Reflection

What is Alternative Worship?

Does anyone have a “non-evasive” way of explaining alt. worship? I think I’m all about it, but nothing I’ve read or heard so far has sounded original or different than the most recent shifts in worship. Is it just me? Am I a loser or something?

Greg Adkins responds…

Let’s be literal first. You said non-evasive. It’s alternative worship, so by definition, it’s an alternative to more common forms of worship. I think we know what is the status quo for worship right now. Loud rockin’ band, hands in the air, 2 delirious songs and the truth kind of thing.

So what is the alternative to that?

First off, let me say that it’s just an alternative… it doesn’t mean that the other is wrong. This is just another way of doing it.

The reason I believe so strongly in alt.worship is because I believe that there is a large demographic who is tired of all the noise. They want to think… feel… taste… use some other senses. They want to listen deeply and hear something worth listening to.

Alt.Worship to me is about environment, community, silence, thought, prayer, and truth.

Let me explain those one by one..

Environment – I strive HARD to always have the room look like it was prepared… that work was done… that atmosphere was created. This does two things. One, environment in worship is more important than most people realize. I know some would say “baah, you should worship everywhere! worship is a lifestyle! blah blah blah”.Well, that sounds good and I’m sure it’s in a book somewhere but it’s not reality. Environment matters. I could worship better in St. Patrick’s Cathedral than I could in Taco Bell. Secondly, it reminds people of home. When they come and see a place prepared, they are hopefully reminded that their father is in the same way preparing a place for them as well.

Community – To me, this is the core of alt.worship. We do it together. You don’t come and sit and let worship happen to you. You come and participate. You come and share your life (at your confort level) and enjoy what those in the first century church enjoyed… the fellowship of believers. This is a big part of the service planning time… how can we make things more interactive is always the first question asked.

Silence – Another important element in my book. Remember what I said about noise. Twenty years ago, the church moved to “contemporary music” because we wanted to connect with people where they were. Then about 10 years ago, the church embraced multimedia because we wanted to appeal to a “short attention span” culture. I’m not knocking that… a lot of people have come because of those minitries and I’ve been a part of both of those. But now… I think more and more people want to just log-off. Turn off the TV / cell phone / DSL / palm pilot and just be quiet for a minute. The church can keep trying to compete with the world if it wants to with amazing technology. That’s fine. But we have to also offer an alternative… what better alternative than silence.

Thought – This is pretty obvious I guess but to me, alt.worship has to have a depth of thinking that folks may not be used to. Teaching must challenge if it is to awaken hearts. If people are going to be open to the “strangeness” of alt.worship, it helps a lot if we are stimulating their brains a bit… getting things moving. It’s kind of a top down thing… get the mind moving and the rest will follow.

Prayer – have you ever noticed how 90% of prayer requests in your church bulletin are health / medical related? Man, what a shame… part of being a community is shaking up the way we pray and start getting real with each other. I mean, can you not think of 50 things you need prayer for that aren’t medical? Of course you can… but we only ask for prayer for those life/death things. Why is that? The way I do alt.worship, I ask people to pray for anything I’m struggling with. I open wounds. I expose myself. It’s hard sometimes but if you want community, you have to risk comfort sometimes. This is vastly important.

Truth – A final word in my dissertation on alt.worship, as long as we keep the truth the truth, our methods are just that… methods. Alt.worship is where I’m at right now. Might that change later? I’m sure it will. But as long as my methods are pointing me and others to the one true God, I can feel pretty good about that.

Greg Adkins is “a young minister in everytown USA on a journey of faith in a changing world”