Thursday, January 1, 2009

Abu Daoud on exporting the American model of church and liturgy

An e-mail I just wrote to a friend, I thought it was interesting enough to share with you all. Happy New Year to everyone! --AD

Hi Brother,

You raise a great question: in many ways the American church is not replicable outside the States, no? I would agree with you in several aspects. American culture is very much focused around entertainment, and that really comes across at church. I mean, how many people have you met who do or don't go to a certain church bc of the music or the preaching? It is a difficult balance, I mean, you should be edified by the sermons, but there is such a thing as substituting an entertaining sermon for a boring one that is edifying. The same can be said for the way our churches handle their physical assets. I am, however, not one of these guys who says that we need to go back to home churches (though here that is needed sometimes, but more as a security matter than some ideological debate, like it is in the US).

All of this is related to my conviction that liturgy, in some sense of the word, is an important part of Christian worship. It serves to focus attention away from the entertainment factor (ie, the preacher or worship leader) and towards the work of the people--which is what the actual Greek word liturgy means, the work of the people, or a public work. So yes, the standing and sitting and kneeling can certainly become meaningless ritual, but I have found that is not the case nearly as often as non-liturgical Christians allege. I have ample experience with both forms of Christianity (liturgical and non-liturgical) in a number of different cultural settings and languages.

Also, it is entirely possible to combine the best aspects of evangelical ethos and liturgical worship, I have seen this at some Anglican and Lutheran churches, for example. The desire to shed every last bit of structure (liturgy) is very American, isn't it? I think that's another aspect of how American Christianity does not work so well in other cultures. The non-structured every-guy-doing-his-own-thing kind of worship we sometimes see in the US is more or less incomprehensible to many folks here in the Arab world, both Christian and Muslim.

Anyway, that is much more than you expected, I'm sure! Peace be with you during these twelve days of Christmas, and happy new year!