The Contemporvant Service – What Can We Learn?

If you read my blog, you’ve probably already seen this video put out by North Point Media. It’s racked up thousands of views in the past couple weeks for obvious reasons and sparked some lively debate over at Vimeo.com.

Like most viral videos seeking to make a point, this one has its supporters and detractors. Some call it a brilliant parody while others are deeply offended by its supposed slap in the face at churches targeting unbelievers. I tend to side with the first group, and I think there are a few things we can learn from it.

1. It’s a good practice, and even humble, to poke fun at ourselves.
If we think that everything we do in our meetings is as sacred an inviolable as Scripture, we’re living in unreality. Elements of our meetings that are meaningful to us might seem predictable, insincere, or formulaic to others. If we think about it long enough, we may even start to agree. I appreciate the fact that that folks at North Point are exposing temptations common to many churches today, probably including their own.

2. Every church has a liturgy.
Liturgy refers to the form our public worship takes. Whether that form involves creeds, organs, and bulletins, on the one hand, or extemporaneous prayers, electric guitars, and videos on the other, we lean towards practices that are familiar. The question is not whether or not we have a liturgy, but whether we have a biblical one that includes Scriptural elements, rehearses the gospel (see Christ-Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell), builds up the church, and glorifies God (Acts 2:42; 2 Tim. 4:1-2; Col. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 14:12; 1 Cor. 12:4-7; Rom. 15:5-7; 1 Cor. 10:31).

3. We Christians can be quick to express strong opinions about things we don’t fully understand.
I and most of the commenters at Vimeo were unsure of the background or purpose of this video. Some said it was used to introduce a Sunday sermon series at Andy Stanley’s church and was also shown at a leaders’ conference. But being uncertain of the origin didn’t keep some commenters from completely dissing it. Knowing we have incomplete information should surely give us pause before we lash out it against it as another example of Christians bashing each other (see Prov. 18:2). On the other hand, the Internet being what it is, some kind of explanation would have been helpful.

4. Idolatry is alive and well in our church services.
“Contemporvant” worship (and its relatives, near and far) can come dangerously close to bowing down at the altars of coolness, fame, material success, cutting edge technology, and emotional experience. We can appear to be worshiping God while serving our idols (2 Kngs 17:33). The video appropriately makes fun of those idols, but where they exist in our churches and our hearts, it’s anything but funny. And just to be clear, many of these idols find their way into traditional church services as well. (I posted some thoughts on this topic in a previous series, Idolatry on Sunday Mornings.)

5. We have to work hard to speak with integrity.
One of the reasons this video makes us laugh is because commentary replaces actual content. We’re shown the “hidden” meaning behind different segments of a “contemporvant” meeting. So singing God’s praise becomes a means of making people feel at home, motivating them to pick up our album, and move them to tears. Welcoming guests is an opportunity to connect with cool. Videos and prayers are used for stage changes, and sermons aim at the emotions rather than the whole person: mind, heart, and will. If prayer, singing, and preaching have more important secondary purposes than the obvious ones, our meetings are causing more harm than good (1 Cor. 11:17).

6. In our desire to be relevant, we mustn’t forget how “unflashy” Christianity can be.
This is  a thought about two things we don’t see in this video – communion and baptism (Mt. 28:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20-26). In his excellent book, The Good News We Almost Forgot, Kevin DeYoung writes, “Many evangelicals see more movie clips in church during the year than they see sacraments.” I’m not assuming that the churches this video parodies don’t practice the sacraments. I am asking if in the midst of making our meetings creative, relevant, fresh, and inspiring we think we have better ideas than the Lord himself of the best ways to remember his death and resurrection.

7. Excellent production, seamless transitions, and well-planned meetings are no substitute for the power of the gospel.
While it’s possible to use all the elements in this video and still proclaim a crucified Messiah clearly and boldly, inherent tensions can make it more difficult. In a book I highly recommend, The Cross and Christian Ministry, D.A. Carson wrote:

If the church is being built with large portions of charm, personality, easy oratory, positive thinking, managerial skills, powerful and emotional experiences, and people smarts, but without the repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” we may be winning more adherents than converts…Do not think that you can adopt the philosophies and values of the world as if such choices do not have a profoundly detrimental impact on the church. Do not think you can get away with it. Do not kid yourself that you are with it, and avant-garde Christian, when in fact you are leaving the gospel behind and doing damage to God’s church. (p. 80, 84)

I thank God for folks like the North Point Media team who help me think more clearly about what I’m doing on a Sunday morning, and how it might help or hinder the clear proclamation of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

I’d be interested in knowing if you gained any insights about your own church from watching this video.

Update: North Point Media posted an explanation of the video on their site.

67 Responses to The Contemporvant Service – What Can We Learn?

  1. Aaron May 17, 2010 at 5:44 PM #

    I loved this video:

    I pled guilty to the post-sermon emotional response (the strings will make you cry!) :) even though that’s not always a bad thing.

    The most insightful thing for me, as you said, were the motivations behind song choice and service flow. I’ve had other erronious motivations than the ones in the video, . . but this was a great reminder to pick songs for Praise, confession, celebration, gospel reminder, lift high the cross, etc. . . and not pragmatic reasons.

  2. Jeff May 17, 2010 at 5:58 PM #

    One of the things I got from this was a deeper love for my own church and the people who lead it.

    However, I do have one question I usually ask in these types of discussions; is it really necessary to go this far in criticizing other churches and their way of doing things? Doesn’t the American church have enough groups trying to eliminate or marginalize it without turning on itself?

    I guess that was actually 2 questions. :)

    • Bob Kauflin May 17, 2010 at 6:08 PM #

      Jeff, I think the folks at North Point were including themselves in the parody. In any case, it’s a high quality video like this that often gets conversations going that should have been taking place much sooner. That is, if we’re looking at our own hearts and not others.

  3. Daniel K Robinson May 17, 2010 at 6:05 PM #

    Hey Bob,

    Yes! This video has made it’s way ‘down under’ (Australia) where the ‘Contemporvant’ service/liturgy is alive and kicking.

    As always, your comments lend a calming wisdom to the overall debate that rages in modern western church between advocates of both camps; traditional and contemporary. Thanks for taking the time to pose some perspective.

    It is good to ‘laugh at ourselves,’ and if we can’t because the truth of what we are watching or hearing is ‘a little too close to home’ then all the more reason to stop and ‘take check’ (sorry for all the clichés).

    As a final point, I enjoyed that the video did not centre it’s comment on the style of music used, which tends to be the front-line of our worship wars. Certainly the music contributed to the production but essentially the comment centred itself on the liturgical construction of the contemporvant service. I think this is a positive position to take in the discussion; i.e. we are entertaining different topics of discussion other than the well worn ‘musical tastes’ perspectives which is, as you may well agree, a little tiresome.

    I humbly hope these comments, by an Aussie nonetheless, contribute to your thoughts.

    Dan

    • Bob Kauflin May 17, 2010 at 6:07 PM #

      Very helpful, Dan. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  4. Aaron May 17, 2010 at 6:16 PM #

    One misunderstanding I’ve seen (as this has been on many blogs) is that folks are seeing “the point” as knocking on the liturgy, or sameness of a sunday service. Well, that would be ignoring 2000 years of church history, so I don’t think that’s a takeaway. It’s fine to be “same-ish” each week,. . . it’s the “why” you’re doing the different elements, and are you observing the 2 sacraments, etc.

  5. Daniel K Robinson May 17, 2010 at 7:23 PM #

    Aaron,

    You make a valid point regarding the ‘2000 years’ of church history. Perhaps this is the very point to be considered! I would suggest that many of us ‘no longer know why we do what we do.’

    We are so far removed from our point of origin that a definite disconnect has developed in our reasoning for liturgical construction. In this context, the NorthPoint video is of high value. It causes us to consider/reflect on why we are performing our liturgies in the way that we are. This value is not only realised for the advocates of liturgies as identified by the video, but also by liturgies from the 9 worship traditions across Protestantism (White, 1993). We all need to reflect on our reasoning for why we conduct ourselves in the manner to which we are accustomed.

    If our liturgy has developed purely as a response to ‘perceived market influences’ then our reactionary mode is open to being developed according to a stance which is about ‘pleasing man’ – intentionally or not. That is not to say that our modern liturgies need to be antiquated to be of value, but they do need to be founded on more than a set of values which, for all accounts and purposes, are designed to make the worship participant ‘feel comfortable.’

  6. Matthew May 17, 2010 at 8:17 PM #

    I’m probably biased, but I thought that far and away the most trenchant critique was the crass commercialization of the music – you can buy my new CD at the book table! It’s hard to know where to draw the line there; I’ve always been concerned about violating the “house of merchandise” line that Jesus drew pretty clearly.

    And as I’m starting to record my own music, and I’m hearing congregants ask approvingly when I’m going to finish it so it can be at the book table, I’m cringing just a little. The potential problem, of course, lies with me, not with them.

  7. jonathanhyz May 17, 2010 at 9:09 PM #

    Hi Bob, I was one of those who wasn’t exactly thrilled with the video.

    I agree fully with your points. What I disagree with was the way the video was placed on Vimeo without any description or context.

    As communicators we have a responsibility to place our message in the proper context.

    Satire is brilliant ONLY when people know that it is satire. And this video was one of those that really put itself out there to say “take me literally” or “interpret me as bashing contemporary services”.

    I think that in the context of no context, the video won’t lead us to laugh at ourselves. It will however further cement whatever pre-existing dislikes and discontent that viewers (with no knowledge of the content) might have already had.

    That’s why I dislike the video.

    • Bob Kauflin May 17, 2010 at 11:26 PM #

      Jonathan, I agree that “as communicators we have a responsibility to place our message in the proper context.” Great point.

  8. Michelle May 17, 2010 at 9:20 PM #

    I, too, had the feeling that this was put together by worship leaders for worship leaders, allowing us to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves so seriously.

    I never had the impression that this video was made by “outsiders” (non-music leaders) trying to mock those of us in music ministry. There were too many nuances only “music people” would know!

    I would echo what Jeff said in comment #2. It made me appreciate the way we do things at my church. We are a pretty small church. We don’t even have a praise team; we have a “praise couple” (my husband and me). No light shows or extravagant electronics. It ain’t slick, but it’s good worship! :0)

  9. Matt Mason May 18, 2010 at 12:11 AM #

    Another helpful post, Bob. Thanks!

    I listened to a sermon from Pastor Conrad Mbewe (Zambia, Africa) recently. Before the sermon, I could hear Mbewe and the congregation boisterously singing He Arose with a simple piano accompaniment. I couldn’t help but wonder, are many of our congregations – even those of us who seek to plan services with a focus on Christ and the gospel – unwittingly addicted to the lights, arrangements, no-dead-space-transitions, etc. If the electrical power went out in the meeting, could we still worship God?

    The perspective differences between Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, don’t strike me as strange as they did when I first heard about them. Mediums of ministry are important to think about in part because employing them uncritically might keep us from realizing that perhaps they haven’t been the low profile, “in place to serve and support the message”-oriented as we hoped.

    This makes me all the more grateful that Christ is the Head of the Church and the Perfecter of our worship! I’m grateful as Calvin said that “God tolerates even our stammering, without which we would not have the liberty to pray” or, for that matter, call people together for a Sunday meeting!

  10. Mike D May 18, 2010 at 8:35 AM #

    I find it…interesting…that we are talking about the worship of the living God, and yet not one passage of Scripture is quoted anywhere in this article. I am not saying that we have been given specifics about every area of worship, but, if we don’t start there and live there, we begin adding things of which God says, “Who has required this of you?”

    • Bob Kauflin May 18, 2010 at 9:26 AM #

      Mike D, thanks for the helpful observation about the lack of biblical references. I went back and included some of the Scriptures behind my thoughts.

  11. Dave May 18, 2010 at 8:38 AM #

    Hello,

    I just came across this blog a few weeks ago and have been following it. I am the worship leader at a small Lutheran church in Chicago. Anyway, I really liked this video. It reminded me of the church that I grew up in and they seemed to spend so much energy on the appearance and flow of the service it felt more like a production than a church service. I think that is a point that this video is trying to get across. Church should be a place that we can go to grow in our faith and be lifted up and not to be entertained.

    Thanks for posting this. I think it is great! :)

  12. Charles Burge May 18, 2010 at 9:01 AM #

    Not sure if the video makes me want to laugh or cry

  13. Dave Phillippi May 18, 2010 at 9:20 AM #

    I was at the conference where this video was shown and in the context, it was very appropriate. It was a conference for church leaders, most of which belong to churches very similar to North Point Community Church. The point of the session (of which this was a part) was to explain why North Point has their “liturgy”, if you will. They have a point for everything they do and it is motivated by wanting to proclaim the Gospel, even if the presentation may be a bit different than others.

    I just thought I should provide some explanation to what was surrounding the video. Context is always helpful, I suppose.

    And I, for one, found it very funny. Not sure what that says about me…

    • Bob Kauflin May 18, 2010 at 9:26 AM #

      Dave, thanks for filling us in on the background.

  14. Frank Taylor May 18, 2010 at 9:40 AM #

    Simply my 2 cents… not worth a lot, but just my view from my porch: we need to see things like this, with context or not.

    Often we end up doing things we never expected we would ever do. We cut corners, we add raw emotionalism into a situation, and forget about content. I doubt many do it on purpose, but we all fall into that trap at times.

    The video over-exaggerated much of it… but that’s what makes it funny, and powerful. We would go nuts on a brother if his worship was done like that. It’s so obvious. But our slipping, our mis-focus, not so obvious. It’s supremely subtle. And that can lead us to the place we don’t want to be: pointless, Truth-less, empty worship.

    Bob, awesome thoughts. I admire and respect the way you take the time to evaluate, and find the lessons in such things.

  15. David Kjos May 18, 2010 at 9:42 AM #

    In response to Jeff (comment #2), who asked, “is it really necessary to go this far …?”

    I think your question demonstrates the hyper-sensitivity that is typical of postmodern times (not that you are necessarily a postmodern thinker). I wonder at your assessment that this parody has gone to some sort of extreme. I thought it was really quite mild.

  16. Carl Flores May 18, 2010 at 9:50 AM #

    Bob,

    Thanks for the post and comment as always, to the point, yet doused in grace to help open the door to discussion.

    I can’t help but think of the old story (actually read long ago on the earliest editions of Worship Matters) about the city guy who visited the country and then reported back on how different their worship was with the hymn example, and the country guy visiting the city with his comment on the chorus. We view all these things through our our historical perspective and (if I may make up a phrase) “liturgical worldview.

    As has been said already, the danger always exists to make the structure/traditions, and yes, style of our worship more sacred than the ONE who made us to worship, so some well intentioned satire in proper context, is a timely and I agree needed thing.

    I definitely found it funny, even as my own church goes through a different type of change, taking two different services, and bringing them together in a single unified service, in a whole new challenge. Thanks for the reminder of non-gospel centric elements we might want to avoid.

  17. Ben May 18, 2010 at 9:54 AM #

    Thank you for this post, Bob. When first watching the video, I laughed and moved on without much thought, realizing since it was from North Point that they were probably trying to laugh at themselves and reevaluate how/why they do things. I also laughed at myself and how easy it is to let the wrong motivations drive how we plan services. By God’s grace I’m growing ever more intentional about our “liturgy.” So your post definitely brought excellent depth to the discussion.

    I think we always need to be asking the question of ourselves, “Why?” from a biblical perspective. Why do we promote creativity? Why do we use big set design and big lighting? Why do we dress in graphic tees :-)? Not all questions can be answered directly from scripture, but biblical principles can certainly drive them. I was recently challenged by an elder that we do not “need” to use a drummer to have a worshipful Sunday gathering (we were talking about purchasing a drum set). While he is entirely right that we do not “need” some of these things, I still question if it is legitimate to use them. It drove me to ask, “Why do I use a drummer during a Sunday service?” I think there are legitimate biblical principles to answer that question. So I think the “Contemporvant” video best helps us ask, “Why?”

  18. Rick Owen May 18, 2010 at 9:57 AM #

    1 Cor. 2:1-5: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (ESV).

    Paul (and the video) reminds us of the need for a message and ministry which reject worldly-wise ways by being intentionally/strategically sincere and simple, as we focus upon the Savior in demonstration of and reliance upon the Spirit and the power of God unto salvation (via the gospel). Salvation is our only message and business. This is not merely salvation in the beginning, i.e., conversion (via evangelism), but the whole spectrum of salvation (discipleship) which includes our progressive sanctification unto the day of redemption.

    This is to say our doctrine, fellowship/meals (Lord’s Supper) and worship, via heartfelt prayer/praise/petition, should be Christ-centered (Acts 2:42).

  19. Bernard Shuford May 18, 2010 at 10:30 AM #

    “If the electrical power went out in the meeting, could we still worship God?”

    I’ve been asking “myself” that question for a good time since I started paying attention to megachurches. No offense to them – I love a lot of the stuff they do, but is it always worship, or is it just “what we do”?

  20. Dan Lyle May 18, 2010 at 10:36 AM #

    I have been submitting resumes and interviewing for worship leading positions for over a year now… While this can be a discouraging process at times, I find that I am more often discouraged by the conventual expectations and desired qualifications that many churches have. It appears to me that many of them are seeking to hire “demirockstars” rather then pastors… So for me this video illustrates and validates my perspective. Furthermore, I feel the Church needs more Jerry Maguire’s leading worship… I.E. people who are open, honest, and don’t put on props… even if its to their perceived detriment.

  21. Steve May 18, 2010 at 10:47 AM #

    I saw the video soon after it was released and got a real kick out of it. My wife and I have led worship in our church for 15 years and have just about seen it all. While we believe that anyone leading particular areas of worship in the church service should be continually working on their skills and presentation, we also firmly believe that every area of worship should be completely about celebrating who Christ is and what He has done for us, regardless of how polished or seeker sensitive it is, or isn’t. In fact, I’m reading a book called “The Worship Architect” by Constance M. Cherry and highly recommend it to any worship leader or pastor wanting to fully understand the worship service, it’s background and planning for it. I’m in the chapter that speaks more about your point #2 above, Bob.

    I do find it unfortunate that we as Christians seem to bash each other far too often, and quite often about issues that are not Biblically based (ie: music styles).

    Steve

  22. Jodi-Ann Walker May 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM #

    I agree with the parody of the North Point Media video. Church is no longer what it used to be many years ago. In our attempts to be hip, trendy and relevant we have lost the power that the first century church had. This is especially true of churches located in the western world. These churches have focused more on building an organization rather than building the kingdom. Jesus always placed emphasis on the kingdom. Anything he did while he was ministering on earth was to advance the Kingdom of God. It is my belief that Jesus’s focus on the Kingdom enabled him to witness such powerfuul results within his ministry. While in today’s churches we can only pray and wish for one-third of those miracles which were performed during Jesus’s day and in the first century church to take place in the church services. Sinners do not come to church to re-experience the world. They come to church because they desire a better alternative to it. They can’t consider it to be better if they are getting the same thing that they would have had if they remained in the world.

  23. Lynne May 18, 2010 at 11:10 AM #

    Bob,

    Thank you for helping us to think deeply about these things and for helping us to recognize that we assume too much sometimes when we judge without the surrounding facts.

    I was thinking that my own church could be parodied but from the perspective of traditional services, which, believe it or not, still exist out here. Churches will have “styles”; we can’t get around that. If there is a desire to do things excellently, “as to the Lord”, and to communicate to the congregation the reasons behind each element of the service, then, isn’t God glorified? Our feeble, mistaken, idol-ridden hearts are the ones Jesus died for. I pray He sees His bride – beautiful, even with all her blemishes.

  24. Jeff May 18, 2010 at 11:20 AM #

    David, (#24)

    It is mild, and I did find it funny, I just get a little defensive when ANYONE attacks those who are trying to lead worship to the best of their abilities.

    If it was done from a place of humor, then all is good. However if it was done from a judgmental point of view, like the people they are stereotyping are somehow worshipping “incorrectly” that’s when I get a little sensitive.

    I don’t think North Point was attacking anyone, they were just trying to be funny and I will confess, I’ve been tempted to go all-EVH-two hand double tapping on my guitar on occasion.

  25. Tom Townsend May 18, 2010 at 11:45 AM #

    thanks for the dialogue Bob. I’ve found that response to this video is a bit like watching Spinal Tap in the band community — some see the parody, and some twist their head and say ‘what’s wrong with that?’. funny.

  26. Jim Pemberton May 18, 2010 at 11:53 AM #

    Once upon a time, what we think of as traditional church was the new, popular (cool) church. Imagine when they invented pipe organs and everyone was amazed at the sound of them and moved to some emotion of the day by them.

    I have to consider that “contemporvism” as a form of idolatry has been practiced with every style and manner throughout history. I had a conversation at church the other week where one of our musicians was bemoaning the lack of hymnals since we’ve gone to using only multimedia. His concern was that kids weren’t learning music in church anymore. I agreed that it’s good for kids to learn music, but that music was not an end in itself. The church should be key in teaching kids music in how they can worship through music. However, the worship service was no place to have people focus on the music, but that the music should focus people on God. We got rid of the hymnals because people would bury themselves in the hymnals and mumble their way through the hymns (which is hardly musical). Now, they aren’t focused on the music as much as they are focused on the meaning of what we are all singing in worship and praise to God. Our choir is good at leading in our enthusiasm for God and being able to see people worship with enthusiasm only increases our desire to worship God week after week.

    Can people worship using hymnals? Sure. I was always amazed when visiting the little mountain church my grandfather pastored when he was still alive how they were able to sing 4-part harmonies as written in the hymnal with a serious Appalachian mountain accent at what seemed a very enthusiastic volume as though to wake the neighborhood in the rest of the hollow.

    I’ve seen Syrians, South Africans, South Americans and Indians worship in extraordinary ways. It doesn’t matter the style but that we engender not a fixation on cultural form, the self-absorption of rank emotionalism, or the worship of some local celebrity. But what we must do is enculturate the transcendent culture of the kingdom of God in the hearts of worshipers.

    • Bob Kauflin May 18, 2010 at 12:01 PM #

      Jim, good thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

  27. Lewsta May 18, 2010 at 12:11 PM #

    this video is great…. partl because it DOES poke some pointed fingers at some of what we do just because it’s what we do. I’ve been part of mega churches, where everyone comes and sits down to watch the show…. sometimes giving halfhearted support during the “singalong numbers”…. The “worship team” is so polished and professional, not a note out of place, it is a closed society, with the larger society of the whole congregation.

    In the congregation I am now part of, we have, from the beginning, had a few heads of household function as worship leaders… with their own families (children as young as six or so, yes, WITH a mic, and yes, SINGING the words correctly and on pitch) and often others tossed into the mix. Thus, our time of corporate worship is, while a specially dedicated time, the result of ordinary church members filling needed roles. I have watched sisters, age 13 and 14 when I first came round, teach themselves their instruments (guitar and piano) and mature to the point they are wonderful musicians. Hard to get a swelled head, or for others to put them up on a pedestal when it works like that. Oh, and when the power DOES go out, we carry on, partly because everying in the building is singing with wholehearted gusto. Oh, and when the meeting is over, you’ll find all of the worship leaders down in the kitchen, sitting down to share our meal together, mixing it up out on the footie pitch after, taking care of the little ones….. yup, we’re all just plain folks, each bringing what WE, as individuals, have to contribute. Other days, we’ll all be doing things like building a goat barn, working together to produce a fireworks show, clearing out the rubbish from someone’s yard, helping a family shift house, paintball birthday parties…. there is no “us” and “them”. We are all us, AND them. I believe this is very consistent with the biblical pattern for the function of the local assembly. I further believe it is impossible for such a dynamic as pictured in the New Testament to function in a “group” of six thousand…… from what I’ve seen, the maximum functional size for a group to function according to these patterns is somewhere around 250 to 300, depending partly on how large the families are. Perhaps 40 or 50. families.

  28. Frank Taylor May 18, 2010 at 12:43 PM #

    Hey Jim (#35)… wow. Really well said. Sincerely appreciate your comment…

  29. Elizabeth May 18, 2010 at 1:22 PM #

    “I’ve seen Syrians, South Africans, South Americans and Indians worship in extraordinary ways. It doesn’t matter the style but that we engender not a fixation on cultural form, the self-absorption of rank emotionalism, or the worship of some local celebrity. But what we must do is enculturate the transcendent culture of the kingdom of God in the hearts of worshipers.”

    Much agreed.

    Nothing has changed since the time Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well:

    Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
    -John 4:21-24

    If this is His unbroken Word, then we must change.

  30. Kristin May 18, 2010 at 1:57 PM #

    Thanks, Bob for your thoughts on this video. I especially appreciate point #2 regarding liturgy.

    One thing I have noticed in my own church is that if we do not constantly re-evaluate our liturgy (and even admit we have one) it becomes a rut of ‘the way we’ve always done something,’ even if the original intention was good.

    I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong in this video, but a good test in your own church as to the heart of the liturgy is to see what happens when you make a suggestion to change it! Obviously, not change just for the sake of change, but an honest, creative way to change up the liturgy to better communicate the message. There is usually never a good reason why not, but people try desperately to find them.

    In addition, I’ve noticed some well intentioned leaders have a sort of “fear” of liturgy…because it is too traditional or something… and try to pass it off as wanting to be led by the Spirit. So there is no planning, no thoughtfulness beforehand, just “whatever happens happens, by the Spirit of God.” Then we fail to realize that we have a liturgy comprised only of last minute default! This has been equally frustrating for me if I approach a pastor about collaborating, praying, and preparing for a worship service only to get an “I don’t know, just let the Spirit lead.”

  31. Jon Reid May 18, 2010 at 2:02 PM #

    Bob, I have been gathering a list of diverse reactions to this video. I just added yours — you have the most diverse thoughts within a single post!

    http://www.blogoneanother.com/2010/05/north-point-church-video-goes-viral-touches-a-nerve.html

    • Bob Kauflin May 18, 2010 at 2:17 PM #

      Thanks, Jon. Nice round up of thoughts on the video.

  32. Dan May 18, 2010 at 5:45 PM #

    Hi Bob,

    Great post! I have to agree with point 4–too much idolatry in worship. It’s been the same for centuries, as the liturgy has become the point of focus and contention. Ps 115:1 reminds us that all our efforts are meant to glorify God’s name–so the fair question is, “Will folks leave thinking that God is glorious or that our band rocks?” (I agree the two aren’t mutually exclusive.)

    At the same, I have to hesitate at point 6. I’m not sure that defining Christianity as “flashy” or “unflashy” helps us to imitate Christ. He doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with being “contemporvant” and he doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with being “unflashy-to-make-a-point.” In every case, he seems to be focused on proclaiming the Gospel in ways that mirrored the thought-patterns of his hearers, and at the same time challenged them towards faith and repentance.

    I’ll leave it at that.

    Grace & Peace,
    Dan J.

  33. Bob Kauflin May 18, 2010 at 6:12 PM #

    Dan, I agree. My intention wasn’t to say that Christianity is always “unflashy,” but that it CAN be, and it probably is much more than we think.

  34. Barbara May 18, 2010 at 9:03 PM #

    Tim, thanks for the wonderful laugh! Satire has one of two effects: either it makes us laugh at ourselves (the church) or take umbrage because we are hearing painful truth.

    Satire is not neutral and does not explain itself! It’s object is to offend! Our minds become so callous to truth that we often need offending.

    I bet a lot of worship leaders and pastors are going to be scrambling around to make sure their services aren’t coming off with even a hint of such man-centered nonsense. This kind of reminds me of the “The Wittenburg Door”. Any one still remember that publication?

  35. Barbara May 18, 2010 at 9:06 PM #

    I’m sorry, but I just realized that this is Bob Kauflin’s site. Bob, thanks for the wonderful laugh. Barb Gardner

  36. Marshall Stoy May 18, 2010 at 9:46 PM #

    The guitar playing, overweight, balding, worship leader hit a little too close to home for me.

  37. Liam Slack May 18, 2010 at 10:31 PM #

    Hi, Bob,

    I agree with many of your observations. The unfortunate thing is that this video seems to have become a lightning rod for anyone who supposes that any church that engages in any of the activities described is guilty of losing the message in the means, or of idolatry. And that’s simply untrue.

    So many of these expressions of the church are people trying to heighten their art to glorify God, the same way artisans used stained glass. When you quote D.A. Carson, the first word (one that seems all too easily overlooked) in Carson’s statement is of real import:

    “IF the church is being built with large portions of charm, personality, easy oratory, positive thinking, managerial skills, powerful and emotional experiences, and people smarts, but without the repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation of ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified,’ we may be winning more adherents than converts…”

    That’s a big “if”. What if some of the people who employ the methods of communication being goofed on in the video are people like me – people who are passionately in love with the real Jesus, who are entirely committed to genuine relationship with Him and to reaching the lost – and see excellence in their expression thereof as both a means of glorifying Him and reaching a culture the same way you’d reach indigenous people on the foreign mission field: in a way they can understand. As a MEANS of “repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation of Jesus Christ and him crucified”.

    Maybe I’ve read a few too many vitriolic comments about this video. :) But every beat of my heart sings praise to my Creator, and yes, we use video. And colored lights. And good design work. And the methods are just that. Methods. I believe you’re right – we all have our liturgy. And while I feel that Bob would caution us to examine the motivation of our hearts in the use of these methods (as well we should), I would caution anyone willing to leap to the conclusion that a church that would use some of the means parodied in the video is in any way insincere. Clearly the “characters” in the video were. I, on the other hand, as the guy who produces all of the media my church generates (as the Worship Arts Pastor), have an intimate relationship with the Living God, and want to give people a glimpse of what that’s like. And sometimes, art succeeds where my own words might fail.

    Who knew 2 cents could take up so much space? :)

  38. Greg May 19, 2010 at 9:39 AM #

    We are currently exploring 3 different service worship “styles” at our church and may begin offering all 3 in the fall of 2010. This is good for all of us to think about no matter what our own “styles” or “liturgies” may look like. The Savior should always be central and His redemptive work should permeate every creative thought and artistic idea that we consider in worship. D.A. Carson is so right that we have erred in mammoth proportion if we are not repeating every week in our worship the awe and magnitude of the work of grace at the Cross. In our own church context, our temptation COULD easily become a focus on “hitting the right sound/style/song” in our different kinds of services – you know, to make them different enough…rather than consistently and clearly leading our people to worship God in light of the Cross and Resurrection – God’s glory and our gain. God humble us. God, help us. This is really sobering to me.

  39. Thomas McKenzie May 19, 2010 at 1:22 PM #

    Bob wrote “Some call it a brilliant parody while others are deeply offended by its supposed slap in the face at churches targeting unbelievers”

    I am in a third camp. Coming from a different liturgical tradition, I see this video as revealing a meaningful reality. From my outside perspective, the liturgy of these sorts of churches is vapid and consumerist. Untethered from scripture or tradition, these liturgies become little more than pop concerts with a motivational speaker. The speaker or the song might include some good news, but the liturgies themselves are totally void of the Gospel. It does not have to be this way, and throughout most of the Christian world it is not this way.

    I am not offended by this video, nor do I think it is funny. Rather, I think it is a challenge to the evangelical mega church. Is this who you want to be?

  40. Daniel May 19, 2010 at 1:25 PM #

    I loved the wayehi tattoo in the video. The idea of tattooing “And it came to pass” on your arm is hilarious.

  41. Ryan M May 20, 2010 at 12:58 AM #

    Though this is generating some good discussion I still do not like the video and this is why…

    My distaste for the video is due to the fact that it mocks and/or makes fun of many honest attempts by followers of Christ and I do not feel that the way we should spark debate or discussion is through mocking one another whether it is effective or not. The actual content and form it attacks is less of the issue for me, you could make a video similar to this for any tradition, liturgy, or whatever you call it and have the same effect. Many people in the debate have brought up the fact thae video highlights the need to seperate our liturgy from God himself and our walks with him which I fully agree with and though I go to a Church that fits this bill pretty well I’m by no means attached to the trendyness of it in fact it bothers me at times (All those who know me, know that I’m not usually too good at adhering to the current trend, side story to prove this point, in Junior high my friends dedicated a “sweats day” to me because I was the only one still wearing sweats and not the billabong jeans, but I digress). If this is the only thing the video communicated then that is awesome because absolutely we should not be overly tied to the way we do Church, the problem for me is that is not all that is communicated. No matter how you slice it this video is critiquing some of the liturgy or lack there of, of many “contemporvant” churches and in its style of mockery it is using humor at the expense of many people who are earnestly seeking God in their form of worship. It generalizes an entire population and in my mind attacks there sincerity and questions the authenticity of their worship. It made me think… “am I just going to a show?”, but I know the hearts of the people that lead, I know the depth of redemption that is happening in people’s lives and this is not the case (though it is a good question to always ask, but I do not need a insulting video to ask this.) I just feel humor of this type is the wrong way to critique. We’ve all made fun of others (I’ve done it way too much) and know that it often is not taken the way we desire and I think this is why God calls us to a different way of life, we don’t need to model our critique of one another after Saturday night live as funny as it may be it is very hurtful to many and as belivers I feel there are better ways to critique our ways, which by the way I’m very open to. By no means am I not saying that there are some serious questions to be had, I’m just uncomfortable with this style to raise them…

  42. Steve May 20, 2010 at 1:43 AM #

    If you want to know how God is worshiped in Heaven, read Revelation, and see for yourself.

    In the everlasting, this is how it is. And how it always has been, even in Israel and in the Church. It isn’t about us, it is about Him.

  43. Ed M May 21, 2010 at 9:55 AM #

    Clever, edgy, sometimes all too true, but maybe it goes too far. The answer to slick, overproduced, overemotional worship is not shoddy, emotionless worship. I’m not convinced that this is as obvious as many might think. If it were, Bob would not have written and spoken about inspiration, planning, careful selection of music, and rehearsal as often as he has.

    The line is sometimes blurry between excellence and gimickry, and I know I’ve crossed it too many times. This video may help me to stay on the right side of the line. Now can we have the video for the other side?

  44. David Miller June 4, 2011 at 10:48 AM #

    This excellent video – which is clearly a timely satire on the dangers of formulaic worship whatever the style – doesn’t seem to be available at the link you mention, but has been reposted here:-

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  15. Church Culture Rules - Outsiders Podcast - October 17, 2014

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