Unique worship does not dismiss tradition

It might be assumed that if you create new worship experiences then they will dismiss tradition.  This happened with the "seeker-sensitive/contemporary" worship movement.  There was a strong effort to remove a lot of Christian language and make it easy on the ears for those who might be seeking Christianity as a faith to live into.  So contemporary worship, generally, does not have things like creeds or liturgies or litanies or the like.  As such when people think of new worship many people think that this new worship will be anti-tradition.

And when you value being efficient over being unique then that may happen.

This is not the case when you value unique over efficient.

The worship services that are truly unique are those who are able to root themselves in the past while introducing something new.  Unique worship services are difficult to replicate and in many ways are often "one and done" worship experiences.

If you have ever seen "Glee" then you know what I am talking about.  This show takes the words from common songs but puts them to new music and then you can instantly sing along.  You can instantly join in a tradition while at the same time that tradition is brought to life in a different way.

Take this clip for instance.  Notice that they build on the tradition of the song and yet bring it a new breath.

If you like it or not this is not the point.  Not everyone likes Glee (I do not), Glee is a community (Gleeks) and the music that is created speaks to the Gleek community.  Yet, this community, while creating unique music, it is rooted in a tradition that is much bigger than the community.  They do not betray the tradition, rather they take the tradition (in this case a Christmas song) and "Gleek it up" to be an unique expression of that tradition in the Gleek community.  

Notice that a worship community does not have to be original to be unique.  In fact, it is a bit arrogant to think that you can be original in a world of 7 billion people.  Rather, worship that values unique over efficient identifies where their community fits into the larger whole while at the same time striving for uniqueness.  

In all the efforts to make worship attractive to people, faith communities across the nation have created tract worship experiences that appeal to a broad audience but are ubiquitous and generic.  So back to the original question, "What would worship look like if it were driven by millennials and the creative class?"  

It would look unique but not original.  
It would be ancient and future.  
It would be remix and mash up.  
It would be culturally located and not difficult to replicate in other locations.
It would connect with a tribe or community but not everyone who encounters it.

It would be something that I could not wait to participate each week.  

Contemporary worship and tract homes

Recently I have been asked about the difference in the contemporary worship and what might be called "ancient/future".  I will take a couple of posts to tackle this.

There are a great number of faith communities in our area (and in the U.S.A) that "do" contemporary worship and "do it well".  The flow is unique in each setting but generally it has these elements more or less in this order:
  • Open with 2-4 "praise and worship" songs that are upbeat.  One song must be a "slow down" song.
  • What I call the opening "Salad prayer" - this is the prayer in which the worship leader prays something like, "Father God, just 'let us' give thanks to you. Father God, 'let us' be center our lives upon you and just 'let us'..."
  • Community announcements given in a casual/comical way 
  • Stand and greet your neighbor time
  • Scripture reading
  • Sermon
  • Offering (with a song sung by band at the front)
  • 1-2 closing songs
  • Benediction 
This is not a "bad" order of worship, it can however feel generic.  If you attend a contemporary worship Mississippi then the next week you attend contemporary worship in Washington, then they feel very similar.  This sort of "removal" of uniqueness is much like tract homes.  They are quick to build and they are great homes, but they all look the same.  There is little room for character or local charm.  Efficient yes, but not very original.  

Please hear me I have nothing against tract homes they are great in that they empower many people to have a home of their own.  Likewise, contemporary worship is great for many people to feel empowered to connect with a faith community.  The rub is that the "creative class" and the "Millennials" are people who value uniqueness, local and grassroots more than big box, conglomerate, and generic.  For instance, the Millennial lifestyle is more inclined to fuel the knitting revival than the generation before them (Gen X).  

If we are interested in creating worship opportunities for these growing demographics, then why would we look to create another 'tract worship' in our area?  Should we not instead look to create a local, homemade, authentic, unique worship expression for this context?  What would a worship revival look like if the Millennials fueled it? 

The next post will explore that question more.

How Millennial Are You - Survey

In case you have not seen this over your coming and goings but Pew Research Center has this little survey you can take to "determine" how millennial you are.

Like all surveys this can be taken with a grain of salt as well as speak to some generalities about current culture.  

If you find yourself at odds with these 'young whipper snappers' or do not understand those who were born after 1981, then this might be something to consider looking at.

Additionally, this might be great to take (there are only 14 questions) and see just how much you align with millennial thought/culture.

I was born in 1982 and thus find myself a little bit in both the Gen X and Millennial groups.  My score of an 88 however reflects a much stronger leaning toward Millennial culture.  Below is a screen shot of my answers and results so that I can reference them in the future.  (Note this screenshot is modified so to fit better.)