There exist today hundreds of people in Christian think tanks and agencies whose whole view of ministry is to promote and induce cultural change into the church. It is called contextualization or transformation. But transformation is basically inducing change into the Christian church. Pastors who are properly trained in transformation and contextualization principles are known as transformational pastors. Pastors are also called to be “change agents.” For further reading on this topic, please refer to my earlier newsletter, entitled “Transformation Thinking for Dummies.” The overriding feature of seeker-sensitive and transformational activities is to change the church to resemble the culture as closely as possible and thereby insure survival and success in today’s changing society. There is more to it than outward appearances. Seeker-sensitive churches low key their doctrinal statements, lest they scare away the seekers. Although doctrinal stances do not officially change, the week-by-week teaching exhibits the church as fellow travelers in the culture. The process of transformation calls not only for change but perpetual, ongoing change; in order to entice an ever-changing seeker population. Forgotten entirely these days, is the fact that God’s people are meant to be a leaven within the culture, a pocket of resistance to the foibles and ethos of the flesh. However, I suspect there are still some seekers left who expect to find something unique and noticeably different at church than in the world at large. One area of dramatic transformation has been in congregational worship. Churches that are not even officially seeker-sensitive have introduced the style and ethos of seeker-sensitive worship. Music companies and popular Christian musicians have made the change in churches almost complete. Only resistant liturgical hard liners have escaped this particular transformation. If you question this, just listen to any Christian radio station. When some people exit a church some of them whisper to one another “That felt like a rock concert.” But that’s the point! It is Christian Rock Lite. The loud and pulsating instrumentation of first rock and then Christian rock has been wedded with new limited tune ranges and limited lyrics. If it wasn’t for the beat, many of these songs would die a natural death; and most will die quickly as they are succeeded by newer and more novel songs. The rays of new music can be seen on the horizon. A new transformation lurks from a growing movement called the emergent church. The emergents have had enough of “ra ra” mega-church music. They eschew what they call electronic worship – they have been there and done that. Their agenda calls for a change in the church and church services, using only acoustic guitars forgoing the usual loud electronic music. The movement is scary because, being wedded to postmodern thought, they reject the Bible as the only source of truth. But in their call for reform and change, many young people are being attracted to a worship style with more subdued expression. So even as many churches don’t identify themselves as seeker-sensitive and have adopted seeker-sensitive music; so also many churches will reject the teaching of the Emergent movement but adapt their music. The emerging churches often characterize themselves as “ancient-future.” They hope to restore the treasures of the medieval and patristic periods. At a recent emergent conference, convention goers attempted to recreate the medieval labyrinth. They passed from the fluorescent daytime of the convention hallway into the darkness of sacred space and dimly lit candles. One by one, the participants filed in to walk the ancient path of prayer. But unlike the ancients, these postmodern pilgrims carried portable CD players that guided them and provided ancient medieval prayer music for the journey. The emergents are calling for a return to ancient worship forms like candles, incense, chanting, and labyrinths (gardens of prayer are already sighted). The emergents find their following among youth and young adults, and they appear to be the next cultural elite who will be copied to varying degrees. This is simply because they represent change and the new and the novel. The shelf life of the seeker-sensitive service and borrowing of Christian Rock Lite is about over. So! Are you ready to pack up the drum sets, electronic bass guitars and the mixing boards and trot off to Wal-Mart for candles? The emergent’s call for reform and change will grow in the ensuing years. I wish it were not true because they reject huge areas of biblical doctrine. But when you wed yourself to perpetual, ongoing change, you need to always have your bags packed.
Catholic Contemplative prayer techniques and spirituality is often hidden by the code word “Spiritual Formation.” It’s incursion into Evangelicalism is deep and broad.