Who Mediates Christian Worship?
Fall 2006 INSTITUTE FOR CHRISTIAN WORSHIP LECTURES
Today, Tuesday, September 19, at 1:00 P.M., DR. LESTER RUTH (Worship Professor at Asbury Theological Seminary) will present his theological analysis of the seventy-five most-used CCLI songs over the last fifteen years—specifically, what these songs reveal about our triune God. Please join us.
Feel free to forward this link to anyone you know in the Louisville area. All past lectures can be heard by going to www.sbts.edu/icw.
WHO MEDIATES CHRISTIAN WORSHIP?
At a conference some time ago, a pastor stood to advertise a search for a church musician. When asked what kind of person was needed, the pastor replied, . . . "Someone who can make God present in my congregation." Now this, to put it mildly, is a rather loaded expectation!
Yet, language like this is increasingly present in want ads for parish musicians. Churches are looking for people whose creativity and charismatic personality can turn an ordinary moment into a holy moment. The tendency is not limited to charismatics. Churches with names not only like Community Church of the Happy Valley but also Tall Steeple Presbyterian Church want to hire musicians who aspire to make holy moments. One attempts to do this on a pipe organ with a loud trumpet stop and one attempts it with microphone and drum set, but both are striving to make God PRESENT, in some true, if elusive, sense. In congregations today, our strongest sacramental language is often not used to speak about what happens at the pulpit, font, and table, but rather what comes from our conga drums, synthesizers, and swell box. Even the architecture of many worship spaces (which rarely lies about what is most important) conveys the "sacramentalization" of music. The front-and-center space formerly reserved for pulpit, font, and table or altar is now reserved for worship bands and towering organs.
Certainly, this concern for attending to holy moments is important. Arguably, most Christian musicians (in every style) are drawn to music because of a transformative musical experience. Yet no one, no matter how charismatic, can make a moment holy by his or her own creativity, ingenuity, or effort. Scripture records a long line of those who tried. . . .
—John Witvliet, "Beyond Style: Rethinking the Role of Music in Worship," Chapter 4 in THE CONVICTION OF THINGS NOT SEEN: WORSHIP AND MINISTRY IN THE 21st CENTURY, edited by Todd E. Johnson, Grand Rapids: Brazo Press, 2002, p. 71. ISBN 1-58743-032-0. Dr. Witvliet is the director of the Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. www.calvin.edu/worship
Blessings to all.
Have a great week.
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
WORSHIP QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
To subscribe, unsubscribe, or view a complete
index of worship quotes, please visit