Christianity is full of stereotyped images that are usually extremely unflattering. Religious leaders portrayed on television and in movies are usually a holier than thou priest who is out of touch with reality and horribly boring to look at and listen to. Is it any wonder that most traditional churches have so many empty pews? The only time media portrays a religious leader to be vibrant or charismatic is when he/she is a crook, a scam artist or a child molester.
Those who started and have built the mega churches around the world have done so by being themselves and allowing God to give the increase. Tossing aside doctrinal issues, the huge non-denominational churches and ministries have succeeded because those attending feel welcomed, at ease and comfortable. May I add that many times they also feel safe because of the large numbers.
I am no fan of spiritual fads or groups or worship services going out of their way just to be different. Most of the time they end up failing because the emphasis is not on doing things in accordance with the Word of God but rather what feels right . There are many times to follow one's gut, but when it comes to worshipping God and blessing His people, guidance from the Holy Spirit must be the final authority and not emotions or gimmicks.
Here you have the two sides of the coin; on one side is the formal but usually stuffy and on the other is the exciting but at times spiritually warped. Somewhere in the middle is the truth. Worship and praise are intensely personal matters and should not be dictated by tradition or policy. Yet, the Bible gives guidelines as to the boundaries of corporate worship (1 Corinthians 14) so as to avoid confusion. The freedom of personal expression in worship cannot make everyone else uncomfortable or the ensuing confusion will make a spectacle of something designed to be holy and beautiful.
We must have the freedom to know, love and worship God as we feel in our hearts we should. But, when we come together to worship God, it must be done decently and in order so as to avoid confusion or presenting a stumbling block to another believer. Traditional worship services are not evil or outdated. Many people love the liturgal nature of these services. Newer worship services with the emphasis on praise and worship, public prayers and other nonconventional activities are perfectly fine also. The point is, when all is said and done, Jesus said to worship God in spirit and in truth which applies to individual worship and worshipping together as an assembly.
"Here you have the two sides of the coin; on one side is the formal but usually stuffy and on the other is the exciting but at times spiritually warped."
Yes; and, for me, it was "the exciting but spiritually warped" coin... if you will... that hurt the most.
But thank God, it is as you wrote in the quote below:
"Somewhere in the middle is the truth. Worship and praise are intensely personal matters and should not be dictated by tradition or policy. Yet, the Bible gives guidelines as to the boundaries of corporate worship (1 Corinthians 14) so as to avoid confusion. The freedom of personal expression in worship cannot make everyone else uncomfortable or the ensuing confusion will make a spectacle of something designed to be holy and beautiful."
Such an important topic you've covered today, Kirk; and you've penned it very well and where the reader can feel your "concern."
You are corrects about the two sides of the coin. It was in the early days of elementary school, and when I say early, I mean early, that I learned something. To my peers you were either Catholic or Lutheran. The very tiny group that did not fall into one of those categories was looked upon like we were some sort of freaks. Did that form an early opinion in my mind about those two denominations and about liturgical services in general? Probably so.
It was always interesting to me that my friends found Pentecostal services to be ... disrespectful but it never occurred to them that I found their liturgical-type services to be like, well, going to a funeral or sitting in a court room. I would eventually learn that there are many people who find comfort and peacefulness in the liturgy. Others prefer to worship God like me. I've also discovered it really doesn't seem to matter so much as to how you were raised. My brother prefers a more "traditional" type of service whereas my son has always seen and responded to the beauty in both. This has taught me, more than anything else that worship and praise are intensely personal.
That being said, as a Pentecostal from the cradle so to speak, I am also well aware of the danger of what is known as "wildfire". I am also familiar with what is sometimes referred to as "quenching the Spirit" and I think we can be in danger of doing either of these things if we worship worship more than God. If we are truly worshiping God we will do neither.