Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Future of Contemporary Worship

One of the practical concerns about contemporary worship is having pastors who are competent to plan and lead it. Contemporary worship places far greater demands on pastors than traditional worship. In traditional services, the order, readings, introits and the like are all laid out. With the resources available, even many of the hymns are virtually predetermined. Contemporary worship is a new production, top to bottom each week. The pastor or worship planner has to spend a great deal of time in worship planning. Then, because it is different each week, it also must be rehearsed to have good execution. This requires more time. One has to be pretty committed to contemporary worship to put in that kind of time, especially with the time demands for sick calls, meetings, and the like.

The problem in the LCMS is that the young pastors, age 45 and younger have no interest in contemporary worship. Further, they see no value in it. There is no real world evidence that it actually increases growth. That was one of the stunners from the Klaas report from the mid 1990's. (Incredibly, the Klaas report, though their data showed no benefit to contemporary worship, still insisted that the best course of action was for every congregation to offer both traditional and contemporary services.) So the younger pastors, who see no benefit to it, will not invest the time in it. Most the guys my age and younger actually just refuse to do contemporary worship at all. So what will happen to those congregations that do contemporary worship when the current crop of pastors retire? Most will check out in the next ten years. Where will they get their pastors from? I can actually envision a time coming when we have a block of pastors sitting without calls at the same time as we have large numbers of congregations vacant. The pastors won't do contemporary worship and the congregations will only call pastors who are open to it.

We've already had one incident where a pastor told a congregation right up front that he didn't do contemporary worship and was removed from his call. In this shameful case, the pastor asked the congregation to tell him up front if his refusal to do contemporary worship would cause a problem. He only accepted the call after he was assured that it would not. After he was installed the elders "ordered" him to do contemporary worship. When he refused and pointed them to his earlier discussion with them, which I believe was in writing, they rescinded his call.
I fear we may have more such incidents in the future.


Anonymous said...

It is because real worship means meaningful subjective experience. Make me feel good, pastor (or worship leader).

What is that Billy Joel song about playing in the bar that has the microphone smelling like a beer? Help them forget life for a while. That is what people want. Deep moving emotional power. That is spiritual. That is what is thought to be real religion and the real God making it happen behind it.

Yet, not with truth that calls sin what it is and then real forgiveness of sins--real reasons to feel good.

So with all that to make happen each weak, who has time to prepare a good sermon? It is just more "rah, rah" instead. Motivational speaking that dove tails nicely with the music. No talk of real in your face sin. No talk of judgment. That would be a downer.

Without real Law that points to real sin, there is no Gospel (no need for it) to heal, forgive, fix and grant eternal life.

All they have then is that moment--that intense emotion. Sin remains. Forgiveness is not given--at least not by God. The pastor may talk as if all if good, right and fine. But if people are left in that state, with their sins still there, where are they heading?

Pastor David Emmons

kari said...

Don't they believe that their sins are forgiven anyways by Jesus? I know what you're saying here. But the same people that love contemporary worship may not think they need to hear the words spoken "In the stead and by the commands of Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.... Those are such comforting words to hear for us poor miserable sinners, at least for this poor, miserable sinner. Since they're given no real law, they don't realize they're poor, miserable sinners, too. It's the emotional high that counts.