Historic Faith in Timely Forms

I have mused over this concept for a few years now. Ever since I helped out with a church plant wanting to launch a “liturgical” service, this has been a persistent question.

It seems that most of the questions or pushback I have encountered on matters pertaining to worship have to do with what I would call “historical expressions” of worship, not the fundamentals of worship. When we launched the liturgical service, most people assumed this meant that we would be abandoning the projector screens in favor of a printed bulletin.

My question to them was always, “Why?”

What difference would it make if we read a Confession of Sin, or the Nicene Creed, from a stapled collection of papers we hold, or off a screen that’s on the wall in front of us?

Is it the appearance of a video screen and projector that gets in the way of anchoring the “spiritual act of worship” in a corporate setting to our historic Christian faith?

Why should we favor a technology with a born on date of the 15th century (printing press) over one with a 20th century date (video projector)?

The fundamentals of what we do in worship is the same, but it’s the forms that we often get hung up over.

Across continents and centuries, the Christian church gathers to worship a holy and gracious God, who calls us to worship, confronts us with our sin, assures us of His grace and forgiveness in Christ, forms us into a community being fashioned by the preaching and receiving of His word (sermon and sacrament), and then unleashing us back into the world to be His people, in His world, for His glory. These are the fundamentals of any worship service. This is the liturgy.

As I think through my own personal take and philosophy on this, here’s what I’ve come to a conclusion about:

As a church, we want to be anchored to the rich history and tradition of the Christian faith without being overly-fixed to any one instance of it’s historical expression.

In other words, a “hymn” is not preferable to a “praise chorus” simply by the date of origin, but by it’s theological content and artistic expression. Hymnals (songs bound in books) are no better than projection screens by virtue of their antiquity, as both are relatively modern technologies (one being born in the 15th century vs. the 20th).

The question I want us to ask and wrestle with as a church is, “How can we celebrate and join in the historic nature and fundamentals of the Christian faith, without being limited to any particular, historic expression or form, of the Christian faith?”


2 thoughts on “Historic Faith in Timely Forms

  1. Good thoughts here Chris. Thanks.

    My theory is that when people say “technology” what they MEAN is “that which has come along in my lifetime.”

    Folks push back against the use of a projector, but not the sound system, the electric lights, or the HVAC system — all of which contribute to making their worship service “easier.” But projectors can/do, too; and all of these can be done tastefully and respectfully of the forms that they convey.

    For that matter, they don’t reject modern building methods for the sanctuary they inhabit, eyeglasses to read the words, or (as you pointed out) printed texts instead of being expected to memorize all of them.

    Inconsistency abounds; the real struggle is to help people overcome their inconsistencies, while “saving face” for them as they do so.


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