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Entries in protestant reformation (13)


On Worship's Boundaries

Just yesterday, Reformed Worship put up a post of mine on worship's boundaries. Next year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and I've been thinking a lot about the pastors, thinkers, and theologians who ministered in the wake of Luther's posting of the 95 theses.

One real "aha" moment of my reading of Luther for doctoral work came in the idea that Luther's articulation of simul iustus et peccator (simultaneously justified and sinful) isn't merely a statement about the human condition, but a statement about eschatology. In other words, it's a statement about the cosmic reality in which we find ourselves. We find ourselves in an overlapping of ages, a "simul" of worlds--the Old World, which is passing away; and the New World, which is breaking in by the power of the Spirit through Christ.

A lot of our errors in worship--a lot of our over extended emphases--can be categorized as attempting to break through the boundaries set by either reverting back into purely "Old World" thinking (forgetting that Christ has come and inaugurated a Kingdom) or pressing too victoriously into "New World" realities (forgetting that the Old World, while passing away, is still here).

Luther's lesser known work, Only the Decalogue is Eternal, is mind-blowing. He is so vivid, so clear, in how he articulates the human experience of this overlapping of worlds.

So...go checkout my post, "Luther and the Eschatological Boundaries of Worship," over at Reformed Worship. Happy Advent.


Thoughts About the Song "Almighty God (Our Hearts Are Open)"

If you follow my blog, and if you read my book, you will hear a lot about the Reformational distinction of Law and Gospel. For me, this paradigm is inescapable not only in the Bible but in all of life. It is the distinction that Paul makes in order to exegete the whole Bible in a Christological fashion. From his clear statement in Galatians 2:16, to his developed soteriology in Romans 3, to his exegesis of the Pentateuch in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul testifies that Law and Gospel are the two forms in which the Word of God breaks into creation.

I’m convinced that these two forms of God’s Word speak loud and clear (whether we recognize it or not) in every last one of our worship services, and the more we can discern their voices, the better equipped we will be to plan and lead gospel-shaped, Christ-mediated worship services.

This distinction is heavily at play in the liturgies which emerged during the time of the Reformation. In particular, I observe a strong Law-Gospel filter applied to the way reformer Thomas Cranmer constructed the English Prayer Book. When I first read his 1552 liturgy, I was a little surprised to find a litany with the Ten Commandments at the top of the service. Not only was this not a seeker-sensitive move; it was downright depressing! The 1552 service begins with this dramatic prayer, still a part (in various modifications) of many Anglican/Episcopal services today:

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer immediately prefaces a responsorial reading of the Ten Commandments, where, after each commandment is read, the congregation responds, “Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.” Think about the impact of opening a service like this. Think about what you would feel as you would enter into God’s presence in this fashion.

Modern worship songs frequently address, either explicitly or implicitly, how in worship we “open our hearts” to God. Our temptation, then, in reading back into Cranmer’s opening prayer is to think that an “open heart” is a positive, feel-good image. But once we realize the context of the Law in which it’s placed, we need to understand this cardiological statement more like “open heart” surgery rather than the lovey-dovey stuff (for Cranmer, and for the Law-Gospel distinction, this comes later). “Our hearts are open” means, “O God, before Your Law, my heart is cut open, and I’m bleeding to death. In Your presence, I am undone.”

Needless to say, I found this move by Cranmer captivating. I began asking: What would it look like in a twenty-first century modern worship service to begin like this? What would it look like to open a worship service with the Law offering a sucker-punch straight to the gut of Old Adam? So we wrote a song. It is neither a full blown recitation of the Ten Commandments nor a verbatim recasting of Cranmer’s glorious “Collect for Purity.” It’s a modern take on capturing the feeling and reaction that Cranmer’s liturgy would have evoked. Perhaps most muted is the fifth commandment, universally applied beyond honoring father and mother as “let loving-kindness flow to all we know.”

The hope with the song is not so much provide a tool for people to recite the Ten Commandments in a worship service as it is to create a context where the Commandments’ weight is palpably felt, where the Law can do it’s appropriate killing and crushing work, and where we can cry out to God, “You’ve cut my heart open! Sew it back together!,” or, in the words of Toplady, “Wash me Savior, or I die.” 

“Almighty God (Our Hearts Are Open)” is intended to be a song for use at the top of the service, or within the first few songs. It really doesn’t fit anywhere else, unless you’re intending to introduce another gospel-structured narrative cycle into the service. I hope it fills a gap in worship songwriting and provides something fresh for those of us with highly sung, song-set-oriented liturgies.

Resources for the Song

chord chart | lead sheet


1. You brought us safe across salvation’s sea
To know no other gods, nor idols seek
Incline our hearts to keep Your Word 

Your holy Name is sacred on our tongues,
Your Sabbath day is rest for restless ones,
Incline our hearts,] to keep Your Word 

Almighty God, our hearts are open
Our secret thoughts are bare before Your eyes
Your presence is the all-consuming fire
Purify our hearts, as we cry:
Lord have mercy 

2. Let lovingkindness flow to all we know
Till anger, lust, and greed we cannot sow
Incline our hearts, to keep Your Word 

Your Truth shall silence every lying mouth
And quench the urge to take what is not ours
Incline our hearts, to keep Your Word 

Lord have mercy
Perfect glory
Now surrounds me
Overwhelms me

5. My meditation both the day and night
The Law that shows Your perfect will aright
Incline our hearts, to keep Your Word

Words & Music: Zac Hicks & Julie Anne Vargas, 2015
©2015 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP); Julie Anne Vargas
CCLI #7056905

The Chink in the Reformation’s Iconoclastic Armor

Zombies in the Lights

A few days ago, I ended up in a really fascinating dialogue on Twitter with thoughtful worship leader, Jordan Atwell (@jordanatwell) and visual liturgy smart guy, Stephen Proctor (@stephenproctor). We were entertaining the question, in response to my tweet about this wonderful article, about what it looks like to pastorally engage visual aesthetics in worship. We tend to think of things like projection, screens, lights, and other visual atmospherics as either neutral cultural phenomena or (more negatively) as yet more capitulation to culture’s rock show idolatry.  Usually, all the conversations about those visual elements stop there. Either we’re relegated to pragmatic, technical conversations about the latest, coolest LEDs, gobos, robotics, and immersive projection, or we’re (not inappropriately) decrying the commercialization of worship through zombifying overstimulation.

But what if there’s another conversation to have? What if the discussion about lights and projection can be framed pastorally? I think the above mentioned article is a great example of what such reflection might look like with regards to screens and slide projection. But that’s not what I want to talk about in this post. 

The Debbie Downer of Visual Arts

Stephen mentioned what many do when these discussions get rolling—namely, that the Reformation’s iconoclasm (rejection of much visual art) threw out a lot of the helpful and sacred visuals of the church, impoverishing our “sacramental imagination.” Stephen, of course, is dead on. Perhaps some want to justify the Reformation’s general over-reaction to stained glass, art, and other aesthetic riches due to how far the medieval Roman church had gone in the opposite direction.

Nevertheless, I have observed a chink in the Reformation’s generally iconoclastic armor, and I believe we’re witnessing, slowly but surely, that chink being identified, yanked on, and peered through. The hole is getting bigger, and those of us who cherish much about the Reformation may find a way through Reformational principles to recover a sacramental imagination that can appropriately, imaginatively, and richly re-embrace the aesthetics that aid and abet a holistic worship experience (and a holistic faith). The Reformational chink is Augustinian affective anthropology.

Here’s what I mean. With the continued influence of James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom (and now his more accessible simplification in You Are What You Love), more and more folks in Reformational traditions are awakening to the reality that human beings are centrally affective creatures. We operate, most fundamentally, out of what we love. Our affections, much more than our brains, are our life’s behavioral rudder. This is a notion rooted in Augustine, the early thinker who had more influence on Reformational thought than perhaps any other church father or mother.  (I should mention that hopefully this notion is rooted in Jesus…and I think it is [e.g. Luke 6:45].) Augustine’s view of the human makeup (his anthropology) is that we are centrally desiring creatures. Augustine believed that the Bible reveals to us an affective anthropology.

I believe that this anthropology was at least tacitly present in the minds of all the Reformers. But we find it leaking out particularly in the writings of Luther (scattered about), Melanchthon (his 1521 Loci Communes), and Cranmer (his homilies and in his Prayer Book). David Taylor also unearths aesthetic dimensions of Calvin’s theology in his dissertation. (I mention this, because Calvin is often the chief poster boy for the Reformation’s iconoclasm.)

The Aesthetic Portal to New Horizons

What we find in the work of Luther, Melanchthon, Cranmer, and Calvin are  expressions of affective anthropology that are in tune with some aesthetics. Cranmer, in particular, seemed very comfortable employing the riches of the rhetorical arts. Reading his 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books is like taking a journey through Erasmus’s rhetorical teachings: word couplets/triplets, evocative language, etc. Cranmer’s poetic prose was an intentional use of the art of language to engage the senses and emotions of the worshiper.

Cases like these help us to see that while it is fair by and large to call the Reformation iconoclastic, even the Reformers understood that aesthetics were a gateway to help form the sacramental imagination of the people of God. Could it be, then, that we can re-enter some much needed discussions about the aesthetic and pastoral use of visual arts (lighting, projection, color, haze, etc.), through the Reformational portal of affective anthropology? Could it be that Protestantism’s historic emphasis on affective spirituality will open up fresh pastoral discussions about visual aesthetics that neither remain in the superficial realm of pragmatics nor pharisaically dismiss all such talk as blind idolatry?

Not everyone will buy into this, but I, for one, am optimistic.


Rewriting Worship Songs Like the Reformers

I've been on a Thomas Cranmer kick as of late, not because I have a secret love affair with the Anglican tradition or because I think liturgy is the be all and end all. In truth, I'm coming to discover that among the Reformers (like Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, Bucer), Cranmer probably thought longer and harder than any about the reform of worship. In other words, Cranmer was a Reformation-era worship leader who was stubbornly committed to the idea that the gospel was the key to unlocking worship's power.

More than a theologian, though, Cranmer was also what we might call today a "missional" and "incarnational" thinker. He was a big proponent of enculturating the words and forms of worship so that they were understandable and apprehendable to the average person. Many of us don't realize it, but this contextualizing thinking is why his liturgy is called "The Book of Common Prayer." "Common" meant, "for the average person."

One of the things Cranmer did was to take the Church's inherited worship practices and, in a sense, "hijack" them. I talk more about that in this post. He took people's beloved traditional prayers, for instance, and "edited" them to emphasize God's work and de-emphasize our work. He was intending to overhaul the worship of the church by filtering all its words, prayers, and practices through the gospel of justification by faith alone (sola fide).

Seeing Cranmer in action as a "solifidian" (i.e. sola fide-style) editor got me thinking about why some worship songs feel funny to me and why, over the years, I've been inclined to tweak a word here or there. I think this impulse of Cranmer's is a similar impulse to why I'm always harping on what is called triumphalism in modern worship songs ("Jesus, I'm living for you," "Jesus, I'm giving it all for you," "I surrender," etc.).

To get more to the point, I've written a post over at LIBERATE on why I think Cranmer and the other reformers would have really dug our retooling of the evangelical hymn, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." I would encourage you to jump over there and read it, because there's something here for worship leaders who care about gospel-centered worship to begin to consider--namely, the infiltration of performance-based thought into our worship songs and practices. Conjuring one of my favorite bands, Rage Against the Machine, it's time to take the power back. For those of you that haven't heard the song, here it is.

Now go read the post!


Luther's Case for Psalm-Singing

Ligonier on Luther and the PsalmsWorship leaders and thinkers who stand in the Reformed worship tradition emphasize the importance and necessity of Psalm-singing. In fact, there are several smaller Reformed denominations who are chiefly known as "psalms-only" worshipers, meaning that the only songs they sing in worship are tuned translations and versifications of the Psalms. John Calvin, the father of the Reformed tradition of Protestant Christianity, was an outspoken champion of the supremacy of Psalms in worship. He encouraged Psalm-singing in the Genevan Church of his day, and he commissioned well-known artists to craftily set Psalm-versifications to rousing, rhythmic tunes.

Though Calvin was by far the most outspoken of the Reformers on this subject, it's worth bringing up the fact that Luther also had a very high view of the Psalms. And though he would never argue for a Psalms-only approach in worship, we can derive from his emphasis on Psalms that he would have thought that Psalm-singing would be a healthy, centering practice for the Church. I was reminded of all this as I plod my way through a very dense book on Luther's theology, Oswald Bayer's Theology the Lutheran Way:

In Luther's opinion, the Psalter contains the whole Bible in a nutshell and can therefore be called "a mini Bible." He lets it stipulate the "manner" and "practice" of his relationship to God, the world, and himself, not only in general but also in particular, as in the development of his concept of meditation. It is no accident that Psalm 119, the very psalm that teaches Luther the true practice of meditation and its true understanding, is also the psalm that teaches him how to understand theology as a whole.*

One of the things I'm learning about Luther's understanding of theology and the Christian life (those two are one and the same for Luther) is that the Psalms were central. If we have any thoughts of Luther's theology, we immediately think that, for Luther, his biblical ground zero would be Galatians, Romans, or some other Pauline epistle that distills the essence of the whole of Scripture in the concept of justification by faith alone through Christ. And while this is fair, we could equally say that, for Luther, the Psalms are where this theology is done, practiced, and lived.

It would make sense that the only inspired songbook for Christians (and Jews) would very much be a "mini-Bible." And though not direct, enclosed in this emphasis is a case from another reformer besides Calvin for Psalm-singing. So let me point out a few choice resources/avenues:

  • For more traditional, hymnbook-oriented congregations, check out this great one-stop-shop, Psalms for All Seasons.

  • For contemporary/modern stuff, check out this wonderful post at Cardiphonia, cataloguing both specific psalms and then some collections/projects at the end.

  • Write your own: there's nothing like a local worship leader setting Psalms for his or her own congregation. Google search "metrical psalms," look up Isaac Watts' psalm-settings, and add tunes to them!

*Oswald Bayer, Theology the Lutheran Way (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 52.


If You're Interested in Deeply Studying Gospel Centered Worship

If you're like me, thinking about furthering your education in the area of worship studies, you're less interested in flashy admissions campaigns and impressive campus acreage. I want two things: A handful of great professors zeroing in on excellent subject matter.

There's a lot of talk out there about "gospel-centered" this and that, and a lot of people have spilled a lot of digital ink explaining how diluted and convoluted that discussion has become. Such is the fate of "gospel-centered worship." Nevertheless, if I myself were to put flesh on the bones of that phrase, I'd want to do it in a similar spirit to the theology and worship of a particular time and place in history. This time and place has gone under-appreciated, under-mentioned, and under-studied in our typical "gospel-centered worship" discussions. I'm talking about the English Reformation. 

Something special occurred in England in the 1500s as the Reformational streams from Calvin and Luther converged in those Western isles. Two things were happening in the lives and hearts of some key movers and shakers. First, the doctrine of justification by faith alone was rocking their world and radically reorienting the way they saw and thought about everything, from theology to farming. Second, those movers and shakers were in the process of reforming worship around this doctrine, rewriting liturgies through the lens of grace.

In short, sixteenth century England was a distillery for a kind of 200 proof gospel-centered worship. Honestly, the more I read and think about it, the more I want to read and think more about it. 

And this is why I'm going to be switching my doctoral emphasis to the newly-created Theology and Worship of the English Reformation track at Knox Seminary in their modular Doctor of Ministry program. Full disclosure: Knox sits across the street from the church I serve here in Ft. Lauderdale, and many of the professors are now my good friends. That said, I have not been asked, coerced, or bribed into this post. :) It's not propaganda. I believe in the subject-matter. I believe that studying it could unleash a fresh doxological reformation in the church. And I would love it if some of my friends and readers, who may be ready for something like this, would join me in this program.  Here's the track description:

The Theology and Worship of the English Reformation Track is designed to equip those in ministry to understand the doctrinal and liturgical reforms of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The received traditions of Catholic faith and practice were rethought in 16th century Britain along the “evangelical” lines of the Reformation, resulting in a consistent though broad Protestantism lived and expressed through the Book of Common Prayer. The early English evangelicals did find a middle-way of sorts, but not as is often imagined a via media between the Reformation and Rome. Rather, the English Reformation listened to and learned from both the Lutheran and Reformed traditions and attempted to express and embody a Protestantism that could include both (or at least not exclude either).

This track encourages an understanding of the mutuality of theology and worship and considers the complexity of contextualization, as well as the process of learning from the past for the sake of the present.

That last part is what I've found most intriguing about the worship revolution happening during the English Reformation. It was a project in contextualization. And that is so much of what good worship leaders do--wrestle with contextualizing timeless, Spirit-filled truths and traditions for new generations of worshipers.

The four scholars heading up the track are thinkers I can vouch for. I've sat under the teaching of all of them in one way, shape, or form: Ashley Null (the world's leading Thomas Cranmer scholar), Gerald Bray (a walking encyclopedia of church history, but particularly the Reformation), Jonathan Linebaugh (one of the most integrative thinkers I've ever met), and Justin Holcomb (just plain coolness).

So...if any of this is intriguing, take the next step and check out this amazing, one-of-a-kind program. It's built for full-time practitioners (like me) to jump in and out of intensive studies. It's not a "worship degree." I think it might actually be better than that. 


FREE New Song for Reformation Day, and the Best Conference on the Planet

**UPDATE (10/7/13): The song is now available right on this page.  Just scroll down to download!**

Happy Reformation! My family and I uprooted our lives in Denver to move to the foreign land of South Florida for one reason: There is a gospel revolution taking place at Coral Ridge, and we wanted in...both for our sake and for the sake of the world.  I'm reminded of this clever description of that Spirit-breathed rediscovery of the gospel half a millennium ago:

The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discoverd, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace--bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel--after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps--suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started.* 


I can't tell you how excited I am to be both attending and leading music at what has to be one of the most important conferences in the world--LIBERATE 2014.  Tullian Tchividjian, Steve Brown, Matt Chandler, Andy Crouch, Elyse Fitzpatrick, J. D. Greear, Sally Lloyd-Jones, Justin Holcomb, Scotty Smith, Paul Tripp, and Paul & David Zahl.  No finer lineup of speakers to jam on the themes of what it means to live, die, grow, and breathe by the power of Christ's finished work, in life and death, on our behalf.  This is the under-told good news for tired Christians and burnt out non-Christians.  Come sip on (or guzzle) the two hundred proof with me next February 20-23.  Find out more and register here.

My Part in All This

I, my friend and co-writer Julie Anne Osterhus, and the rest of the musicians at Coral Ridge will be leading the conference in some great moments of singing and rehearsing the gospel and marinating in some great old hymns and fantastic new ones.  We'll be releasing our worship EP, One Way Love--six songs focused on the themes of "God's two words"--Law and Gospel--and what they mean for us on the ground-level...some retuned hymns, and some new material I've been working on with friends.

If you come to this conference, there will be times for us to hang out, and I insist on it.  Ft. Lauderdale has quite the east-coast-style night life, and we'll make sure to have fun, connect, talk shop, and spur one another on in worship leadership in the 21st century.  Contact me if you know you're coming and want to carve out some time for a group hang-out one of the evenings.

Listen to and Download the Song Right Here 

One Way Love - Lyrics

1. O how beneath the law I lay
In heavy bondage and distress
I try to perfectly obey,
I try in vain, without success.

I’m desperate, and weary
I lift my eyes to You

One way love
From the Father, through the Spirit, in the Son
O grace inexhaustible, in my exhaustion come
O cross, where atonement for my sin was made
By Jesus Christ, in death and life
Descending from above through Your one way love

2. To see the law by Christ fulfilled
To hear His gentle, pardoning voice
Changes a slave into a child
Transforming duty into choice

I’m forgiven, adopted
Your grace is changing me

Once bound beneath the weight of sin
You bound me to Your grace
Now freely chosen in the Son
I freely choose His ways

Words: William Cowper, 1779 (verses) alt.; Zac Hicks & Julie Anne Osterhus, 2013 (pre-chorus, chorus, & bridge)
Music: Zac Hicks & Julie Anne Osterhus, 2013
©2013 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP); Julie Anne Osterhus, 2013


*Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), 114-115.

Driving the Fear of Tradition out of Our Evangelical Psyche

My Story

I grew up in the free church tradition (some people say "free church tradition" is an oxymoron, buy it's only an apparent one).  This means I had a healthy skepticism, even fear, of anything that would subvert the raw, naked authority of Scripture...which means I had a special fear of and kept a healthy distance from anything related to "church tradition."  Perhaps the Apostles' Creed wasn't suspect, but reciting it in worship was.  

I carried the default perspective that the Church's talk and weaving in of any notion of "tradition" was one of the primary reasons it got off course, which means that the only Church of the past, prior to the Reformation, that I had any respect for was the absolute earliest church--the apostolic church of the first century.  Once the church fathers started their writing and processing in the post-apostolic era, that's when things started going downhill, I thought.  Tradition was the "leaven of the Pharisees" that Jesus so vehemently opposed, I believed. 

That this type of thinking is so prevalent among evangelicals was evidenced by the fact that my church history professor at Denver Seminary had to go to great lengths to validate the medieval period to us as a time period worth studying, knowing, and appreciating.  I remember him poking holes in precisely what I thought--namely that, after Augustine, the Church entered a "dark period" it did not emerge from until the Reformation.  The millenial span between roughly 500 AD and 1500 AD was a black hole, a void, in the growth and influence of we thought.

Beginning in college, largely through a study of Western music history (which is, for the first several centuries, a course in CHURCH history, interestingly enough), God started driving the wedge of tradition into my soul. What started as appreciation moved to fascination, which then led to experimentation, which then led to appropriation.  

For me, it started simply with the church's songs.  I began to dig into the hymns of the past and discovered that the type of Christianity expressed was one that I had longed to express but had no vocabulary for.  Examining these hymns shifted to jumping on the bandwagon of regifting these hymns to the local, modern, Western Church.  But hymnody was merely a gateway drug toward more intensely exploring the traditions and worship practices of the past.  I wanted the heavier stuff.  I began investigating "liturgy."  

My evangelical psyche told me to beware of tradition.  For me, however, the deeper I got, the more I realized that there didn't have to be a competition between tradition and Scripture; that the Reformers themselves, along with the biblical doctrines they re-emphasized for the Church (like sola scriptura), were not jeopardized.

Great Books Cast Out Fear 

I've been reading D. H. Williams' Evangelicals and Tradition.  Williams is a Baylor prof and stands within the free church tradition of Baptists (part of my own heritage).  If you find tradition a tough pill to swallow and have grave concerns for how any appreciation of tradition might creep into tainting fundamental doctrines of evangelicalism, look no further than this book.  It parses the issues well and speaks to the free church evangelical.  Its goal is to address the concerns of the skeptical evangelical and then encourage an appreciation and appropriation of historic, small-c "catholic" Christianity, largely through an engagement with the patristics (the church fathers who learned from and immediately followed the New Testament apostles).  It's heavy, relatively thorough, and, to me, convincing.  It honestly makes me want to buy the entire 38-volume set of the works of the Early Church Fathers, but I'll refrain because I'm already under enough investigation with my wife regarding my book-buying addiction.

I would commend it as a tool to guide pastors, worship leaders, and worshipers into greater depths of faith by re-training our ears to listen to Christians from the past that we've been subliminally told we shouldn't listen to.  The best part of Williams' book is that it doesn't require you to sell your doctrinal soul.  You can still hang on to all the powerful correctives that the Reformers championed (the Reformers, by the way--especially Calvin--were strong advocates and practitioners of listening to the voice of the early church). 

Where the Rubber Meets the Road for Worship Leaders

Evangelicals in the modern age do a lot of talk about being missional, which usually leads to conversations about contextualization--making the timeless truths of our faith apprehensible in a twenty-first-century context.  It is sometimes the case, though, that in our efforts to contextualize, we drop all reflection on and appropriation of precisely that which we're supposed to translate.  In other words, our quest toward hyper-relevance causes us to lose sight of tradition.  

So many worship leaders out there have no grounding.  Experience drives their practice, and theology and tradition are appropriated in a very tertiary way.  But one day, nearly all of them (so I've experienced) come to a "What in the world am I doing?" moment.  Many respond to that moment by thinking they've "aged out" of usefulness in our youth-obsessed culture.  Others go through a full-blown existential crisis, doubting the very faith that they once led others in.

I can't tell you how beneficial it's been for me, when those waves come, to be grounded in my traditional, small-c catholic Christian heritage.  I can't tell you how much the historic worship practices of the Church (even as I seek to contextualize them to my city, region, and time period) speak and minister to me.  I can't tell you how much the objective faith of and in Christ as it is embodied in the rooted, trans-denominational elements of truly Christian worship (outlined well by Bryan Chapell in Christ-Centered Worship...see my review  summary) has ministered to me in my time of need.

If we really do believe, as the Apostles' Creed states, in the "holy catholic church [and] the communion of saints" we should begin to cultivate in our souls a respect, appreciation, and deference for what the Church of the past has to teach us now.  And, once again, the beauty of all this (as argued by Williams) is that it doesn't have to come at the expense of how highly we view the authority of Scripture.