Big Questions
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Q My church’s worship is too wordy and prescribed. Why can’t CRC worship be more like Evangelical services that have a refreshing mix of contemporary praise songs, heartfelt prayer, and engaging sermons?

A Just like people, every church has a personality. The Reformed faith tradition has a history of valuing the life of the mind. Many people love it for that very reason. However, with that comes the tendency to downplay the emotions. This can lead to worship that feels like a liturgical to-do list, doing all the right things but leaving hearts unmoved.

In contrast, contemporary Evangelical worship can feel like a breath of fresh air. It is easy for the heart to engage with a familiar music style, colloquial language, and free-flowing worship. But every tradition has its liabilities. Extemporaneous, joyous worship often neglects important aspects of the Christian faith: confession, intercession for the world, and the psalms. The upbeat worship style that is first so refreshing may soon become mundane or merely entertaining.

What we want is worship that sustains robust faith over the long haul.

The good news is that these worship styles are not mutually exclusive. Worship is always some mix of form and freedom, head and heart. It sounds like your church’s worship may be more cerebral and verbose than you’d like. Perhaps you could discuss this with your church’s leaders. Would it be possible to keep the same basic order of worship but infuse it with different communication styles? For example, does the prayer of illumination have to be in the form of a litany, or could it be a simple, free-form prayer?

The fullness of the gospel is best communicated to the fullness of our humanity: heart, mind, and body. When we use a variety of worship modes, we engage more personality types and more of each person.

About the Author

Greg Scheer (gregscheer.com) is a composer, author, speaker, and music associate at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. His latest book is Essential Worship (Baker, 2016).