Book Review: Future Worship by Lamar Boschman

One of the assignments I have to complete as part of the Metro Worship Academy is a book review. Students were given a select list of texts on worship to read and review. I chose Lamar Boschman’s Future Worship because it is one of the key texts which have shaped my own views on worship practice. So I am killing two birds with one stone: I’m recommending an important book to those who read this blog (particularly if you are a worship leader) that will help you understand the intersection of worship and culture. And I’m also completing an assessment item at the same time. Win!

Future Worship

I have long considered Lamar Boschman one of the pioneers of the modern praise and worship movement. Not only did Boschman model church worship expression through his worship leadership, he also provided, as a teacher, the much needed Biblical blueprint that laid the foundation for the movement.

I first read Boschman’s Future Worship (Ventura: Renew Books, 1999) some years ago. Reading it again recently, with many more years of ministry experience under my belt, I was confronted by just how many of Boschman’s predictions about the coming shape of worship in the new millennium were beginning to be realised.

Blending references from theologians, philosophers and futurists (just so you know that this is going to be a meaty book), Boschman begins with an indictment on the current state of worship in many churches: overly plastic, image-conscious and performance-based worship that has fomented consumerism, dislocation and spiritual disconnectedness. In his wry style, he states:

Today, worship is too often a cacophonous, raucous, aerobic dance class. People stand on platforms and command you to do stuff that you would never do in any rational moment of your life… like turning to the total stranger next to you and screaming, MY NAME IS BRADLEY AND I’M A JESUS POWER RANGER! (pp 41-42)

But yet, there is hope. After all Future Worship is not just about the present, it is about learning the lessons of the past so we can paint a glorious future.

And so, the theme of birth pangs and contractions dominate: the idea that perhaps, the disillusionment and unsettledness is the result of the conflict between a dying era and one that is struggling to be born. Boschman states (at 48):

While most people may not describe that succinctly or eloquently, most are aware of a prevailing and bewildering sense of confusion and ambiguity. What they may not possess, however, is a sense of perspective about it: these things are merely the beginnings of birth pangs…. A new world is being born.

For students of worship, Boschman puts the modern worship movement in its historical context like no other book on worship (except perhaps say Robert Webber’s Worship Old and New). Boschman provides a sweeping analysis of communications media (from the oral tradition, to the printed word, to the electronic age and finally to the new digital revolution) and how they have shaped the development of the church’s worship expression and its core values. He tells us how we got to where we are. And then, importantly, he tells us to look beyond the familiarities of the past towards new frontiers of possibilities.

In the past 20 years, church (and its worship) has changed. Churches are becoming more “post-modern” and “emergent” even though they may resist those labels.

But the key point in Boschman’s analysis is that the new digital age is facilitating a convergence of the best elements of the preceding ages. He states (at 164):

A crucial part of this unhindered Church of the future is the principle of convergence – the recognition and blending of various strengths of worship found in the oral, print and electronic ages of the Church.

Personality cults are beginning to fade into the background as even the most insignificant of voices are given expression and validity through the digital platform. Communities are reaching beyond denominational, racial and geographical lines as members of the body of Christ connect and network across cyberspace towards truly realising the vision of a church universal. The rigidities of time are being overthrown. Even ancient kinships (as Boschman puts it) are being rekindled.

This is the new worship revolution. As another prophetic worshipper once put it, it is where “all the streams flow as one river / To wash away our brokenness” (Martin Smith, “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble”).

Wineskins, Patches and Paradigm Shifts

I think Christianity has been one of the most enduring faiths because of its ability to reinvent itself within the parameters of its core tenets and beliefs. It is a revolutionary faith.

One of the things I love doing is to look at paradigm shifts in the church, particularly in the context of worship. Certainly, the church’s understanding of worship has come a long way, and its expression of worship has taken quantum leaps, even in the last 20 years or so.

Jesus’ parable about new wine and new wineskins is interesting. I have heard many teachings about how we need to change the church’s methodologies (new wineskin) to contain the new wine that God is pouring out.

I have often taught from this passage when I talk about changes in the worship landscape, but I never really understood the first part of the passage about shrinking a cloth before using it as a patch. So I happily ignored that part and hoped no one ever asked me questions about it. (Actually one of the great things about teaching at church is people tend not to want to ask you pointy questions!)

But I think I’m getting a clearer revelation of this passage now and want to offer you some of my thoughts. But first, here is the passage from Luke 5:36-39:

[Jesus] told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.”

The problem I had in the past with interpreting this passage stemmed from an erroneous approach: I always thought the two images (wineskins and cloth) are reinforcing images, i.e. they are two ways of saying the same thing. Actually, I now understand that the key to this passage is in the fact that the two concepts are complementary. The wine imagery tells us about the need for renewal, and the second imagery of the cloth tells us about the method to implement that renewal.

If you are a wine drinker, you will know that really good wine needs to mature over time. New wine can often be harsh with undeveloped flavours. That’s why Jesus says that no one who drinks old wine actually wants new wine, because they say “the old is better”.

Recently a friend of mine opened a bottle of wine which was apparently bottled on his actual birthday 30 years ago. He thought it tasted okay, but whilst I politely agreed, inside me I actually had some doubts. It tasted a bit funky in my opinion. In any event, I think most people know the general principle that when wine gets really old, it turns to vinegar.

So even though most people like old wine, we can’t hold on to old wine forever. It will go off.

Even though the pentecostal tradition eschews liturgy, in fact, we often have a strange reliance on “unstructure” to the point where it can become its own structure and liturgy. In fact, step into most contemporary churches and the service is entirely predictable: singing, followed by announcements and then the sermon. Depending on how “spirit-led” you are, you may get some ministry time at the end too.

No matter how much we like the old, we can’t hang on to the methods, models and strategies of the past. They will become stale and ineffective.

The fabric analogy however, tells us about the way we bring about change and renewal. The patch of cloth from the new garment can’t be used to patch up a hole in an old garment unless the new patch is preshrunk. Otherwise, it will tear away from the old garment. Often, we want to transplant a new idea or a new method onto existing structures without holding back a little. The new idea becomes too radical and a shock to the system for those used to the old, and the radical idea gets rejected entirely.

Twenty years ago, the idea of a woman worship leader was unheard of. (There are still some remnants in the body of Christ who don’t believe that women should lead worship). But then Darlene Zschech came onto the scene. She started out as a strong backing vocalist and she began to write songs which captured the heart of the church. Before long, having her lead worship was a natural choice. Darlene paved the way for women worship leaders to start taking up that mantle all over the world.

Once, a church I knew began to flow into prophetic worship in the vein of Rick Pino. However, the worship leader began the service by singing free worship and then sang one song over and over again for 25 minutes. A good deal of the congregation failed to engage and was lost in the process. Whilst moving the church into prophetic worship is desirable, doing it too quickly when people aren’t ready or educated can result in a church rejecting the new move of God.

This is what Matt Redman refers to when he says that as worship leaders, we must balance the prophetic with the pastoral. Worship leaders must keep prophetically forging ahead, breaking new ground with new styles of music, new songs, new prophetic flows and new artistic expressions. But we must also be pastoral: we need to bring people with us; we can’t go too far ahead that they can’t follow; we need to hold back a bit and let the new cloth shrink slightly, so it doesn’t tear from the old cloth.

True renewal is necessary. Psalm 102:25-27 says this:

In the beginning, you laid the foundations of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

They will perish, but you remain;

they will all wear out like a garment.

Like clothing you will change them

and they will be discarded.

But you remain the same,

and your years will never end.

God is the same, but He is always on the move and bringing change.

As revolutionaries, we must love the church, even those who seem to be slightly lagging behind. We need new wineskins to contain God’s new wine. But we must also be careful to preshrink the new patch from the new garment before applying it onto the old garment, lest we tear away from the old garment and destroy it so that even the cutting off from the new garment would have been in vain.

Apostolic Worship and the Revolutionary Spirit

Last night, I was watching a Jackie Chan film called 1911 which chronicled the 1911 Chinese Revolution led by Sun Yat Sen. I have always wanted to read up on Chinese history, but the expanse of it was always too intimidating and I never really knew where to start.

1911 was a precis about the momentous events that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the fall of the last emperor of China. What was really interesting (processing it through my sanctified Christian mind) was how the language of the revolution was very similar to the language of Christianity. The characters talked about “reviving the spirits of the people”, the power of standing together in unity and sacrificing for the next generation.

As embarrassing as it is to admit it, after I watched the film, I did a bit more research on Wikipedia and discovered that Sun Yat Sen was baptised into the Christian faith whilst he was in Hong Kong and he pictured the revolution as similar to the picture of the salvation mission of the Christian church.

If I were to define “apostolic worship” simply, it would be this: Apostolic worship is worship that brings in the the governance of God on earth as it is in heaven. In expression, apostolic worship involves intercession, the prophetic and spiritual warfare.

Ultimately, apostolic worship is linked with spiritual revival and societal transformation. When the governance of God comes into our hearts, passions are renewed, wounds are healed, captives are freed, wholeness is restored, dreams are activated. When the governance of God comes into a city, lives are transformed, resources are released, the poor are lifted, righteousness and justice prevail.

Jesus didn’t just to come to seek and save “the lost”, but to seek and save “that which was lost“.

I was talking to a pastor who had recently arrived in Perth and he told me that he felt very strongly that revival in Australia would begin in Perth, and that it would be sparked by the Asian church because of the passion of the Asian church. Little did this pastor know that many well-known international prophets have longed prophesied that Perth would be the catalyst of revival in Australia.

Another pastor once told me that the redemptive gift of the Asian church is its strength of discipleship.

I also learnt that a pastor who is involved in prototyping transformation models under the ministry of Ed Silvoso is now working in Perth.

I get the sense that the church in Perth is on the cusp of great spiritual awakening and worship will play a vital role.

If you look throughout the history of the church, you can see a pattern of loss, beginning at the zenith of the church of the book of Acts, reaching its lowest point in the Middle Ages and now moving into a time of recovery, beginning with the Protestant reformation. Today, we are beneficiaries of the move of the Holy Spirit now known as the Charismatic Century: a move of God that has spanned over the last 100 years and is continuing in greater force than ever before.

In this pattern of loss and recovery, worship has always been a key issue. After Constantine institutionalised the Church, the concept of New Testament priesthood was lost. No longer was worship the realm of the masses, it became the vocation of the professional clergy. All throughout church history, worship has been the centre of friction and fissure, from the Eucharist, to baptism, to the use of hymns, to the introduction of folk song. In recent years, discord has stemmed from things as trivial as whether the electric guitar and drums are valid instruments for worship; to the appropriateness of dance in the church; to silly arguments about which songs people prefer to sing. Commentators refer to this latter phenomenon as the “worship wars”.

But in every disintegration, there is restoration. In recent years, we have seen the recovery of the five-fold ministry, particularly in the last decade the gift, function and office of apostle. There has been a move towards seeing entire cities being reached and transformed for Jesus. The gospel of grace is becoming firmly entrenched in our theologies.

I believe that the restoration of apostolic worship will be one of the moves of God that will signal the redemption of our societies.

Acts 15:16-18 says this:

After this, I will return

and rebuild David’s fallen tent.

Its ruins I will rebuild,

and I will restore it,

that the remnant of men may seek the Lord

and all the Gentles who bear my name,

says the Lord, who does these things

that have been known for ages.

God is rebuilding David’s tabernacle. Whereas worship has in the past been a cause to split the church, I believe that in the restoration of the Tabernacle of David, the church will once again be united around worship. And the presence of God will mark the united church in the city so powerfully that the church will become irresistible to the lost. And as apostolic worship goes forth, societal transformation will occur at every level, from the marketplace, to the government, to the media, to our education systems. God is aligning the city of Perth to walk into its great destiny as a revival catalyst for the rest of Australia.

Revolutionary writer Victor Hugo said this:

No army can withstand the power of an idea whose time has come.

The idea is the restoration of David’s tabernacle. The time has come for the church. And no army can withstand it. Revolution is on its way.