As I was participating in the worship services of the National Worship Leader Conference this week, I was again reminded of the beauty of the broader church and why we all need each other in the worship conversation.
As I’ve said before, modern evangelical worship across denominational lines now stands heavily indebted to the charismatic tradition. From the flow of the service, to the individualized spirituality, to the deep intimacy, to the highly emotive expression, many evangelicals now have expectations and “traditions” for what worship looks like and how we participate in it. Meanwhile, as the blind spots of this approach have grown into gaping holes, not a small amount of folks have reacted, turning to more thoughtful approaches to song-selection and lyrics or even full-blown traditional liturgical practices. This group is desiring to find roots, substance, depth, and greater insight. I am one of those evangelicals who has journeyed there.
Each camp can write the other off. Each camp can obviously find fault and point out the worst things about the other side which, though they may be caricatures, probably contain at least kernels of truth. But what I’m reminded of, when I step into broad contexts like the National Worship Leader Conference, is that we both have something very important to say to one another that can help us all worship more beautifully and biblically.
Liturgofreaks and doxologeeks are here to remind us all, among other things, that it is important to be rooted in Scripture and the historic church. Charismaniacs are here to remind us all, among other things, to expect that God is actually, tangibly, and immediately present to his people when they gather for worship. The former remind us that substance matters. The latter remind us that experience matters. We could argue about what comes first, or what’s most important. But I might advise the first step: worship with one another, and do your best to engage. Worship several times together, especially if your instinctual reaction is to fortify your walls rather than cut a doorway into them. Dialogue with worshipers in those “other” traditions. Ask them open-ended questions about why they love worship so much and why it is meaningful to them. Ask them about their past, their scars, their story. This approach is one application of what Jesus taught us when He said that the watching world will know us by our love (John 13:35).