I understand the significance of high production value. Our desire is to bring the very best before God in his house. A congregation expects, as well they should, for the preacher to be prepared. Sermon prep begins on Monday or Tuesday (and sometimes weeks or even months in advance) not on Saturday evening or before church on Sunday morning. Bible teachers and worship leaders, soloists, music directors, choirs and praise band members are all expected to put in time working together and practicing. And in this day and age you need the crew in sound, projection and lighting to go over the program, discussing transitions and the order of service. There is nothing wrong and in fact there is a lot right about devoting time and energy to prepare for worship. But what has slowly happened over the past 20 or 30 years, from my point of view, is that worship has morphed into a spectator sport. Authentic worship is not something we are to sit and watch. I don’t know who said it first but the term I like to use for that activity is worshiptainment. I do not believe that is what God desires.
Worship is a group activity. Even when a preacher is the only one up speaking and a large audience is listening, there is a worship dynamic taking place. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (taking communion, or for others the Eucharist) are ways that hopefully all Christians can relate to community drama. Baptism and Holy Communion are rites that are very much dramatic reenactments that help us understand worship by participation. Those two rites are practiced by virtually every Christian church in some form or fashion. Possibly without realizing it, every wedding ceremony or funeral service you have been to is a ritual, a liturgical exercise. Worship as Community Drama by Pierre Hegy provides a method for evaluating liturgy. We read product reviews for everything from fast food restaurants to new cars. Managers do performance reviews for employees and we grade school systems based graduation rates and standardized test results. It is not wrong to evaluate the way we do church. We have to have some metrics for determining where we are in order to improve.
Hegy presents a rubric for evaluation then uses those criteria to evaluate several different actual worship services, ranging from a television Roman Catholic mass to a Pentecostal meetin’. He argues that much research has been done on cult, hero and idol worship but very little empirical research exists Christian, Jewish and even Muslim worship. We need to be informed on taking a critical look at ourselves. Hegy observed many different worship services and interviewed ministry leaders. His book is a study of the sociology of religion that would benefit any ministry leader. I already believed that any church should understand why an aspect of ministry exists; if there is an outreach, a class, a committee or department, the church should have a stated goal and some type of measuring device to see if the goals are being achieved. If there is no purpose for a line item on the budget, if the stated goals of a project are consistently not being met, there is no reason to continue. “Because we have always done it that way” is a terrible reason to keep doing anything. What Hegy gives pastors and priests are very scientific methods to investigate and evaluate. Faith and culture, church growth and personal development, models of authority and much more are defined and carefully observed. Why do we do what we do? Are the desired outcomes being achieved? How can we change in order to do better? These are the questions the church needs to be asking and Hegy informs us on how to do that and puts us on the right path to finding better answers.
Pierre Hegy has a lot to say about mass, the Eucharist and homilies because he comes from a background of Catholicism. I want my Protestant brothers and sisters to understand that he is observant and knowledgeable about worship. All Christians worship and I recommend this book for anyone interested in taking an honest look at how and why we do what churches do.
Mike Morrell offers a selection of Hegy’s book with video clips of some of the services being observed.
Here is the listing on Amazon with reviews; also read the forward and introduction.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.