Monday, July 11, 2011

"A sense of awe and reverence, mystery and transcendence"

"Chaplain Mike" revisits Robert E. Webber's Worship Old and New and describes "Nine Proposals" resulting from the discussions Webber had with his students at Wheaton about worship. The proposals and summaries can be found here. A selection:
PROPOSAL TWO: Acknowledge the distinction between services for worship and services for teaching.
At the time, it was observed that the sermon held such a prominent place in evangelical, Bible-believing churches, that the emphasis was on teaching or evangelism and not on worship as understood traditionally. At the time, students suggested having at least one meeting a week devoted to worship, using other gatherings for teaching and outreach.

Since that time, it would be my opinion that what has happened is this: the seeker and other church-growth movements have created a new portion within the service itself—the “worship set”—meaning a more extended period of singing led by a praise and worship band. In other words, instead of building upon the history and tradition of Christian worship, the “contemporary” church has come up with a new, more limited definition of worship. The sermon remains prominent in the service, and to it was added a new component understood as “worship.” ....

PROPOSAL FOUR: Orient worship toward God rather than human beings.
Here’s a quote from Webber’s book: “Many students felt that the worship of their church was more oriented toward human beings and their experience than toward God. They pointed to the current trend in Christian music that emphasizes a near narcissistic self-interest and to the entertainment approach in worship that attracts the crowds but fails to lead them into the praise of God’s person and work.”

What does it say that we are still engaged in discussing these same issues thirty years later?

PROPOSAL FIVE: Restore a sense of awe and reverence, mystery and transcendence.
Students in Webber’s classes were concerned about the casual atmosphere in evangelical churches. What would they say today about an entire movement that uses the concept “casual” as a way of attracting people and telling them it is the very reason should come to our church? ....

PROPOSAL SEVEN: Restore congregational involvement in worship.
One weakness of typical evangelical worship pointed out by Webber’s students was the lack of active participation in the service. The pattern was: sit or stand, sing, and listen while those up front do most everything. From my perspective, the main difference today is that the congregation sings more, but not much else. .... [more]
"Chaplain Mike" writes that Webber "...studied, participated in, and learned to appreciate a wide variety of Christian worship expressions. One of his goals was to encourage the church to come to some fundamental understandings about worship and then let the Holy Spirit build upon those within each tradition." Another of Webber's early books was Common Roots: A Call to Evangelical Maturity  — the first of his that I read — arguing that Evangelicals need to recover a connection with the historic Church. Two chapters address "The Meaning of Worship" and "The Form of Worship" and were, when read, the first time I had thought seriously about the subject.

Worship: Robert Webber’s Proposals |

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