I’ve had a curious thought about the worship movement. Yes, “worship movement.” It seems to me that out of the Vineyard movement and similar neo-charismatic movements have come something that could be called a “worship movement,” that trend that is infiltrating a wide array of church traditions these days. You can tell by the ignoring or absence of hymnals in favour of the projection of lyrics on a screen. The selection of hymns is drastically reduced as well, giving way to choruses from the Vineyard, Hillsong, Integrity/Hosanna, Matt Redman, Third Day, and a cross section of people with soul patches. Not to mention that wherever church organs remain, they’re getting dusty. Not only have guitars and drums invaded, there are now bongos, conga drums, and djembes involved.
Some of the impetus has to do, I think, with “modernization” and cultural relevance, but also with the feeling or perception that many of these new styles of songs make it easier for people to connect with God. In this context, worship comes to be seen as a renewing factor in the church and a gauge of spiritual intimacy with God.
Now, I’m not against this sort of worship at all (or not completely, rather), and the thought that struck me may sound like a massive generalization. In fact, it’s far too much of a generalization to make, so please don’t hear me making that kind of statement in any way.
The thought is this — is the proliferance of this trend to renewed forms of worship covering a lack of true spiritual formation in some circles? In many or most context contexts where these forms of worship are found, they are genuine expressions of worship or adoration. In some contexts, they are perhaps a veneer of the “appropriate” format. In others — and here’s where I place the question — the forms of worship are imported from other contexts. Sometimes there is the hope of renewal, of fostering deeper devotion to God, and naturally, of being culturally relevant. The real question is whether some or many of the churches who are looking to a change in worship format to help provide renewal in the congregation are unwittingly just spinning their wheels.
Renewing the worship format is essentially just changing behaviour without necessarily changing the heart. True, some behaviours help form our hearts and attitudes… but not all. I don’t think any particular worship format is singularly capable of producing this kind of change, of spiritual formation — just of giving voice to such change. For this reason, some churches may be looking to the worship movement to help foster change that it can’t possibly instill.