A Nagging Concern

By Mark A. Taylor

Let me say at the outset I’m not ready to join a house church like those described by Keith Shields this week. But I am intrigued to think about the quality of relationships and accountability I’d experience if I were a member of one.

And I can’t imagine worshiping in virtual silence every week, in a setting like the one Dan Gilliam describes. But I can’t forget talking with Tony Twist who asks graduate students to spend two hours in silent prayer as the “final exam” for his course in spiritual formation.

Neither am I sure how I’d adjust to a weekly worship service characterized by interaction instead of the watching and listening I’m used to. But I know I’d like to visit the two services described in Jennifer Taylor’s article.

The real point, however, is not what will make me most comfortable or least threatened. Instead, I should be asking two questions: What will best lead me and others to worship and obey God? And what will best express the real meaning of “church,” to Christians and non Christians alike?

Those are big, broad questions. They speak to strategy, philosophy, even theology. But most of our debate does not approach them. We focus on forms instead of essence. We assume our conclusions are Bible based while ignoring how they’ve been influenced by our times and experience.

Sorting this out is especially challenging in the tumult of historical transition, and that’s what we’re experiencing today. As Dan Kimball describes in The Emerging Church , which we excerpted January 7, our world is filled with modern as well as postmodern thinkers. Each group assimilates content and approaches life in ways that mystify the other. But “moderns” dominate the ranks of many local church members and leaders. Where is the entry point for the growing number of “postmoderns” around us?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not against sermons. (Notice the “Reflections” writers this week and last both present strong apologetics for preaching. This was an intentional effort at counterpoint for these issues about postmodernism.)

And I don’t see thousands attending the kinds of services described this week. (Indeed, we went looking for examples to profile, and we had trouble finding them, of any size.)

But I have this nagging concern that the well orchestrated worship services I’m used to will not reach the growing number of postmodern adults around us who know nothing about church.

In fact, as uncomfortable as it makes me to say, I’m not sure we can serve both moderns and postmoderns with the same worship services maybe not even with the same congregations.

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