Monday, August 27, 2007

From Evangelical to Orthodox?

(From Flickr user Bjarne via CC)

Jason Zengerle from the New Republic has written up a very interesting piece about the Orthodox Church, and how Evangelicals (including, most notably, Pastor Wilbur Ellsworth) have converted in recent days. It seems like the main reason why people are leaving Evangelical churches is because of intellectual bankruptcy and a lack of respect for history and for the sacred. I found the following quote by Ellsworth very profound:
"Evangelical theology is rooted in only the last twenty-five percent of the history of the church, the post-Reformation period. Orthodoxy goes back to the church father; it goes back to the roots and the first seventy-five percent of church history. There is a very real sense of continuity.

Worship has now basically been reduced to entertainment. That carries people for two years, and then they start looking for something with more depth. Those are the people who we pick up: serious Christians who are hungry for more."
It's a tough balance to strike, between applicability in the modern world and a reverence for God that translates into our worship services. But it's a balance that I think is worth striking.
It's a balance that hopefully keeps Christianity relevant but deep, accessible but profound, modern but hallowed.

Thoughts? Have your worship service become entertainments? Or do they remain a reliable way to commune with God and fellow Christians?


stephanie said...

As a worship leader, I am very aware of the way our music comes across. I'm picky about the songs we use in worship, I preach "it's not about you" to the team members on a regular basis, we don't have any flashy or fancy lights, etc.

This is a tough battle to fight. I think some people expect to be entertained a church. It's the church leaders' job to squelch that expectation, but I think we can only do so much because this is ultimately an issue of the heart. (Which is one of the things I struggle with as a worship leader. What is my responsibility?)

Another hurdle is the lack of truly good, theologically sound contemporary worship music out there. A lot of it is fluff, and I can only handle so much fluff. I guess that's why I prefer the blended option. Some of that "fluff" helps people enter into worship because it's more personal and intimate, but give me a good round of There's Power in the Blood, How Great Thou Art or another such song and it feels like complete (and truthful) worship to me.

Gordon said...

I am one of those evangelicals who is exploring the Orthodox church. I found myself increasingly distrubed by all the hoopla in the "contemporary" worship services at our otherwise rather conservative UMC congregation. Seemed to me that worship had become entirely a matter of personal experience, and that the great truths of the faith were becoming entirely lost in the process. I suppose I could ahve gone around to one Protestant church after another looking for one that eschews this (in my view) somewhat heretical approach to the faith, but it occurred to me that there is one type of church whose theology I respect where there will never be an electric guitar or a powerpoint presentation in worship.

I read the New Republic article. I had been aware for some time of this trend, but was struck by how well the author of the article captured exactly what people like me are thinking: that the Evangelical church is going off on a bender that ignores all of history and any sense of the holy.

Anonymous said...

For me, the trends in worship were not the main problem - though I will admit that the term I used for them was "disturbing": the appeal in Orthodoxy for me is correct doctrine and fidelity to historical truth. The beauty of worship in the Orthodox church is a part of that, of course, but it is not the primary thing that lead me to seek to be a catechumen.