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IN THE CANDID CORNER: Changes in worship II


Matthew Farley

IN THE CANDID CORNER: Changes in worship II

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A new report that examines changing worship practices in the United States notes that “congregations that have adopted innovative and contemporary worship styles are significantly more likely to have grown in the last five years. (Faithcommunitiestoday.org/report-facts-on-worship)

The report also makes the point that contemporary worship also seems particularly important in attracting young adults. These findings are being used to help congregations to understand how worship practices can affect their vitality and inspire their members.  

The author Majorie Royle, who is the former director of Research for the United Church of Christ, contends that “all in all, quality worship experience is important for congregations that want to grow”. For as she puts it: “Because our culture is changing, congregations may need to change and innovate in their worship to create such an experience.”

The report notes that non-denominational congregations and those from historically black groups have led the way in introducing contemporary worship styles and instruments and other innovations. Sunday morning remains the most common time for worship though it notes that congregations are adding evening services.

This is interesting because Sunday evening service was the norm in most traditional denominations. The dropping of the Sunday evening worship or services is seen as a negative by some church leaders who challenge their congregations to move away from what some call the Sunday morning “charade” that often gives a false view of what is really happening in the “belly” of the particular congregation.

The report which samples approximately 28 000 congregations found that multiple worship services, worship described as joyful, innovative and inspirational, the use of drums, electric guitars and projection equipment were all positively correlated to growth in most churches between 2005 and 2010.  

But with all these changing trends in Christian worship, one might ask: Are there right and wrong ways to worship? When Jesus confronted the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well as He started to reveal the facts of her life, she shifted the focus of the conversation to the issue of worship. The Master declared to her that “God is a Spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24 – King James Version). According to Christianitytoday.com “what makes worship right or wrong is not your posture, your music, or whether you raise your hands, clap your hands. Put simply, you must mean it”. So worshipping in spirit means “you are worshipping inside out and not just through the movement or motions. It means you are being truthful in your words and thoughts that you bring to worship, rather than trying to put on a religious act to impress someone.”

One of the most dramatic changes in what is called non-denominational churches or what some refer to as the prosperity churches is the use of worship dance or worship dance ministry. Many years ago, the use of choreographed dance in the church was unheard of.

Now many churches have developed what is called a dance ministry in which messages of conviction are conveyed through well choreographed movement to worship music. This form of worship is used very effectively and can be as powerful as any sermon from the pulpit.

But dance in the Christian experience is not new. In the Hebrew tradition, dance functioned as a medium of prayer and praise, as an expression of joy and reverence and as a mediator between God and humanity. Miriam and the women danced after the escape from the Egyptians; David danced when the ark is returned to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:16) www.sdg.memberclicks.net. In fact the modern popular gospel song: Who Started The Waving Ting? is claiming that dance and waving started in the church.

In conclusion, as worship expression varies overtime and across denominational boundaries, the fundamental message of salvation remains the same.

Regardless of how it is packaged or delivered using the modern gadgets and social media avenues, in Isaiah 40:8 we are reminded that “the grass withereth, the flower fadeth but the Word of God will endures forever.” May you always find Christ in your worship; for worship is a lifestyle and not a performance.

• Matthew Farley is a former secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum on Education and a social commentator.

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