Accessible Worship - Words Matter

Accessible Worship
Words Matter

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”  Matthew 11:29


The Pen is mightier than the sword, so some would say.   The idea that written word communicates ideas, history, thoughts, movements and moments.  The old “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” was one of the early lies most of us believed as a child only to be amazed at how deeply the sting of words can be.  And at the same time we have received great comfort from words spoken by friend.  Words have the power to crush and to elevate and for many people, physical scars heal long before the emotional scars that words bring.  James warns us all about how we use our words and we understand the power that is at our disposal with the use of our tongues.

In my time as an artist in contemporary Christian music in the WELS, I’ve had a chance to be challenged in ways that are not always easy.  Biblical challenges that I had never really thought about 10 years ago, what worship really is, what differentiates effective worship practices in various settings and just how much variety and change actually exists within the culture and community of a local church in different parts of the country.  I have led classical music programs, blended worship, contemporary music concerts and had a chance to help develop worship for what some might call “modern” worship settings (the ones with the stage, lighting and screens).  I work in campus ministry and I wrestle with what it means to walk with college age young adults and what I have found, seen and experienced have led me to where I am today.  That there is a space, a place and a need for all four worship environments and languages (Traditional, Blended, Contemporary, Modern).  So I will admit, I see value and receive value from traditional liturgical settings and I understand the limitations.  I will also admit that my worship language falls more in the contemporary to modern worship environments.  It’s where I hear more clearly and where my heart sings more loudly.

There’s a chance that some of you have stopped reading at this point.  I hope that you’ll continue on the journey because I don’t think it is as bad as some might fear.  I’m not here to say that traditional is bad or irrelevant.  I’m not even going to say that one is better than the other. But I will say that, depending on the circumstances, one will be better than the other for your context and I hope a look at some of these words will help people in the traditional camp see the value of contemporary/blended and modern worship settings when they are done well and that the other camps will also be reminded of the significant history within the church and to see and appreciate what traditional liturgical worship adds to the Christian community and to the glory of God and the story of his Grace.

Over the next several posts we’ll dive a bit more into words that I have found people find to be very divisive or have an overly simplistic definition of what they mean.  My hope is that we can just look harder at and think through more thoroughly what they mean for our people, communities and context and then apply them to our worship settings.  A lot of good people have said harsh things and acted sinfully when it comes to the different environments of worship related to these words and we should try to understand a little bit more about the value and meaning of these words in our context.  They are: Worship, Communication, Language, Entertain, Performance, Relationship, Evangelism and Encounter.

I’m excited to share some thoughts on things that I have learned as a person sitting in the middle of this debate, conversation, war – whichever way you see it.  I believe God put more peace maker in me and that means hearing both sides and trying to understand and communicate within the context of the experiences that God has brought into my life as a WELS Lutheran Christian.  I hope the coming posts will be a benefit to all of us.

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