A Q&A with the MO Guys on what is happening with worship, media, culture, “emergent,” and whatnot.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. (Should we mention that Sergio Leone’s film basically killed the genre? Nah.)
The irony is, as much as TGWNN might overtly state the desire to dismiss the pop culture style of its boomer parents, this is exactly what is happening with its visual style: a pop culture expression for the post and post-post modern crowd.
Q: Okay, what are some of the good things happening in TGWNN worship?
One of the strongest methodologies of TGWNN is the way music and liturgy has been reinvigorated for a new generation. Worshipers find engagement and inspiration in music that sounds like what they’re playing on their iPods. Talented musicians have also found ways to breath new life into decades-old hymns. Younger audiences appreciate the more informal yet well crafted musical performances used in worship (although they’d steer very clear of calling them “performances”).
TGWNN worship leaders have also reintroduced creeds, responsive prayers and other forms and acts of worship. These liturgical elements, while institutional and stale for many in mainline traditions, feel fresh and reinstituted in community traditions, and have brought meaning to many of those for whom liturgy is a new concept.
TGWNN has been great at widening the possibilities for music and liturgical elements in a post-contemporary worship world.
Q: I get the feeling there’s a “but?Ãƒâ€žÂ¶” coming.
Yepper. Ironically, the visual style of TGWNN often contradicts its effort to “emerge” from stale ways of doing worship.
A typical image that adorns screens at many TGWNN worship services comes from a previous, centuries-old culture. Much of the imagery has a Euro-centric or Celtic style that may have meaning to someone with church history but can create an obstacle for those who have lived much of their lives outside the church. Worshipers from cultures with non-European backgrounds (particularly African-American) may find it hard to connect with the ever-present pale skinned, Renaissance era Jesus.
TGWNN imagery is also full of esoteric art and ancient symbolism, which is mysterious and confusing (and presumably therefore cool). The use of ancient icons and masterworks may be preferred choices to communicate biblical truths and principles for insiders, but one has to ask the question, “Is Michelangelo the best choice for reaching a culture more in tune with Tarintino and YouTube?” Unfortunately, mystery in TGWNN worship frequently comes in avoiding meaning in art and symbolism, rather than in using it to connect the congregation to the Mysterious Other, God. Call it the “Latin Mass Phenomenon,” or the desire to worship in another language, even if we have no idea what’s going on.