Have you ever had a feeling that you couldn’t put into words and then all of a sudden you read or hear a term that just pops? Well that happened to me this week when I read Dan Wilt’s blog on worship. It was as if he had given me the words to describe what has been happening within me, I just didn’t know how to describe it. :/
In reflecting on this new sensation, I realized that there might be others of you out there who would benefit from Dan’s article – that and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the subject… but before I get too far along, allow me to summarize Dan’s post:
Dan, a long time Vineyard worship leader and founder of WorshipTraining.com, starts the article off by relaying the conversations he had with two people from his church about the volume of the worship music. One person, a young man, wanted the volume turned up while the other one, an older lady, wanted the volume turned down. In listening to them Dan rightly realized that the volume of the music wasn’t really the main factor in these conversation. The main factor was the worship culture or worldview through which both of these people viewed and experienced worship.
Dan identified the culture of the latter group as one that seeks to be “accompanied and supported by the band.” As in, they highly value the ability to hear the voices of their follow Christians worshiping with them. The music itself becomes secondary as the primary thing, to this group, being together singing to God. Songs favored by this group, whom Dan calls the “Worship Accompaniment Culture”, tend to be melodic and straightforward.
The second culture group, i.e. that of the person who wanted the music louder, is somewhat of a newbie on the world stage, having only taken shape over the past decade or so. Dan describes this group as such:
“Worship Immersion Culture is not primarily drawn to sing about God, nor even do they always feel a need to sing to God. Rather, they are a generation that wants to sing with God. They want to participate in God’s life, and be propelled by worship encounters into a world that is begging them to live out their worship incarnationally – manifesting Christ’s presence in all aspects of life.”
In understanding that last statement it might be helpful to note that the way in which we worship God has changed a lot over the past fifty years. The 1970s and 80s gave birth to the current contemporary worship movement in which people shifted from singing ABOUT God to singing TO God. The Worship Immersion Culture, according to Dan, is now taking things a step further and starting to sing WITH God.
Instead of simply singing, the immersion crowd want to be surrounded by the music – to be draw into a corporate experience where the music is felt as much as heard. Melodies are still good, and the lyrics may still be directed to God, but the main focus is not on hearing the voices of each other, as with the Worship Accompaniment group. For this new group the focus is on being “surrounded by, and participating in/with, the music” that is filing the shared space (i.e. church).
Because of this value of being immersed in worship, this new group is willing and eager to “re-integrate a variety of more participatory worship experiences” into their worship. Dan also notes that the aesthetics of the building are becoming more of a focus with the Worship Immersion Culture. They are looking beyond the function of a building to the way in which the building affects the culture and mission of the church.
Some Closing Thoughts:
If you haven’t guessed it already, I definitely related to the Worship Immersion Culture that Dan highlights. Yes, I still enjoy hearing the voices of those around me – and I still have a huge value of singing TO God. Yet at the same time I want to sing WITH God; to be immersed into a corporate experience that is beyond simply listening to music.
Speaking of music, the sad thing in reading Dan’s post is that most of the commenters missed (in my option) the point of the article. Instead of catching the value and rise of participatory worship, the commenters focused on the volume of the music – which, as Dan pointed out, was just an outward expression of a deeper cultural shift. The thing to take away from all this is that there is a new generation of Jesus followers who are not content to simply worship with music and song. We want to be immersed in worship from all angles and sides.
To do this means changing the way in which we do church. It means re-thinking some of the sacred cows we have in the church and allowing for things to look a lot different. Some folks are not going to be able to make the shift, which is perfectly alright; others, like myself, are looking forward to trying out some of these new participatory worship experiences to see what works and what doesn’t. It might be messy, but it will be quite the journey. 🙂