The following is a second excerpt from the recently released volume The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin. In their chapter on “Baptists in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries,” the authors discuss “Key Trends, Threats, and Trajectories.” Below is their discussion of “Evolving Worship Styles.”
One way the charismatic movement affected even noncharismatic Baptist churches was through the rise of “praise and worship” music. Praise and worship music was an offshoot of the contemporary Christian music (CCM) movement, which began in the 1960s with artists such as Larry Norman and 2nd Chapter of Acts. Many of the earliest CCM artists were charismatics who were converted through the Jesus People movement. As CCM became more popular in the 1970s and 1980s, a growing number of churches adopted a “contemporary” approach to their worship gatherings. Short praise choruses supplanted traditional hymns, guitars and drums replaced (or at least supplemented) pianos and organs, and dress became more casual in worship services. New Bible translations such as the Living Bible (1971) and the New International Version (1973) used updated language that resonated with many baby boomer Christians better than the older English of the King James Bible. While many, if not most, proponents of contemporary worship services did not advocate glossolalia, prophecy, or being slain in the Spirit, contemporary worshippers did adopt moderate charismatic practices such as raising their hands or dancing during congregational singing.
Many churches, including Baptist churches, experienced turmoil during the so-called worship wars of the 1980s and 1990s. Advocates of more traditional forms of worship, whether revivalistic or lightly liturgical, criticized contemporary worship as tasteless, trendy, or even irreverent while champions of the new approach argued that the new forms resonated with both younger Christians and the unchurched. For proponents of praise and worship music, content was more important than style. Many Baptist congregations lost members when pastors or music ministers introduced praise choruses, exchanged the organ for a guitar, or began reading from modern Bible translations. Many churches, especially larger congregations, avoided division by offering both traditional services and contemporary services to appeal to as many worshippers as possible. Denominational meetings and other conferences often tried to incorporate multiple styles of music for the same reason.
By the early 2000s many more traditional congregations had incorporated contemporary music, added a wider variety of instruments into their worship services, and gravitated toward a more casual style of dress. Music ministers were increasingly called “worship leaders” or “worship pastors,” and many Baptist seminaries adapted their music programs to accommodate changing musical tastes in local churches. Some of the artists writing what were now called “modern worship” songs were Baptists, particularly those associated with the Passion collegiate conference started by Southern Baptist minister Louis Giglio in 1997. Many churches, influenced by missiological strategies, adopted more contextual approaches to worship, with music, dress, and other elements of worship reflecting the cultural context. Members of “cowboy churches” dressed in spurs and baptized new converts in feeding troughs, members of “biker churches” wore Harley-Davidson Tshirts and heard sermon illustrations about motorcycle culture, and members of “hip-hop churches” wore baggy jeans and listened to soloists perform gospel-themed hip-hop songs.
The pendulum later swung again as some Baptists reacted to the trend toward contemporary worship by embracing a more liturgical approach. A growing number of Baptists, especially in the millennial generation (born since 1980), adopted practices such as liturgical Scripture readings, weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the reading of prayers, and the recitation of creedal statements such as the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. Baptists who identified with the “emerging church” movement sometimes added elements such as liturgical dance, iconography, painting, and sculpting during worship services. In 1997, a group of moderate former Southern Baptists drafted a document titled “Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity: A Manifesto for Baptist Communities in North America,” often shortened to “The 310 Baptists in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries Baptist Manifesto.” Its signatories, who came to be called “Bapto-Catholics,” advocated a postmodern approach to theology, liturgical worship, and a greater sense of ecumenism. Bapto-Catholics successfully convinced the centennial Baptist World Congress in 2004 to recite the Apostles’ Creed at their meeting.
About the Authors:
Anthony L. Chute is Professor of Church History and Associate Dean of the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University in Riverside, California. He has written several books and essays on Baptist history and theology.
Nathan A. Finn is Dean of the School of Theology & Missions at Union University, Jackson, Tennessee. He has written widely on topics related to Baptist history, identity, and spirituality.
Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
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