I am concerned over how worship has become a program, a show, and entertainment. Once again the problem is a self-centered and presentational approach to worship. . . . Presentational worship turns true worship on its head. If worship is truly doing God’s story and calling people to find their life and story by entering God’s story, then the style of worship is prayer.  -Robert E. Webber,Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 25.

This is something I try to check with myself in my role at Emmanuel Community Church.  It seems to me what Webber is talking about is not simply the use of technology, but of the attitude towards worship connected to presentation and therefore technology.

So how does this play itself out?  This past weekend, we sang both a hymn and choruses.  We read scripture.  We had a time of prayer centered on our confession that too many times we seek our own kingdoms.  We had a time of preaching and the giving of tithes and offerings.  And all of this structured between a Call to Worship and a Benediction.  However, we also had three large video screens w/ moving backgrounds for lyrics, videos and LED moving lights.  Is that a good balance?  Is it more entertainment than worship?  I hope not, but I think it’s only by asking the question that we are able to live in a creative tension of using technology without reducing worship to a show.

Any comments?  Thoughts?

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7 thoughts on “

  1. I am not sure I understand the Webber quote without its context. Is he contrasting “presentational worship” on the one hand with “prayer” on the other hand?

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    1. Scott, thanks for the comment. I have read a number of Weber books, but I have to confess that I haven’t finished “Ancient-Future Worship” yet. However, Weber repeats himself a lot. Reading the passage, I think the contrast is between “presentational worship” which he defines as being narcissistic because it’s mostly about me. The other side is worship that tells God’s story and calls people to find their lives inside that story. Here is where I need to do some reading because I think that the process for doing that includes prayer. Prayer in that we are reflecting on God’s acts of salvation through history and continuing the conversation He started…at least I think that is what he means. This is why I mention technology because I think it’s easy to make all the tech in church about me (Or about “engaging the congregation” which is basically the same thing) instead of asking, “How can we use this tool to better tell God’s story”. Not sure if that answers the question, but that is the creative tension I’m living in…

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  2. Keep paying attention to the tension, Sam! I am glad you are reading Webber, and anyone else that makes you reflect on serving in the best ways you can. James 1.5.

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  3. Anyone who is both worshiper and performer is bound to feel this tension, and that’s a good thing. If you stop worrying about it…then it’s probably a problem! I think one key is continually finding ways to invite the congregation to be actively participating/engaging during the worship. If it’s a soloist, are the lyrics there for people who are more visual than auditory to meditate on? If an instrumental solo, is there a Bible verse to meditate on? Is new music introduced sensitively, so that everyone catches on quickly? Does the worship leader guide the congregation’s thoughts from song to song, so that they can see the progression? These are all things I’m confident that you are doing, Sam. But it’s a good and perennial topic to examine. I’m also a fan of the pastor preaching on worship once or twice a year so that the congregation gets a refresher course in corporate worship.

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    1. Yes, to all of that, Laurie! Stay in that tension…yes. Have your pastor preach on worship once per year…YES? Question: does your pastor preach about worship on a yearly basis?

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      1. No…although I’ve advocated for it more than once. We have had pastors who did so, in the past.

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