Conventions and Churches

I didn't watch a single minute of either the Republican or Democrat conventions, a first for me. This was for several reasons. One, I consciously eschew "live" TV these days, as a time-saving strategy. Two, I read enough national news and political commentary to be informed on the candidates' and parties' positions long before the conventions started. Three, I expected nothing substantive or new from either convention (and wasn't disappointed).

But in reading reports of the conventions, I realized (I think) something important. Something that is true also of how we do "church" these days.

While there have been updates and upgrades, small modifications or clever innovations here and there, the format of national party conventions is largely unchanged from a century or more ago: that is, speeches followed by more speeches. Some are preceded or punctuated by videos (or stage props like empty chairs), but very little that happens on a convention stage is specific to (or mindful of) a culture dominated by interactive media: Facebook, Twitter, multi-player video games, Skype, etc.

The same is generally true of corporate worship in the twenty-first century. The basics are unchanged from the past couple millennia: we sing, we give, someone preaches. In some churches, we also take communion. Maybe the lack of change is for the best. Some would argue the unchanging Gospel and unchanging modes of worship go hand in hand.

Of course, many churches are innovating with video, incorporating texting into worship, allowing feedback and discussion in the worship moment, etc. But for most of us, worship continues to be a largely passive, mostly aural, experience.

I know I'm not the first to note this. And I'm not the first to suggest we take a conscious, critical (though careful) look at how we worship in the twenty-first century. I'm far from the only one wondering how our corporate worship experiences (and life of the church in general) must or should change to include those who are better reached by visual, tactile, olfactory, or participatory ways to worship than the predominantly aural means we usually employ. And I'm far, far from the best person to weigh whether the church would be wiser to adopt, adapt, or counter current and coming technology, and in what ways.

But I'm pretty sure that a great many souls for whom Jesus died will be affected one way or the other.

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