The Culture of Worship

“Uh oh, is today hipster worship?”
“I most certainly hope not…”

I’ve written before about my feelings on worship styles. Pastor Lou Florio made a good observation:

I have given up long ago (for similar reasons as you state) trying to define what is the best worship. Perhaps better the question is, “What is the best worship for the community and believer?” Just as we learn differently (“multiple intelligences”), I think varied worship helps varied people grow in communion with Christ and his church.

Different styles of worship engage worshipers in different ways. But what about worship attitudes? What does the culture of our worship say to people?

The reason I was asked if worship on a particular day was “hipster worship” had to do with attitude. We’ve all experienced this in some form or another: the leader is convinced that the “innovative” worship “experience” they’ve planned is simply the best thing since the 1970s, the worshiper is treated like a spectator in this amazing production, you’ve never heard of the music (because you aren’t a hipster, duh), and the leaders have crafted everything around themselves.

This attitude sucks. If this is what worship is like, I wouldn’t want to go. Yet it pops up everywhere.

Or how about this: worship is for the members who are already there. They come, they worship, the leave. They have “their” pews, this is “their” church, and they want things “their” way. The implication is explicit–not only is the community cut off from everyone else, the members are cut off from themselves.

What if worship encouraged intimacy and vulnerability not because of anything special in the worship, but because of what’s special in the worshipers. What if worshipers treated each other with respect and dignity while providing support for each other? My biggest argument against verbatim bulletins is that if the worshiping community actually offered to help new worshipers get acquainted with the service, you could print the bulletin in Klingon and still make it through the service (actually, that gives me an idea…).

In all the talk about worship techniques and styles, the attitude of the worshipers is often overlooked. Authentic, meaningful worship begins with authentic worshipers, not a great program. The church has always been about the people. If we as a community of believers struggle to be God’s mission in the world, maybe the first place we need to look is at ourselves and the culture we’ve created. Once we heal our attitudes, the rest will be remarkably simple.

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Author: Pastor Ken

Ken Ranos serves as the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Three Lakes, WI, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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