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Worship styles

I find myself in the odd position of being quite fond of two very different styles of worship, and being in need of both for a balanced spiritual life - and I gladly defend both from their detractors.

For years I have been fond of contemporary worship, and find it very conducive for spiritual growth and real worship. Some criticize it for its subjective and emotional nature, but in fact that is its advantage, and why I defend it, as it offers something lacking in many forms of worship in traditional churches. Traditional church worship can be lifeless, and most of all, a hollow ritual, an expression of mere religious rationalism or ritualistic religion (but not necessarily; see below). It is objective to an unhealthy degree. You see, Christianity is about a personal, daily-life relationship with God that we are to experience in a real way. It's about a personal relationship with God, not just an intellectual relationship or intellectual religious experience. Modern worship brings that out. It allows one to develop that crucial aspect of Christian spirituality, to experience God in worship, to worship in a meaningful way. Engaging in contemporary worship was revolutionary for my spiritual life, making my walk with God more real, and helping me get away from cold, intellectual spirituality.

That subjective element is important. It's an essential part of Christian living. God commanded us to love him with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6). That means intellectually, mentally, and emotionally, with all our being. In particular, that's in the word 'strength', which in Hebrew ['odeka] means also 'passion, intensity, all, utterly'. Modern worship brings out that crucial, practical, relational, passionate aspect of worship and experiencing God that the Bible commands.

My problem, though, is with superficial worship, which can be done just as easily with modern or traditional worship, like going thru the motions, excessive emotionalism without substance, pretending, doing it as mere ritual. Another significant problem I see is in how some churches today are taking contemporary worship too far. For example, amps cranked up loud, three electric guitars, and harsh, loud music, rather than more conducive, pleasant contemporary music. That leads to excessive emotionalism, and an irreverent worship atmosphere, more like a hard rock rally than worship. I see this in some churches regularly or special services, even holiday services. And I think, what could be next? The worship team wearing studded leather and spandex? Give me a break. That's human emotionalism, it's not reverent or God-focused, and it's not worship.

Proper contemporary worship has benefited me greatly, and even helped me to better appreciate some traditional forms of worship. In fact, I now feel more of an appreciation and need for "high-church" liturgical, formal, traditional worship (e.g., Lutheran, Catholic, even Methodist). It is reverent and emphasizes the greatness, holiness, and other-worldliness of God, and puts us in our proper place. It teaches spiritual discipline, contemplation of God, reverence and fear of God. It emphasizes the eucharist / communion in a way that is more biblical. It provides things like memorized prayers and liturgies that teach us how to pray and respond to God. All in all, it is very Christ-centered, spiritually beneficial, and reverent. And I can certainly experience God and be emotional but also fearful and reverent in this kind of context, not unlike in contemporary worship.

All in all, I think both styles are important, and should be accorded importance and balance.

BTW, I've found some good sermons online in German from a new church in Hamburg: http://www.icf-network.de [Prädigten auf Deutsch von der ICF-Gemeinde, Hamburg; ein bißschen schwer zu verstehen, weil der Prädiger einen schweizerischen Akzent hat].

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