Monthly Archives: September 2012

Church As Worship? Or Concert Hall Experience.

Presentational technologies have been used in worship such that they control the worship experience of the congregants.  They seek to “wow” others and to compete with secular media. By doing this, there is the temptation to view the rest of our lives as being constructed and manipulated by “devices” in the service of technical rational ends.

In one sense we can’t get away from the use of technologies as I suggested earlier.  The root word for technology comes from the theory of rhetoric or persuasion.  That is, the Greeks realized that words (mostly thinking in terms of writing, words are another technological device as compared to speech) could shape people and societies.

When I speak of “technology” I will use the definition that Quentin Schultz uses (which is where I’m getting most of the information for this blog from).  Technology as he defines it is:

1.  The PHYSICAL DEVICES (or tools) that we use to develop God’s creation.
2.  The MEANINGS we attach to these devices.
3.  The WAYS that we use them.

Technologies have meanings attached to them.  That is, they are not neutral objects.  They convey something.  For example, an automobile will connote freedom and power and status.  A tv will connote entertainment.

So if technology is a tool, a biased one at that, like words, then it will be important that we use our tools wisely.  That is, we should have a “yes,” “but” attitude toward technology.  Yes, they are a part of God’s unfolding creation.  The “but” is that we should not see them as bigger than life ushering in the Kingdom of God.

In the next post we’ll take a look at four approaches for the use of technology:  

Rejection (even the most ardent of today’s evangelical style concert hall critic doesn’t reject all uses of technology), adoption, adaptation and creation.

Church As Worship? Or Concert Hall Experience.


Some Christians have tended to see church as something that looks something like the picture above. As a matter of fact the website I got this from said this about the setting and others like it.

“Contemporary church architecture is all about the dramatic play of light and shadow, and creating spaces that speak to the landscapes and skylines they occupy. Instead of adhering to the traditional look of Gothic, Romanesque, or Neo-Classical looks—all very popular during the last century—contemporary church architecture stretches the boundaries of the expected, combining aspects of modern art, industrial design, and concert hall acoustics for an astonishing final product. Many congregations feel that contemporary church architecture helps to turn the focus of the church from the structure itself to the relationships and people that make up the community.”

But to get the right feel in contemporary church architecture and maximize the connection between interior and exterior aesthetic, it’s imperative that congregations and communities seek professionals with experience in modern church design in particular.”

The point I’m trying to make is not so much about church architecture but more about how technologies play in church (which church architecture can be seen as a part of). Even here, it it is said that the architecture is about “the dramatic play of light and shadow and creating spaces that speak to the landscapes and skylines…”

While this is not bad in itself or something I don’t take any moral issue with, and while technologies may intrude on impersonal forms of communication, the point can be made that wisdom would be needed to discern how to use new technologies.

Some churches use only new technologies because they say they never really use the time worn liturgies of the past. But it may come as a surprise, in fact, that they really do use liturgies if one defines liturgies as “works” that the corporate body conducts, such as greetings, confessions, celebration, affirmation, proclamation, offering and benediction. And while these things may change over time so that churches will remain relevant and meaningful to congregants, it is one thing to remove them from top to bottom whole sale with no connection to the past and another to keep them but in a reformulated fashion ie., a greeting could possibly be said as “Good morning” (keeping the liturgy) as opposed to “The Lord be with you” (a former way of saying basically the same thing). Thus, corporate worship should require that we have some communal memory and shared rituals.

Worship has always relied on human skills and technologies. The question it seems then is not so much what works but looking beyond that to engage both tradition and other cultures to see where the Church is growing through the work of the Spirit.

Church as Worship? Or Concert Hall Experience.

I’ve noticed over the past few years that Christians complain about how churches look like auditoriums and how worship services have the look, sound and feel of a concert.

However, it seems to me that complaints along these lines have existed for some time now. That is, we are not the first generation to complain about worship services. Years ago (and to some extent even today) there were churches that would not allow instruments because they were “too worldly.”  You can see something along the lines at this site:  Instrumental Music in the New Testament Worship Service.  

There are a couple of problems I have with this site:

A.  They move from the text straight to the 21st century application of those texts.  In other words, simply because the text describes what was the case in the beginning of the church, that is, it was descriptive, that is no reason to believe that it is PRESCRIPTIVE for us today.  As it stands, there are whole segments of church life that are not in scripture but it is not a sin to worship in that particular way, ie., church buildings, buses, microphones, church government, stain glass windows, pews, etc.
B.  All churches or church denominations pick and choose something they will follow and something they will “toss out” as historically cultural.  If you look hard enough, more than likely, even this Primitive Baptist Church will have something it throws out as cultural but that someone else considers applicable for us today.  So it may be the case that even though they call some other church worldly because of they use musical instruments, they are “worldly” by someone else’s judgment.

Having said that, I want to talk about “concert” type settings in church services.  I myself have been to some of these types of services, and while for the most part I don’t feel that uncomfortable in them, the odd time I’ve cringed because, I thought for some reason it could “go deeper” than the look, sound and feel of a concert.  However, it just might be the case that my angst with these sort of settings has to do with my judging them as “worldly” in much the same way those above judge instrumental music in the Church as worldly.

In the coming posts, I want to talk about whether these types of settings are appropriate for worship and whether there can be anything such as the use of modern technology in worship.  For myself, I will say that the Church has always had a combination of technologies such that worship is both liturgical and technological at the same time (thus instruments are rather normative) though there is the matter of using technology wisely and in appropriate settings.  We shouldn’t think that simply because a church service is going to be intimate with hardly any use of technology, that it is a better way of doing worship.  Yet, we shouldn’t assume that because we use a lot of high-technology that worship is going to be more effective either. My belief is that while Christians should not compete with the world, technologies, within an overarching understanding of worship and used wisely can bring us into an intimate relationship with God. Stay tuned for further thoughts.

Becoming Like Children: In the Context of the Same-Sex Debate

It’s almost that time of the year for me to start blogging again.  The summer hours at work had me going in earlier and staying longer, (I get an hour and ten minutes for a lunch break!). I apologize for not keeping you informed concerning the circumstances.

I do want to return to Greg Boyd’s stuff on politics eventually.  The nature of those will probably be in which they are done sporadically.  Because they’ll be sporadic, I’ll keep them categorized for ease of reference.  The reason I’m wanting to do things like this is because there are many other issues to talk about and I don’t want to concentrate on one and only one topic for long periods of time.

As for right now, I want to talk about something I’ve noticed in the evangelical Christian community (as this is the primary group I’m attempting to address).  I grew up in a rather conservative setting in terms of church.  Of course, you get accustomed to some ways of doing things as far as theology and ethics is concerned and over time you think this is what God and faith is all about–that this is what Christianity is all about. In other words, your church teaches something about God, say, God’s immutability and God becomes over time, stoic and it seems as if this picture we have of God who becomes a God who is emotionless (though I do think that God is as aesthetically satisfied within God’s self, thus there is nothing within creation that can cause God to “lose it” like we humans can) is taken for granted as if this is what God is really like.  Or, ethically speaking, certain practices that are suppose to flow out of our love relationship, become so routine, that we think that this is “the way it is” and/or we think this or that practice is next to the Gospel itself.  That is, we put those practices on par with the Gospel such that they take on a life of their own and we mistake them for the importance we think they are.

Now, though you will find this persistently in conservative circles, it seems that this can occur just about anywhere–in any church or church denomination or branch of Christianity ie., Protestant, Orthodox or Catholic and Liberal traditions.  For instance, in the last couple of years, I’ve come across more Christians who run along a more liberal vein of Christianity.  I’m not necessarily talking about those more traditional liberal types such as, say, Delwin Brown, rather, I’m speaking of those Christians whom fall somewhere between the traditional liberals and Jim Wallis, Brian McClaren types–these “post-modern” or “younger evangelical” types.  They hold, to traditional teachings and formulations of the Church on most things, though this isn’t entirely accurate, but contra to the “liberals” I’m referring to, they are much closer to orthodoxy.  Ethically speaking, they fall along liberal lines especially when it comes to abortion and homosexuality or gay marriage.  Regardless of where they fall on these issues, they seem to resist change when, for an example, a flaw in an argument(s) can be found on these questions.

Let me give an example.  It is a mantra of those on the left side of the political spectrum to say something along the lines that gay people are “born that way.”  However it comes across, one is left with the idea that one cannot change their orientation.  This is the way it is and that’s that.  But let’s think about this for a moment.  Let’s put that on the back burner for the time being.  It is my belief that there are a myriad of variables that influence who we are and what we will become.  For example, there are genetic influences.  There are social influences.  There are mental influences and there are spiritual influences.  And of course, there is free will (I give that credence though some theologians and philosophers don’t.  For them, the proof is in the pudding so to speak, a la, rarely does one “rise above” their circumstance and make the needed changes ie., Oprah).  Either way, most will agree that even if these don’t shape or exert themselves on homosexuals, they will say that that is the case with everything else about a person.  If this is the correct, then what that means, is that there may be any one or any number of influences upon a person shaping the way they will eventually become.  If THAT is the case, then it is very hard to say, where one influence begins and ends and where another one begins and ends.  If that is the case, then it is hard to say at which point someone chooses courses of action outside of their “center of morally responsible freedom and…influences outside of their control.”  (Boyd)  And if THAT is the case, then it is also the case that there is ONLY ONE who can know this and that is God.

Now, for me, this is a moderate position between both conservatives, who want to say that God can “repair” (yes, that is in quotes because for conservatives repairing is thought of in terms of a gay/straight paradigm.  God can make someone “straight”).  But it is also a moderate position for those liberals who say that people are “born that way.” Because there are the numerous influences, NO ONE can say what variable exerts itself more than others–where one starts and where one ends.  For both sides then, this will mean there is no, “gay or straight” in Christ.  You either look more like Christ or you don’t and that is you ultimately reflect God’s love back to God and to others or you don’t.  To the extent that you don’t, you look less like Christ.  And this can manifest itself in a number of ways that have everything to do with sexuality.  For an example, let’s say I hold a grudge against someone.  Now, it is through my sexuality that I am in relationship with that person.  I relate to them through feelings, thoughts emotions, and how I identify myself.  Even if I don’t have same sex attractions or feelings or thoughts or emotions or identify in this way, my sexuality is still “damaged” when I hold a grudge against them.  When someone holds ill feelings towards the opposite sex because they have been hurt by them, even though they are not gay, their sexuality is “damaged.”  They are not whole sexually.  Someone has addictions towards the opposite sex.  They’re not sexually whole.  Why?  Because ultimately, they are trying to fill something that only God can fill.

At the end of the day, while I don’t want to say that my more moderate position is going to be “the right one,”  I do think we should be fluid enough (like children ie., Jamie Smith in “Whose Afraid of Postmodernism?”) such that whatever position we hold, we don’t hold it so tightly that we can’t change.