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Twenty-first Century Western Post-Modernism as Missional Worship Context

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series

"Missional Worship"

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According to missional authors, the Christendom model significantly affects how the average 21st century American church practices worship. During the Christendom period, the church dominated the culture, and therefore the forms used in worship were in many ways indistinguishable from the forms of Western culture. According to Murray, “Sunday” as a holy day, the clergy/laity distinction, and even the idea of church buildings all stem from a Christendom model rather than from the New Testament.1 Roxburgh argues that Christendom had a profound effect on corporate worship. He suggests that worship after Constantine was considerably shaped by “empire and basilica,” not Scripture.2 The Reformation changed things only to make worship more pedagogical,3 and post-Enlightenment worship became more professional.4

Missional advocates do not see this connection between worship practices and western culture as a good developement but rather as something from which the church must break free if it is to reach its culture for the gospel. Mead argues that the “relics” of the Christendom model “hold us hostage to the past and make it difficult to create a new paradigm that can be as compelling for the next age as the Christendom Paradigm has been for the past.”5 With the secularization of the West, the inner culture of the church and that of mainstream civilization have parted, leaving the church and its ancient forms “irrelevant.” This is why Dan Collison roots his desire for the church to have missional worship in the fact of the church’s increasing liminility in western civilization.6

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

  1. See Murray, Post-Christendom, 76–78. []
  2. Alan J. Roxburgh, “Missional Leadership: Equipping God’s People for Mission,” in Missional Church: a Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1998), 192. []
  3. Ibid., 193. []
  4. Ibid., 194. []
  5. Mead, The Once And Future Church, 18. []
  6. Collison, “Toward a Theology and Practice of Missional Worship,” 48ff. []