The Union Recorder


November 20, 2013

HODGES: What should worship look like?



I have heard it said that any business operating the same way it did 25 years ago will probably have gone out of business long ago or will shortly.

Now the church is not a business, to be sure, but we need to pay attention to the questions businesses ask about themselves. They would ask, “Are our surroundings attractive, and when someone comes in, are they treated like they are someone special?” They would ask, “Are the products we are offering up to date, modern and useful?” “Are people interested in what we have?”

We could respond, “Well, the church’s message is 2,000 years old, and people ought to be interested,” but that becomes a dangerous assumption in a world that is as rapidly changing as ours.

Here is what I would like to ask: “Do we sing songs that the people can easily learn, and is there substance to those songs?” I have some problems with contemporary music in that there seems to be a lack of real substance, and some of them just do not speak to our condition in clear terms. For older hymns, they might recall some fond memories from long ago, but too many do not speak to us in terms we can understand today. It has frightened me that there are not very many good hymns being written today.

“Is worship fast-paced enough?” In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s a subtle change developed that made more of a difference than we knew. “Sesame Street” was one of the instigators of that change when it had segments that lasted only two or three minutes at the most. Our attention span shortened, and we moved quickly from one venue to another. Is a 20-minute sermon going to hold the attention of people today?

Do we pray effectively? I know of few people who can keep focused on a long prayer; their attention wanders to other things and then they begin to feel guilty about that. And we might want to pay attention to the language of our prayers. Anyone still using “thee” and “thou” should update their language.

I am not offering a style of worship we should adopt, but I think it might be time we began a conversation in our churches about what our worship looks like now and maybe what it should look like so that those who need to worship with us will want to come.

Dr. Jay Hodges can be reached at

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