When we talk about worship in our churches, it usually comes to the table the questions of “What style of worship do we like?” “Which style of worship is better?” or “Which style of worship pleases God?”.
If worship is the expression of our relationship with God in which we remember His story and we participate (through faith, gratitude and obedience) in the anticipation of His return; where does the “style” of worship fit in?
In a simple way and paraphrasing Constance Cherry’s definition of worship style, we can define “style of worship” as the way a congregation expresses the content of its worship as a result of its given context. It is vital to keep in mind that the “worship style” should flow from the context and not determine the context. In other words it should flow from the inside out, and not from the outside in. (I do want to make that clarification, since there are a lot of churches that try to preserve a style that does not fit their current context, or that try to adopt a new style that also does not match their context).
How then can we know which worship style should be used in our churches? I believe the question should be more like: “What kind of worship helps people encounter God in this worshiping community?
Currently in our churches when we talk about worship styles we talk about “Liturgical Style”, “Traditional Style”, “Contemporary Style”, “Blended Style” and “Emerging Style”; let me give a brief description of each style:
- Liturgical Style = The order of the service is highly prescribed by the church (through a Book of Worship or a Prayer Book), they promote a strong sense of reverence, and are very strong spiritually based.
- Traditional Style = Uses a rich heritage of content (like hymns and prayers), observes the primary seasons of the Christian year, and the primary instrumentation is provided by a piano and/or organ.
- Contemporary Style = Fosters intimacy with God, promotes joyful worship (mostly led by a praise team with the use of modern instrumentation and technology), and it is more casual in appearance.
- Blended Style = It’s a hybrid of traditional and contemporary worship services, and it may hold potential for intergenerational worship.
- Emerging Style = It’s a style that is still in the flux of what is and where it is going, but it seems to try to take communities of faith into discovering their own way to connect to God, it appreciates new and old forms of worship.
I personally believe a particular community of faith CAN encounter God in a worship service in ANY of these styles; and I believe God does not have a preference in any of them, as He does not have any preference in the language, the culture, the generation or the customs we use. I think that what He cares about is for an integrity and authenticity in the style that we use in our particular church, which is represented in an acceptance and celebration of the type of people that we already are.
We do not adopt a particular style of worship “because that is what we have been doing for many many years; or because that is what everybody is doing now”; but because whatever style of worship we use, it helps us to naturally express ourselves to God and to have an encounter with Him.
What we do in our worship services, is of a greater eternal significance than how we do it. Be authentic!