Mark Galli, in his article Seeker Unfriendly on Christianity Today, writes on the accessibility of worship to the seeker or newcomer. Part of what I like about this article is that it is referring more to modern or contemporary worship styles as being inaccessible, which is exactly the issue the modern/contemporary style was to address, to the newcomer.
The traditional liturgies of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, and other churches are often criticized, with some justification, as being stilted and too formal. That the traditional liturgies prevent worship of and communion with God. I have never found that to be the case for myself, but know others who have. The church we attend now, The Moscow Church of the Nazarene, put me off initially with its contemporary worship, as that style, for me, is not as comfortable as the traditional liturgies.
That being said, I am not a seeker of liturgies or worship styles (though they can color my initial impression), but a seeker of the Word of God being preached, and that is what I found at The Moscow Church of the Nazarene. However, I would like to say that “worship” is another word that has been redefined to mean something different that what did mean. What people really mean when they say, “contemporary worship,” is really, “contemporary liturgy.” The word liturgy has been maligned in the, for lack of a better word to used, Evangelical community, because they believe it means only the traditional liturgies.
For example, The Moscow Church of the Nazarene has an order of worship:
- intro music
- three (sometimes four) songs
- reading from the Bible
- more singing
- prayer for the offering
- offering, with an individual or small group singing during the offering
- post-sermon prayer
I wouldn’t be surprised if I made an error in the order, but that’s okay, because the purpose wasn’t to put the worship into a time line, but to point out that this is consistent, week-to-week (with a few special event changes, of course). This is a liturgy, folks. Now, if I don’t like singing (by either myself or by others), I’m going to be in big trouble here, but that isn’t the point.
Any liturgy (or worship style, if you prefer), is going to turn some people off. There is no pleasing everyone all of the time. There must be a balance, but it must be a flexible balance, with plenty of give and take, and room to expand, and permission to contract.