecy that worship is inherently narcissistic.
It’s all about me and what I get out of it.
Luther would roll over in his grave, I think. Worship, in its most basic sense, is how God comes to us in word and sacrament and reveals himself to us, reminding us of his steadfast love in Jesus Christ.
The ultimate change of worship—and the one that will bring about the eventual signing of the surrender of both sides of worship wars—is the change of attitude, not the change of music.
Eventually Green Pastures, and hopefully other churches, will understand that the inherent position of worship is bowing down, face to the ground in wonder and awe that God has come to us, for us. The music is simply an expression of emotion in response.
I have a new hope for Green Pastures.
Reid Matthias is pastor of Green Pastures Lutheran Church, Lockrose, Queensland.