Over the years, I’ve attempted to catalogue and explore the shifts that we’re observing taking place in mainstream evangelical worship. Many of these shifts, in my opinion, are in the right direction, and encouraging them has been one of the chief aims of this blog since its inception in 2009. Those of us who have been in the contemporary worship biz for a while are probably aware of one of the leading sites to provide music and resources for worship leaders and churches, praisecharts.com. Praisecharts, in many ways, is even more robust than CCLI in providing relatively inexpensive options for procuring chord charts, lead sheets, harmony sheets, and orchestrations of a LOT of music for worship.
Interestingly, the makers of praisecharts began working on a site recently launched called liturgies.com. This is fascinating on so many levels. I and many others, including my friends over at Liturgy Fellowship, were in preliminary conversations with the great folks at praisecharts many months ago. They explained that they were observing a growing number of (predominantly evangelical) churches, many of whom in the contemporary camp, who were re-engaging “liturgy” but desiring resources and not knowing where to go.
Why is there a resurgence of interest in liturgy among evangelicals? One theory I have is that the emerging generation of worship leaders and new church leaders (folks especially in their 20s and 30s), are potentially the first to have grown up in the purely contemporary church. Let’s recall when the traditional-to-contemporary shifts took place en masse–the 80s and 90s. Evangelicals who were kids in that time frame, who grew up in the church, were perhaps the first generation to only know contemporary/modern worship songs and the standard block-of-songs-and-a-sermon worship service structure. Just as many of us, who have found ourselves in a rootless, fragmented, relativistic, postmodern millieu, were finding solace in old hymns (hence the rehymn movement), so we were finding our corporate faith enlivened by re-engaging the liturgy that many of our forefathers and mothers had purposefully chosen to forget. That the makers of praisecharts, an engine which has risen to the top in service of evangelical mainstream worship, are interested in servicing the liturgical renewal among evangelicals is a huge sign of the times and one more large piece of evidence that a shift is taking place.
The most telling thing about liturgies.com is that it’s not attempting to only be a “traditional worship” site. The liturgies they have put together tie in more modern-styled songs. For instance, this Lent service has a more modern arrangement of the Kyrie by High Street Hymns. They’ve also included our version of “Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending” as an option for one of their Advent services. I’m digging it.
So, what other signs of the times have you observed about modern worship moving in a direction toward more theological depth, biblical reflection, and historical rootedness?
There are lots of good liturgies out there, and not hard to find. For the Reformed tradition there is the Genevan liturgy. For the Anglican there is of course the Book of Common Prayer. Bard Thompson's Liturgies of the Western Church is all anyone should really need in my opinion.
I grew up in the evangelical subculture, was a minister in an evangelical denomination for 16 years, and am now in a mainline denomination. Liturgy (or the lack thereof) is one of the main reasons I finally left the evangelical world: I was weary and discouraged by the "level" of worship (for lack of a better term). Any efforts to reform, or just Inform, worship, were met with skepticism at best.
I have years of experience studying, planning, and leading liturgical worship and am available if any would like some consultation on this subject. It is one of the few things I actually know a good deal about. 🙂