Ministry Musings: Things That Abide

I am pondering the fact that the older Christian churches (Roman, Orthodox, Lutheran) tend to be more liturgical, while the newest startups are less so.  I am not writing to make a case for one style of worship over another, but I am writing to ask you to think about this.  I find it fascinating.

There are too many variables in the history and theology of worship to describe the differences with certainty.  And worship preferences are too “personal” to argue convincingly about all this one way or another.  Furthermore, there are churches all along the liturgical/non-liturgical spectrum that worship well and poorly.  So, there is no automatic right/wrong conclusion that we can draw.

But I think one thing can be observed.  The older churches are less defined by current reality or by the passing fads of culture.  They have existed long enough to know things come and go.  They have rooted themselves in things which have lasted over time.  “What’s happening now” is not their starting point. Of course, they run the risk of being viewed as irrelevant, but “being relevant” is not their goal.  Pointing men and women to God is their aim.

Older churches have been around long enough to know that the communication of God is not dependent on the latest technology.  Older churches have existed long enough to learn that the formation of disciples does not require the newest gadgets.  To me, this means we are called to look at what we do and how we do it asking, “What are we offering our people that connects with something that has stood the test of time, and will remain after a specific medium has passed away?

When Charles Wesley wrote the phrase “to serve the present age, our calling to fulfill,” he was not proposing a turning away from the past or limiting the worship and work of the church to what was current in society.  Wherever we choose to place ourselves on the liturgical/non-liturgical spectrum, God help us to make the choice based upon a sense of eternity, not simply what is currently “in.”

Interestingly, this squares with the latest research studies conducted among millennials.  Their statements reveal that they do not care about style, but rather about substance.  They are not asking for worship to be cool, they want it to be real. Regardless of what approach is used in church, they want to meet Jesus there.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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2 Responses to Ministry Musings: Things That Abide

  1. Pat Lucksavage says:

    I needed to hear this also. It is an excellent answer for those who feel we may be out of touch with modern day worship.

  2. Tom Pope says:

    Steve, this article comes at a perfect time for me, as I am taking a week to reflect on my ministry at Macclenny and begin to focus on St Paul’s in Melbourne.

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