christianity theology

worship: the most divisive topic in church life

Because it is.

There’s the infamous ‘hymns’ versus ‘choruses’ debate that still echoes around the church.  But I think the new issue will be ‘liturgical’ v. ‘non-liturgical’ (or ‘free’?) debate.

I just preached a sermon which discussed ‘worship’ and suggested that we (Baptists) may need to review our approach.  I made reference to some ‘liturgical’ forms of worship and briefly sketched how and why those forms are meaningful and not just empty ‘rituals’ ((I find it annoying that the word ritual is often associated with meaninglessness.)).

I was  approached by two people after the service.  The first, with glowing eyes and face, told me how much she loved what I was saying.  The first words of the second person couldn’t have been more opposite: they suggested that if I wanted to be Anglican perhaps I should switch denominations.

I stuck with the conversation and it got better.  But I was reminded once again that when it comes to worship, be prepared for very strong opinions!

5 replies on “worship: the most divisive topic in church life”

As someone who, as you know, sits squarely in the ‘liturgical’ camp I find the second response understandable, predictable and amusing. Most churches that do a Sunday service have a liturgy that takes place. It’s just not explicit. If your church follows the normal Baptist service model then there are elements of liturgy, that person just doesn’t recognise it because they’re not what we would normally recognise as liturgy.

Liturgy, in the way that is commonly recognised and understood, isn’t simply Anglican though, it is Christian. It’s the way most of the Church has worshipped for the last couple of thousand years and even across Protestant expressions of worship it has been and still is the dominant form. There are those of us for whom it is embedded in our history and heritage but has been lost in modern forms of the service and I’m for regaining it. I’d be interested to know if it has ever been there in Baptist history in the wider practice (as opposed to the current Baptist churches that use it as an alternative worship form).

Whilst I’m not Baptist, I kind of understand the breadth and diversity of the Baptist denomination in New Zealand if someone is going to tell you that you need to become Anglican, I don’t think they’ve properly grasped what it means to be Baptist ;)

Along with house buying and baby rearing, this is a common Christian example of “everyone’s an expect”. The whole issue is just another classic example of people who think that because they subjectively like something a certain way, then it must be objectively ‘better’ or ‘right’ for everyone else to like/do it too.

You’ve got:

1) Dale, preaching on it – because he thinks it would be ‘better’ or ‘right’ for everyone else to reincorporate liturgy.
2) Approacher #1, pumped on your sermon – because, like you, perhaps he/she thinks it would be ‘better’ or ‘right’ for everyone else to reincorporate liturgy.
3) Approacher #2, disappointed with your sermon – because he thinks it would be ‘better’ or ‘right’ for everyone else to ditch liturgy or something to that effect.

Different. Strokes. For. Different. Folks.


In my defence (#callmedefensive), I don’t hear you saying it’s ‘wrong’ (lol) to have an opinion as to what’s wrong or better. But fwiw, the words “I’ve got a lot of questions and no answers” were in the sermon; so I was definitely not claiming to be the expert :) Add to this, I actually think that (it is ‘right’ that) once a few things are done, then there is a lot of flexibility (‘wideness’) as to the form/content of a worship service. Approacher #2 had a countenance and tone that signalled to me that worship was a particularly sensitive issue.

Of course I don’t think it’s wrong to have an opinion. It’s all in the details, the little nuances of how different people go spreading their opinion that separates the reasonable people from the…non-reasonable..

I’ve no doubt you had a pretty chilled, hands-in-the-air, almost passive-aggressive approach, Dale, you’re a legend at that haha. “Guys… I’m just saying… liturgy… let’s do some?” — Classic Dale.

Good on you though, for sharing your thoughts and taking the crap from the more grumpy congregant.

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