Ancient-Future Worship

The “Washington Post” published an article on how many evangelical churches are now, in a big departure for many of them, practicing Lent. The article went on to deal with an bigger phenomenon, that cutting-edge congregations are abandoning the baby boomer church growth movement in favor of what they are callingancient-future worship:

This increasing connection with Christianity’s classical traditions goes beyond Lent. Some evangelical churches offer confession and weekly communion. They distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday and light Advent calendars at Christmastime. Others have formed monastic communities, such as Casa Chirilagua in Alexandria, modeled on the monasteries that arose in Christianity’s early years.

This represents a “major sea change in evangelical life,” according to D.H. Williams, professor of patristics and historical theology at Baylor University. “Evangelicalism is coming to point where the early church has become the newest staple of its diet.”

Experts say most who have taken on such practices have grown disillusioned with the contemporary, shopping-center feel of the megachurches embraced by baby boomers, with their casually dressed ministers and rock-band praise music.

Instead, evangelicals — many of them young — are adopting a trend that has come to be known as “worship renewal” or “ancient-future worship.”

Those familiar with the trend say it is practiced mostly by small, avant-garde evangelical churches, though not always. Last summer, the national convention of the 2.5 million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, an evangelical wing of the Lutheran denomination, voted to revive private confession.

“I definitely sense a hunger for acknowledgment of life’s mysteries and of the mystery and beauty of God,” said John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich., which recently hosted a “worship renewal” conference for 1,500 people. “There’s a hunger for deeper engagement — ‘Don’t just sell me a product at church, but really put me in touch with the mystery and beauty of God.’ “

Right, the LCMS is a BIG avant-garde evangelical church! Actually, we have ALWAYS had confession and absolution, as codified in our 16th century doctrinal statements, though it has fallen into disuse among many congregations (but by no means all). Anyway, I’ll let that go. I realize that this gets tied up with the “Emerging church” movement, which has problems of its own. The point, though–that “the contemporary, shopping-center feel of the megachurches” will not satisfy for long and will produce a hunger for historic Christianity–is what I have been writing about and predicting for a long time.

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  • organshoes

    While true that American evangelicalism offers little satisfaction in the long run, it may also be true that embracing ancient practices, but without embracing clear doctrine, is evidence of nothing more than enhancing the fad.
    In other words, it doesn’t sound so much like any real return, as just more cafeteria Christian practice. They’re just looking to the old menu for some spice, not meat.

  • organshoes

    While true that American evangelicalism offers little satisfaction in the long run, it may also be true that embracing ancient practices, but without embracing clear doctrine, is evidence of nothing more than enhancing the fad.
    In other words, it doesn’t sound so much like any real return, as just more cafeteria Christian practice. They’re just looking to the old menu for some spice, not meat.

  • I think that the Emergent movement asks some important questions and points out some major problems with the church. They have come up with some “solutions” that are misguided at best, though. They’ve thrown out clear doctrine, for sure. We seem to have a hard time balancing grace and truth in Christianity. We may, in some churches, have truth but no grace and no love. It kills people spiritually and drives them away. On the other hand there are churches that are all grace and no truth, which leave people starving and powerless. They stay for the warm fuzzies, but long for something more.

    What we need is solid doctrine, the Truth *together* with love and grace and beauty and community and most importantly: the POWER of Jesus Christ crucified!

  • I think that the Emergent movement asks some important questions and points out some major problems with the church. They have come up with some “solutions” that are misguided at best, though. They’ve thrown out clear doctrine, for sure. We seem to have a hard time balancing grace and truth in Christianity. We may, in some churches, have truth but no grace and no love. It kills people spiritually and drives them away. On the other hand there are churches that are all grace and no truth, which leave people starving and powerless. They stay for the warm fuzzies, but long for something more.

    What we need is solid doctrine, the Truth *together* with love and grace and beauty and community and most importantly: the POWER of Jesus Christ crucified!

  • Carl Vehse

    Michelle Malkin has a 2005 column that questions WP Reporter Jacqueline L. Salmon’s Page 1 “incredible” report on a tsunami relief story (http://michellemalkin.com/2005/01/24/questions-about-the-washington-posts-incredible-tsunami-relief-story/)

  • Carl Vehse

    Michelle Malkin has a 2005 column that questions WP Reporter Jacqueline L. Salmon’s Page 1 “incredible” report on a tsunami relief story (http://michellemalkin.com/2005/01/24/questions-about-the-washington-posts-incredible-tsunami-relief-story/)

  • The Jones

    Yeah, the Emerging church is sad doctrinally, but if there are some people who are honestly loving and serving the Lord there who would otherwise not be doing anything, then I guess we can keep them around until they get some good doctrine to go along with it.

    But kind of on the same note as the church struggling under nontraditional/nonorthadox practices such as mega-church christianity: Recently people have been talking in New York Times, in books, and on television about American Evangelicals losing power. What they are talking about is people being disenchanted with the political fortunes of certain parties, coalitions, and people. Does it seem like a problem to anyone else that Evangelical Christian “power” is now synonomous with political power?

  • The Jones

    Yeah, the Emerging church is sad doctrinally, but if there are some people who are honestly loving and serving the Lord there who would otherwise not be doing anything, then I guess we can keep them around until they get some good doctrine to go along with it.

    But kind of on the same note as the church struggling under nontraditional/nonorthadox practices such as mega-church christianity: Recently people have been talking in New York Times, in books, and on television about American Evangelicals losing power. What they are talking about is people being disenchanted with the political fortunes of certain parties, coalitions, and people. Does it seem like a problem to anyone else that Evangelical Christian “power” is now synonomous with political power?

  • On the surface, this seems like a nice enough thing, but along with Organshoes (@1), I wonder if this is actually more of the same.

    The Baby Boomers rebelled against previous generations and made worship to suit them. Has the “emergent” church merely flipped that, rebelling against the Boomers and going back to the older ways? And if so, is it a correction, or will we be reading in a generation about new-fangled “modern” worship?

    Carl (@3), did you mean to paste that comment into this blog entry?

  • On the surface, this seems like a nice enough thing, but along with Organshoes (@1), I wonder if this is actually more of the same.

    The Baby Boomers rebelled against previous generations and made worship to suit them. Has the “emergent” church merely flipped that, rebelling against the Boomers and going back to the older ways? And if so, is it a correction, or will we be reading in a generation about new-fangled “modern” worship?

    Carl (@3), did you mean to paste that comment into this blog entry?

  • Carl Vehse

    The link provided in #3 is there to suggest Jacqueline Salmon’s reporting not be taken too seriously.

  • Carl Vehse

    The link provided in #3 is there to suggest Jacqueline Salmon’s reporting not be taken too seriously.

  • I’m new to blogging. You’ve taken a long quote from a newspaper article. I’m a journalist and have been trained to only use a snipet from copyrighted material.

    Do you regularly use this much material from newspaper articles? Do newspapers ever complain or take action about it?

  • I’m new to blogging. You’ve taken a long quote from a newspaper article. I’m a journalist and have been trained to only use a snipet from copyrighted material.

    Do you regularly use this much material from newspaper articles? Do newspapers ever complain or take action about it?

  • Jay Ramos

    I hope that this yearning for a more substantive worship experience is a result of burgeoning spiritual maturity on the part of those exploring a return to “old school” Christianity, but the cynic in me can’t help but think it’s just like the others before me have said: another fad to break the monotony. Unfortunately for these fad seekers, the only thing that truly will break this cycle is a deeper understanding of Scripture and what it teaches us about Jesus Christ. Once a person realizes how much deeper his faith could be, only then will he seek out a worship experience that provides that. Of course, this also will lead him to more Bible study, more Christian literature, and a stronger desire to live his life in worship to God.

  • Jay Ramos

    I hope that this yearning for a more substantive worship experience is a result of burgeoning spiritual maturity on the part of those exploring a return to “old school” Christianity, but the cynic in me can’t help but think it’s just like the others before me have said: another fad to break the monotony. Unfortunately for these fad seekers, the only thing that truly will break this cycle is a deeper understanding of Scripture and what it teaches us about Jesus Christ. Once a person realizes how much deeper his faith could be, only then will he seek out a worship experience that provides that. Of course, this also will lead him to more Bible study, more Christian literature, and a stronger desire to live his life in worship to God.

  • Good question, Rita. I hope I’m not violating the law, though you might note that I am more careful than some bloggers. Here is the bottom line from Scott Allen writing on copyright and blogging:

    “The simplest solution is to always use an excerpt and a link, never content in its entirety. That will pretty much always constitute fair use, and will always be appreciated by the content creator.”

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Using-Copyrighted-Material-in-Blogs-and-Forums&id=103411

  • Good question, Rita. I hope I’m not violating the law, though you might note that I am more careful than some bloggers. Here is the bottom line from Scott Allen writing on copyright and blogging:

    “The simplest solution is to always use an excerpt and a link, never content in its entirety. That will pretty much always constitute fair use, and will always be appreciated by the content creator.”

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Using-Copyrighted-Material-in-Blogs-and-Forums&id=103411

  • Lost in the clouds with Jupiter transcendent

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  • Lost in the clouds with Jupiter transcendent

    Lost in the clouds with Mars ascendant.

    Love Luck and the music of the Spheres.

    Azure in the arms of Cerulean

    Cast adrift in the Indigo isles

    May Angel love and Moon glow light your path.

  • PeteS

    First, to comment on the author: I found the 4th paragraph interesting:

    “This increasing connection with Christianity’s classical traditions goes beyond Lent. Some evangelical churches offer confession and weekly communion. They distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday and light Advent calendars at Christmastime.”

    They must get the ashes from the Advent calendars. Or is lighting Advent calendars really a tradition and I just haven’t heard of it?

    On a more serious note, she includes the following:

    “It is the same style of meditation that is basically being performed by Eastern religion practitioners,” said Deborah Dumbowski, who with her husband, Dave, started an Oregon publishing house, Web site and 25,000-name e-newsletter to oppose the incorporation of such elements into evangelical worship. “It’s being presented as Christianity, and we’re saying this isn’t Christianity — not according to what the Bible says. . . . We believe it really does deny the gospel message.”

    It makes it sound like these people oppose confession and communion. I don’t know them. Maybe they do. But I decided to find these people, whose last name is Dombrowski, not Dumbowski. I googled and found a blog connected to their publishing company. There I found this:

    “The Washington Post article illustrates how the media can often misconstrue statements, misrepresenting what those quoted really mean. For those who are examining the contemplative/emerging issue, it is important to understand that mysticism is what underlies the movement that Salmon is reporting on. And it is about this mysticism that Lighthouse Trails is trying to warn both the Christian and secular public. When it comes to contemplative and emerging spirituality, as we have described in our books and on our research site, our comments in the Washington Post article are absolutely true.”

    You can find the whole blog here:

    http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/index.php?p=1018&c=1

    I haven’t done enough research, but I have read some things that support some of what the Dombrowskis contend about this movement.

    But Prof. Veith’s main point has really shown itself to be true again and again: what the mega-churches offer, generally speaking, doesn’t satisfy, and eventually some (not enough) of their members recognize this.

  • PeteS

    First, to comment on the author: I found the 4th paragraph interesting:

    “This increasing connection with Christianity’s classical traditions goes beyond Lent. Some evangelical churches offer confession and weekly communion. They distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday and light Advent calendars at Christmastime.”

    They must get the ashes from the Advent calendars. Or is lighting Advent calendars really a tradition and I just haven’t heard of it?

    On a more serious note, she includes the following:

    “It is the same style of meditation that is basically being performed by Eastern religion practitioners,” said Deborah Dumbowski, who with her husband, Dave, started an Oregon publishing house, Web site and 25,000-name e-newsletter to oppose the incorporation of such elements into evangelical worship. “It’s being presented as Christianity, and we’re saying this isn’t Christianity — not according to what the Bible says. . . . We believe it really does deny the gospel message.”

    It makes it sound like these people oppose confession and communion. I don’t know them. Maybe they do. But I decided to find these people, whose last name is Dombrowski, not Dumbowski. I googled and found a blog connected to their publishing company. There I found this:

    “The Washington Post article illustrates how the media can often misconstrue statements, misrepresenting what those quoted really mean. For those who are examining the contemplative/emerging issue, it is important to understand that mysticism is what underlies the movement that Salmon is reporting on. And it is about this mysticism that Lighthouse Trails is trying to warn both the Christian and secular public. When it comes to contemplative and emerging spirituality, as we have described in our books and on our research site, our comments in the Washington Post article are absolutely true.”

    You can find the whole blog here:

    http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/index.php?p=1018&c=1

    I haven’t done enough research, but I have read some things that support some of what the Dombrowskis contend about this movement.

    But Prof. Veith’s main point has really shown itself to be true again and again: what the mega-churches offer, generally speaking, doesn’t satisfy, and eventually some (not enough) of their members recognize this.

  • Rita,

    Always a good point, but Veith’s excerpt is a small part of a long article. I think that is the key thing. When a group of people are discussing an article, it is important to all be on the same page.

    To all – I forwarded this article to my pastor today and he found it interesting. I gave him kudos for being a standard-bearer for a 2000 year old fad! After Lenten service tonight, we discussed how it is most likely a fad which will fade unless the practice is grounded in scripture. Sad to say, it seems to be a fad based on what feels good at the moment.

  • Rita,

    Always a good point, but Veith’s excerpt is a small part of a long article. I think that is the key thing. When a group of people are discussing an article, it is important to all be on the same page.

    To all – I forwarded this article to my pastor today and he found it interesting. I gave him kudos for being a standard-bearer for a 2000 year old fad! After Lenten service tonight, we discussed how it is most likely a fad which will fade unless the practice is grounded in scripture. Sad to say, it seems to be a fad based on what feels good at the moment.

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