Recently I visited the famed postmodern Ecclesia Church in Houston. Back in 2003 I wrote an article about The Next Big Thing: Postmodern Worship (also referred to as Emerging Worship, Ancient/Modern and Vintage Worship.) It mixes the old and new – stained glass and laser lights, communion stations and electric guitars, all with a modern bent meant to reach the unchurched (and overchurched) younger crowd. Dan Kimball’s book The Emerging Church was the bible of the movement – analyzing and explaining it to befuddled baby boomers. (I remember one baby boomer pastor shrieking “if this is where worship is heading I quit!”) At one conference I heard the postmodern worship described as a rehash of the 70’s hippie Jesus movement.
As it turned out, postmodern worship wasn’t the next big thing but a part of many big things all swirling around the hodgepodge of modern worship styles. Within a five mile radius of my house there’s big box laser lights worship, postmodern worship with candles, 90’s rock worship, traditional, blended and redneck biker worship.
Here’s a video from 2002 introducing Ecclesia Church:
Today Ecclesia meets in downtown Houston’s House of Blues while their new facilities are being prepared. Chris Seay is the pastor (in his sermon that day he mentioned the drama of having just turned 40) and his brother Robby Seay is the worship pastor. Robby wasn’t there that morning but they had the marvelous group PageCXVI leading worship – Latifah Phillips’ vocals were so amazingly hypnotic on their opening song I felt like I went into a trance.
Included in the service were postmodern elements like painting during the worship, responsive readings and gluten/dairy-free communion (referred to as the “Eucharist.”) Ecclesia is by no means a sprawling megachurch – there were only a few hundred in the early service – but meets a niche need for those with an artistic streak.
While there are pockets of postmodern churches around the country, I think the biggest contribution of the movement is to inject some transcendence into the typical contemporary, performance-based worship world. I visited Seacoast Church this past weekend and they’re still using their various stations – communion, offering, prayer and candles. Seacoast has a very guitar-driven, modern worship style yet there was an unmistakable spirituality to their service – I really felt God’s presence.
Perhaps one way to avoid the performance trap of so many contemporary churches is to… act more like a church. Get people involved reading Scripture, confessing sin, praying and taking communion. Being hip and holy doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
>Take the poll: Do you include liturgical elements in your contemporary worship?
>Take a tour of Ecclesia Church:[miniflickr photoset_id=72157628079815464&sortby=date-posted-asc&per_page=50]
>Take a tour of Seacoast’s stations:[miniflickr photoset_id=72157594228483197&sortby=date-posted-asc&per_page=50]
>Download graphics & instructions for the calligraphy scrolls seen in the Seacoast stations (login is in the WorshipIdeas weekly newsletter – sign up here)