Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Making It Personal

Churches increasingly have became personalized and specialized.  Congregants are subdivided into common groups to cultivate specified devotional forms.  Music has changed from interaction between pastor, congregation, and choir (if available) to exclusive use of trained artists as the congregation watched because the typical layman did not know the songs or could not sing the increasingly difficult arrangements.  Worship is increasingly viewed as a personal act.  Drama is introduced to visualize Bible lessons.  A subjective level of personal contrition is deemed adequate to expiate for sin, rather than actual confession.  Jesus is increasingly humanized in order for the congregants to more identify with his life and suffering.  Aspects of worship are geared toward the emotions of the individual.

When time period describes this major shift in worship?  Is it the Church Growth or mega-church movement?  Is it the Charismatic or Pentecostal revivals?  Is it the Second Great Awakening?  No, this is the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages.  In Christian Liturgy, Frank C. Senn has a chapter laying out the deterioration of worship.
The liturgy of the church was not developed as a vehicle for personal devotion but as the public celebration of the faith of the church.  Liturgy was breaking down in the Middle Ages precisely because it was being used as a means of exercising personal piety or of expressing a subjective religiosity. (236)
Now stop and consider.  The contemporary evangelical church is becoming increasingly Roman Catholic in practice, and then we wonder why our local assemblies are bereft of substance.  Or worse, we don’t wonder at all.


Vanessa said...

More often I find friends - who have never known liturgical services - don't wonder what's wrong with their church, but wonder what's wrong with their faith. It's so sad. :(

Steve Bricker said...

Vanessa, indeed it is. I would call what you describe as a consequence of churches having lost sight of the purpose, subject, and object of worship.

Jon Gleason said...

Thank you for a very thought-provoking post.