Does your worship style connect you to the holy one?

I’ve heard people complain about how they find new worship styles so distasteful.  For them, it seems unholy and does not in any way connect them to a holy God.  After experiencing such a disappointing worship service, they walk out feeling like they haven’t worshiped at all.  Have you heard this before?  Ditto for younger persons who walk into a traditional service with 16–18th century hymns and all.   We like to worship the way we’ve always worshiped because that’s how it’s always been done.  When the worship commitee or pastor wants to implement a change, complaints then turn into chaos within the congregation.   Is this why so many of our younger people have walked away from the church because they’ve become disinterested in less-meaningful worship?  Maybe.

N. Graham Standish, a pastor and author who writes on revitalizing worship says:

“Many people have wanted a tangible, transforming encounter with God but have never found it in worship, because worship has been focused on everything but that transforming encounter.”

In either styles of worship, whether one has felt and experienced the holy and divine can vary between each individual.  I do not wish to generalize and categorize anyone.  Some can appreciate both styles but most can only appreciate either one or the other.  What I have most commonly found is that the older generations tend to prefer the traditional forms, whereas, the younger tend to prefer newer forms because it’s there that either feel connected with the holy one.  I guess I stand in between the old and young.  Both are legitimate forms/styles but why do people from either side complain about the other?  I think this is why we get into worship wars, e.g., traditional vs contemporary?

Our traditional forms of worship were at one point in time considered very contemporary. Today, the 2-3 century old forms of contemporary have become archaic to some younger generations.  Unknowingly, traditional forms have moved from a spiritual approach to a functional approach that just maintains the status quo from centuries or decades past.

Standish continues:

“In their attempt to hold onto what was, they neglect the experience of the Holy that anchored the previous generations’ worship. So they imitate the forms of worship that led people of the past to the Holy, while neglecting the holy passion that led to the creation of those forms. In effect, they just stop asking whether what they are doing is helping people to sense God’s presence in worship.” Full article from Alban…

In order to be a missional church, should we be constantly re-forming worship styles for each proceeding generation?  If so, we may have to re-invent newer forms as each “contemporary” form becomes old.  This may also mean that we will have to have separate churches and/or services for the newer and the older, thereby, losing our intergenerational connections.  Is compromise possible?

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

11 thoughts on “Does your worship style connect you to the holy one?”

  1. I don’t have any suggestions, but my short answer to your post title is a definite “no.”

    I haven’t seen much evidence that compromise is possible, and the generation gap and expectation differences are stifling. My current stand-by for conversations is that I think change will happen in about 10-20 years as the older folks start dying off or cease to have a major voice in the day-to-day operations.

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  2. Not all the youths today are pro-“contemporary” worship. I attend a UMC with a traditional liturgy, and we always get new young attendees who have left their previous churches for being too loud, too disorganized, or for being too “faux hip”.

    And at 31, it’ll take more than 10-20 years for me and others to die off. Maybe 50?

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  3. Nathan, you weren’t taken as being overly serious. Your view is very common amongst younger people. It’s such a challenge to satisfy everyone. I’m not sure if it’s possible.

    Qohelet, do you think youths could go for a mix of contemporary music with traditional liturgy? I visited a RCC church with this mixture and really enjoyed it.

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  4. Our church does a contemporary youth oriented worship on Wed. night. On Sunday it is strictly hymns.

    I’m not really sure where I stand on worship. It’s been so long since I’ve experienced anything that has helped me to really worship God through music at a church. My experiences with God are purely theological at this point, and perhaps relational as well. I experience God through music when I listen to great artists, but not in a church building. Hopefully that will change eventually, but I’m not concerned about it anymore.

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    1. My experiences with God are purely theological at this point…

      Experiencing God with our mind is absolutely essential, but our heart must come into it too. Too many of our churches seem to be either/or but not both. There seems to be a need for both.

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      1. I agree. My faith journey was originally more experience-based. It has now become more theologically grounded. Still working out the proper balance as things are revealed and situations change. Above all I try to be open to what God has for me.

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  5. Kevin,

    This is great stuff. In the last few years, I’ve discovered that worship styles aren’t really that important, though we have been them that way. What is really important is that “transforming encounter.”

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  6. TC, yes, a “transforming encounter”! I hope that should be our purpose in worship but too bad many churches don’t get it.

    Worship styles seem to be changing all the time. For me, I remember the days of the hymnals, then Maranatha/Integrity, then Vineyard, and now back to hymnals for me. What a cycle!

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  7. I’m a little late to this conversation, but quite intrigued. We’re working hard in our church to re-connect our generations with one another — a slow climb that is well worth the effort. We’re trying to encourage people to emphasize “preferring one another” (Paul’s phrase) over “preferring the style that I’m used to.” Don’t you think that “experiencing God” has a lot to do with “experiencing one-ness with the people of God”?

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  8. Scott, church has become too self-focused and individualistic so your church’s re-emphasis on connecting one another within the community is a really good thing. I think like this is what God wants.

    btw, you just started a new blog!

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