The Elements of Modern Worship
Written by: Spenser White
Christians have been worshipping for 2000 years. However, the ways these Christians have been worshipping throughout the ages has changed and built on itself. My mom is the worship leader for the church I grew up in, so I have experienced relatively the same style of worship my entire life. Coming to school, I was presented with an altogether different worship experience than my folk-rock church back home. This intrigued me, and I started to become more aware of other worship differences in the greater Christian community, past and present. I knew the two men I needed to go to for answers for my questions were Colton Fredrick and Gabe Belden.
I met Gabe, who is the Coordinator of Chapel Technology and Pastoral Arts major with a minor in Worship Arts here at OKWU, in Doc’s one night to have a conversation with him about the nature of modern worship. He told me that he defined worship as “ascribing worth to God.” This specific definition actually expands the whole of our lives. “We are always worshipping. It should be your lifestyle as a Christian,” says Gabe. Singing is a way to ascribe worth to God specifically in a corporate worship context. “One, it’s mandated by the Bible, specifically,” Gabe told me, “and two, singing is generally applicable to the corporate body of believers.” But he emphasized that worship is primarily for God and that needs to emphasized in our worship.
This worship for God is why Gabe’s current favorite Christian group is Shane and Shane. They are a band who have many different songs, but recently undertook a project to convert many of the Psalms to Western melodies and lyric structure. Although Gabe does enjoy many worship bands, he does wish that Christianity was more open to Christian art in a decidedly non-corporate worship context. He brought up 21 Pilots as a band made up of Christians who are outspoken about their faith that gets little love from the broader Christian community.
My worship pastor at my church, Colton Fredrick, also had some beneficial things to say about Christian worship. A Pastoral Ministry graduate from OKWU, he is deeply troubled by the lack of Trinitarian affirmation within modern Christian worship. It even comes into his definition of worship. To him, worship is “humbled adoration of the Triune God.” Pastor Colton’s favorite types of songs are complex lyrically in order to help the congregation think about God. He has also noticed that as millennials have started writing music, the general shift in modern Christian music is towards a folk style with more innovation. Gabe also pointed the shift out to me, specifically pointing out how modern worship is returning to the foundations of the faith, specifically using more creedal language in their songs (think about Hillsong’s “This I Believe” or The Newsboy’s “We Believe”).
Pastor Colton also told me that in his experience, millennials and Gen Z’s prefer a more traditional, subdued style of worship. One style isn’t inherently better than another, though. What matters is the words that are being sung (ascribing worth to God and humbled adoration of the Triune God), regardless of the style. “With a blending of people comes a blending of styles,” said Pastor Colton.
Christians as constantly innovating and shaping their worship style. This is a natural movement of a living church; the words and nature of God that is reflected in our worship is what is most necessary in Christianity. So if you grew up in a country church or a bit of rock-and-roll, high church or low church, you can join with the historical Christian community and humbly ascribe the worth due to our Triune God.