Classical Worship for Today: Roots in the Worship Storms -- By: Wilbur Ellsworth

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 12:1 (Winter 2003)
Article: Classical Worship for Today: Roots in the Worship Storms
Author: Wilbur Ellsworth

Classical Worship for Today: Roots in the Worship Storms

Wilbur Ellsworth

Storms uproot trees. Every time a powerful storm sweeps through a region some trees that have stood tall and majestically for decades lie on the ground in defeat. Suddenly the landscape is changed and trees that had adorned the earth, provided shelter, beauty and quiet are no more. When a great tree goes down there is a profound sense of loss, for it will take years for another to take its place. Great trees fall before the power of the storm when their roots no longer can stand against the force the storm exerts on them.

Today the Church is living in a worship storm. Congregations that have stood with their pastors for years in lifting up their hearts to God in worship are lying prostrate with roots ripped from the earth. The tragedy seems to be escaping no one. The success stories of fast-growing young trees to replace the tired old oaks are spawning books and seminars. It is not entirely comforting, however, that the success stories of a few years ago seem to require frequent updating because the worship winds continue to blow and the message is clear: Keep changing or down you go. Sadly, the country is strewn with pastors who once were regarded with appreciation for their leadership in worship but somehow failed to keep up with the changes the worship storm requires.

People are asking if there are any roots to help them stand

in this storm. Some leaders are saying there really are no roots. One prominent pastor of a large and growing church told a gathering of pastors that at his church, “We don’t sing hymns because we don’t know any.” Another Christian trendsetter has said that quoting people like Charles Spurgeon is irrelevant because no one knows about him anymore. Another pastor of a growing church said that his seminary education did not include any theological reflection on worship. When pressed further he said he saw no problem with that because he didn’t see any connection between theology and what the Church does in worship.

These spokesmen don’t seem to lament a lack of roots but rather affirm that they have a great set of wheels to keep them moving through the ever-changing fashions and tastes of popular culture. In other words, they are rolling along on evangelical pragmatism. Evangelical pragmatism is not without its redeeming value. It is, after all, sincerely concerned with relating to the culture around the Church and drawing people to face their need of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. While that motivation is commendable, however, it has not and cannot provide roots in the worship storm because it does not adequately ask the hard questions abou...

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