An Assessment Of Contemporary Worship -- By: Donald P. Ellsworth

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 13:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: An Assessment Of Contemporary Worship
Author: Donald P. Ellsworth


An Assessment Of Contemporary Worship

Donald P. Ellsworth

Professor of Worship Leadership Ministries

Director of Worship Leadership Ministries Program

Baptist Bible Seminary

Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

Assessment by a team inevitably carries the biases of the team. For assessment to be attempted by an individual, the likelihood of bias increases, as opinion becomes more focused. This author admits to entertaining some biases. Nevertheless, there are areas of contemporary worship that can be viewed through clear objective evidence and through a biblical lens. We live in a time when worship is a hot button of discussion, a buzzword that has enveloped (and sometimes split) churches in ways never thought possible in recent decades. Adding to the confusion are the plethora of opinions delivered through books, articles (including this one), CDs, DVDs, sermons, and conferences. The issues are complicated even more for evangelicals because most of our beliefs and teaching are based on absolutes. But among the reasons there exist so many opinions on the worship subject is that though the Bible defines and describes worship from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is not a textbook on music, nor does it give a clear and focused direction on many matters relating to the relationship between our faith and our practice; thus confusion and conflict in determining a theology of worship can exist.

We continue to reap the results of the cultural upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s and the impact they had on the church. Looking back, we can now see that these were the times that launched new casual dress for the clergy, new church architecture (or simply the remodeling of commercial buildings), new language for the church through the printing of

numerous translations and paraphrases, new instruments for use in congregational worship, and the move from a single “song leader” behind the pulpit to a worship team of singers and instrumentalists. These changes have brought a number of beneficial changes to the evangelical church, as well as some not so beneficial.

Those upheavals were many and significant, but none more so than the culture’s search for and demand for new languages. “Language” is a key issue, since it is the means of communication in any cultural setting, whether across the ocean, across the tracks, or across the street. Missionaries preparing to serve in a foreign culture often spend months learning the basics of a new language and years learning to use it effectively in a convincing conversational manner. Music is a form of language as one which is spoken, but to accept the age-old assumption that “mu...

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