Many hear the terms: emergent… emerging… emerging worship… emerging church… emerging movement…
and wondered: What is this all about?
For many the first thought focus on worship. Maybe loud music… candles… colorful light show…
What I hope to do is to share an understanding to where this movement came from, why it exists and a few key aspects.
In a Christian context, worship is a center piece of a community of faith or ecclesia (wikipedia it) that is striving to follow the Way of Jesus who is the Christ.
With that in mind it is clear that emerging worship is something that arises out of emerging community of faith.
Many have suggested that emerging worship is the next trend or style in worship in a liner structure after the so called Contemporary Worship or Praise and Worship style.
[An interesting side note that in this same time frame late 20th century mainline and liberal congregations have become structured or liturgically (liturgical renewal). These traditions are described in a helpful article: Trends in Worship by Rev. Daniel Benedict gbod.org/worship.]
After looking at the historical record the rise of praise and worship can be tracked to the youth movement of the 1950s and 60s these efforts began with evangelistic aims. Or was it that they youth leaders wanted to play their guitar
[ The line between Christian’s using culture to connect with people and Christian’s being subverted by culture is a fine line… it has been described in a great book by Richard Niebuhr called Christ and Culture. ]
However, I suggest that what is taking place is a critic of ecclesiology rather than a style. The emerging church movement is renewal movement (SEE Missional).
The Critic is: a response to seeker seeker service, mega church trend… the main critic is that the church exists for more than consumer trends… adding more and more churches getting bigger and bigger but not being Christ like.
Thus what the emerging church is suggesting is that missiology defines our ecclesiology. Or the mission of the church defines the way we are church. And we should structure our lives together to accomplish our mission. (SEE ecclesia the church)
Key to understanding this movement is that it arises in North America out of the evangelical right / non denominational side of the church. While this is where the first domino fell the emergent movement has had a larger draw. Individuals that self idenify as apart of this movement seek to get beyond traditional modern categories as liberal, conservative, evangelical, progressive…. Many in this movement have highlighted that the church has been in a cold war. This internal cold war has hindered the sharing of the good news, inviting people to follow God’s way, and building the kingdom of God. Because internal strive or bickering many beyond the walls of the church have view the church as deeply irrelevant, superstious and outdated. and they are right.
my working understanding of alt/emerging worship
A postmodern expression of worship that takes into account current scientific and technological advances. A few ideas that are expressed through these alternative patterns of worship are multi-intelligence theory, holistic understanding of faith (that include piety, mercy and justice) and a new cosmological understanding (Genesis and evolution are not incomparable).
From a liturgical standpoint this form of worship holds on to liturgical renewal values of structure and form, yet embracing the evolving forms and seamless integration technology. In the creation of the service of worship the author uses the whole gamut of Christian, non Christian and Jewish prayers, rituals, symbols, hymns/song, and other liturgical element in the creation of postmodern collage or pastiche.
The question that arises while creating a service is how this (idea/theological concept) can be best expressed and received by the worshiping community. There are many mediums to convey a message, including the senses, countless forms of technology, and all forms of music, drama or ritual action. A key way of expression is the physical worship environment (lighting, banner, artwork, alter arrangement etc) what type of seating, in what arrangement (my preference is worship in the round with a center alter).
Worship is an attempt to create space for individuals to hear and respond to the Spirit. Often people are invited to respond and pray through rituals of art and creativity, (sometimes in prayer station or non structured time). The focus of worship is give praise God and seeking direction. Because this worship is consider to be holistic this type of service is increased emphasis on authentic sanctified living (praxis) in the everydayness of life through acts of piety, mercy and justice. The act of worship cannot be disconnected to our daily faith journey. The proclamation is considered to be invitational the on going journey of faith or conversation.