Too Many Words…Too Little Reverence… Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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34 Responses

  1. Rick says:

    Yes, agreed! Thank you for this. I have had a sense for awhile that if the sermon takes longer to deliver than reading the Sermon on the Mount, we simply have lost perspective.

    There is a humility, I think, to praying the prayers that saints have prayed through the ages. They provide theological guardrails for us, as well.

  2. Contemplative Corby says:

    A factor in this that I have been chewing on for a while has to do with personality type and the culture they are attracted to. I’m not suggesting a one-to-one relation, but perhaps a tendency.

    The environment you are describing (pro) I think is, for lack of a better word, attractive to people who tend to be introverted. They are already thoughtful, reflective, contemplative processor types of people. A typical evangelical service, which is designed to be experienced and consumed and is more focused on the individual that the Almighty (in some cases the individual is the almighty), is more attractive to introvert types. It’s an event. It’s a happening. It’s marketed like Apple Computer or SUVs.

    I’ll out myself a little here. My wife and I have been visiting an Anglican church in our town. Well, THE Anglican church in our town. We’ve been twice and attended an all-church baby shower BBQ for the four women who are pregnant. As I look around the room and meet people, they strike me as naturally gentle people. People who would rather read a book than go jet skiing. People who would rather watch a movie with you, or have coffee (or a beer) with you, than play on a church sports league.

    Extroverts don’t like to slow down. They think out loud. They process out loud. Silence, peace, and quiet are an actual physical drain on them. I think, to a significant degree, that is why the evangelical church is the way it is. Extroverts like fun, they pursue stimulation, they like to be made to feel happy. Asking them to meditate on something doesn’t come naturally.

    The flip side of this is that introverts tend to not get out and do, or if they do, they don’t make a fuss about it. If they go on a mission trip, you won’t see hundreds of pics on their Instagram feed (if they have one) but you will see them write at length about it.

    Anywho, just some thoughts I’ve been pursuing. As a self-proclaimed king of the introverts, I think about these things a lot.

  3. Duane Arnold says:

    Rick

    Many thanks! Yes, I think we have lost perspective…

  4. Duane Arnold says:

    Corby,

    Thank you for that… a good reflection…

  5. Michael says:

    Corby,

    Introvert and extravert are modern constructions that do carry a measure of truth.
    I wonder if what we’re looking at though is actually man centered vs. God centered…

  6. Correction Corby says:

    Correction in my second paragraph above: “A typical evangelical service… is more attractive to *extrovert types.”

  7. Corby says:

    Michael – I would agree that that is also a factor. Culturally, things that are God-centered tend to be somber, reverent, respectful in a way (introverted). Sometimes to a fault because God becomes inaccessible, unrelatable. Man-centered is about what makes me feel whatever it is I want to feel (extroverted). I want to feel God the way I want to feel him, which feels God-centered, is promoted as God-centered, but can also Get out of whack.

    It’s what Thomas McKenzie describes as Here vs There, combined with Me vs We. It’s funny, I’ve been working on something very similar in terms of looking at extremes and the need for balance, and then McKenzie comes along and illustrates it beautifully.

  8. Michael says:

    I lived long enough to see Corby quote an Anglican… 🙂

  9. Jean says:

    Duane,

    I like the fact that you observed that many modern churches use terms like worship leader and worship team, and I could add to those terms, “worship time.” It’s as though the other things going on are not worship. I believe they probably think that way. It’s also interesting that there is an entertainment connotation: Are the folks up on stage the primary worshipers?

    My only other observation is that in traditional Lutheran congregations, we avoid the term “worship” altogether because the term has been changed in the modern era (as you observed) from its original meaning. We call it the “divine service,” to emphasize two points: Most especially the majority of the “service” is by Jesus serving us. We respond to His service of us in praise, prayer and thanksgiving. The other point is that the whole service is divine.

    I would say that a non-existent or defective teaching of the Sacraments, leads to a man-to-God “worship” service, because divine gifts such as absolution and the Eucharist are under-appreciated or non-existent. Even preaching goes from the pastor standing in the stead of Christ to deliver His Word to a lecture, where listeners are invited absorb information and then make the proper application.

  10. Paige says:

    Just reading ‘personality types” triggers my current hysteria about so many churches allowing the occult Enneagram to infiltrate ‘staff development’…. like an enemy spy in the ranks. Ack.

    But yes, of course… quiet people are more comfortable in a quieter church, and boisterous folks are more akin to the ‘really big shew’…. media-hype-movie-set-multimedia-short-attention-span-church style.

    Phil 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

  11. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    Yes, our whole vocabulary has been turned on its head. “Traditional Worship”; “Contemporary Worship”; “Children’s Worship”; etc. – we now categorize by style, not by content. In fact, I think style has, in many places, become more important than content…

  12. Duane Arnold says:

    Paige,

    I think the real questions are simpler… Do we worship? Do we pray? Do we find God worthy of our reverence?

  13. Paige says:

    Duane, of course…and honestly, on God knows the true answer to that.
    We do need to ask ourselves that question day by day. Much like a marriage, being a loving, honest and caring spouse is a day by day pursuit.

    I have three old copies of the BOCP.. I do read them..and find the prayers beautifully lovely. I also know that according to Romans 8:26-27, no matter how weak my prayers are, the Holy Spirit makes intercession for me according to the Will of God.

    If my husband read scripts of previous conversations to me instead of having just talking and listening with me, it would be lacking intimacy. For me, there is balance…. If God is our Father, we have the incredible privilege of ‘crying Abba” to Him… I wouldn’t have related to my dad by reading formal words to him when he was living on earth.

    Of course, there are moments when I find the Majesty of the formalities of Orthodox worship styles and the BOCP to be inspiring, but I also find that looking at the sky or the microbiome of my garden soil to be incredibly deeply inspiring as well..

  14. Duane Arnold says:

    Paige

    Agreed, there is a balance. I think, however, much of what happens in the name of “worship” these day has lost that balance…

  15. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean has spoken well of the Divine Worship Service – we are there to receive God’s good gifts that he has come to deliver to his people – through his word and sacraments. What are these good gifts? He is there to free the Christian of his sin and guilt – to remove us from our shackles that we have actually put on ourselves during the week. He is there to free us from sin, death and the devil weekly just as he raise Lazarus from the grave. To that we offer praise and thanksgiving.
    In my view, my worship to God comes in the days between Sundays and it is in my vocation to love and serve my neighbor.

  16. Josh says:

    I feel like some people cling to their preferred style of worship more so than they cling to Jesus. They will demand a strict adherence to ritual and tradition, even if that is clearly choking the spirit from the majority of the world. World be damned, I want it my way!

  17. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    “They will demand a strict adherence to ritual and tradition…” Sometimes that “ritual and tradition” is a praise band, six choruses and a 40 minute lecture… just saying…

  18. Josh says:

    Agreed.

  19. Paige says:

    Agreed Duane. Loss of balance. Interestingly the physical body is prone to lose the sense of balance as well, which frequently leads to falls and injuries, including things like hip fractures that not long after, result in death. Balance is a sensory skill that needs continual effort to maintain, particularly as we age, very much like our spiritual journey. ✝️

    And agreed Josh. We often cling to “our” preferred style of church culture, more than to our Savior, Who curiously, as in Emmreaus, sometimes takes on unrecognizable form.

  20. Josh says:

    Amen, Paige.

  21. Corby says:

    Michael – and I’ve lived long enough to see you take a “stage” WITH McClure, if only for a moment!

    Actually, I have no problem with the Anglican church (ACNA at least). Theologically I’m pretty much in step (creeds and 39 Articles). I have some beliefs on open-handed topics that are neither officially affirmed nor rejected. Beyond that, it is a liturgical style (broadly used) choice. I have more to say but I’m working on my own blog post on it. After reading McKenzie’s book and doing some more digging online, I felt like I was already Anglican in many respects. I think a lot of people I used to run with would also feel that way, separated primarily by liturgy. But I don’t want to hijack Duane’s post with this.

    I agree with Duane. How about that? 🙂

  22. David says:

    Amen! Amen! I think you have touched on something that resonates with many of the faithful. Often the “worship wars” reflect people’s desire to have a particular format rather than true worship. I have found that I can worhsip God in many different environs: from a wooded Glade or Sandy Beach to a drive between service calls in my truck to a Christian concert (and not just current popular tumes, but ancient hymns as well), to a “modern or contemporary” service. The older I get, the more open I have become to different forms of worship. May we all find worship where we can!

  23. Em says:

    Hmm… My old Presbyterian church had installed a large clock on the face of the balcony to remind Dr. Kerr to not go over 15 minutes
    When my future husband, a Baptist, attended services with me, he asked, “Why are the sermons so short? This man is a great teacher!”
    For me worship wells up within me as i gain knowledge – the mind of Christ thing…
    True there are moments when God intervenes in a crisis or a discussion and, in awe, one whispers, “Lord, did You just do that?” BUt. … 🙏 hallelujah is a great word, rightly used

  24. Paige says:

    Em…. I agree…. the continual revelation as we learn, listen to GOOD preaching and teaching, etc…. or in Reading the Word…. Hallelujah, In deed.

  25. Jerod says:

    Corby,
    It’s spelled “A-n-y-h-o-o” 😉

  26. Duane Arnold says:

    Obviously, I think knowledge has importance – I spent the better part of my life pursuing knowledge and seeking to pass it on. Nevertheless, I think worship is a different category. As I said in the article, “Yes, we can have times for learning. Yes, we can have times for explanations. Yet, let’s be honest. In our world today, we probably already have too many words being thrown our way. True reverence, however, is in short supply…”

  27. Corby says:

    Jerod, maybe in your corner of the county.

  28. Sue says:

    At our church a Lutheran (NALC) pastor started a (for lack of a better term) “liturgical” service (he tells me it is more rightly termed a “historic evangelical” service) basically identical to the form from the BCP. I love it, for all the reasons you outline in this article. However, we have a weekly attendance of about 5 to 12 people. Contrast that with the 200 that attend the Calvary Chapel service (30 minutes of contemporary “worship” songs and then a 40 minute expository teaching) that rents our building. Very discouraging….not sure whether it has to do with personalities, culture, or what. Trying to feel our way along and How to proceed.

  29. Sue says:

    The only other “liturgical” options in my town are a very left-leaning Episcopal or ELCA, which I cannot in good conscience join. I have at times seriously contemplated converting to Orthodoxy ….there is a small but warm and vital congregation in our town….

  30. Duane Arnold says:

    Sue

    You’re not alone! Many of us experience the same or similar situations. Yes, I would suspect that both culture and personalities play a part. On the other hand, I’ve been on staff at a church in NYC that had “standing room only” when other Episcopal churches had a couple of dozen people. There was no magic about it… we were committed every Sunday to doing the absolute best that we could – good liturgy, thoughtful preaching, a reverent Holy Communion and a very warm and welcoming coffee hour. I think it can be done… or, at least, I’ve seen it done!

  31. Truth Lover says:

    It seems the Western Church is afraid of silence. No gaps in the music, everything upbeat, a constant flow etc. We “happy” people to death. While I was a missionary in England, before we planted our church there, we visited other denominational churches very unlike our church background. One church, a strict Baptist church did something that my husband and I really appreciated. After the sermon when the service had ended, the congregation sat quiet in their pews for about 5 minutes. I didn’t know what was going on. (actually I thought “what a dead church”) Then I learned the congregation was meditating on the sermon and possibly praying quietly about it. I love that! It lends a reverence to the service and a response from us. I think more churches need to incorporate that into their services.

  32. Duane Arnold says:

    Truth Lover

    “It seems the Western Church is afraid of silence. No gaps in the music, everything upbeat, a constant flow etc. ”

    Yes, we’ve turned participation into performance…

  33. Em says:

    Comments have me picturing our Lord sitting on the church steps… Passerby, “what are you doing out here? I can hear music in there clear out here; sounds like the service has already started?”
    The answer – ” Yes, they’ve started without me, haven’t they… If they ever quiet down, I’ll go in and join them… “

  34. Duane Arnold says:

    Em

    Love it…

    Listening to BBC World Service last night at about three in the morning (couldn’t sleep). They were interviewing an American pastor who said that he started his service with a “40 minute set with my rock band leading the worship…”

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