Having had the opportunity to be on the campus of Harding University recently, we wandered through the American Heritage Building. In the hallway that funnels visitors in from Market Street, some pictures display life at Harding through the decades. The pictures are great! Who wouldn’t want to go to Harding if life is like that?
Among the shots are a few from more distant past, including this one:
This is what it looked like back in the late 40s and 50s when college students at Harding worshipped together in “chapel.” The leader happens to be my granddaddy, who influenced a lot of people in ways of worship in those days. Look at the eyes of the people. If you scanned closely enough, you might detect that a few were looking at the photographer and trying to appear more engaged than they were, but by and large, they are participating, being led, worshipping. . . .
When was the last time you knew of that much engagement and involvement in a single church assembly where you are?
The contemporary church creates spectators, and the traditional liturgical churches, bystanders.
– John Throop, The Clergy Journal, 1996
Nevermind, for the moment, that the above scene doesn’t neatly fit in either of Stroop’s categories. The generalities stand: we see an awful lot of un-involved gazing and gawking in contemporary churches; and in most “high church” groups, a different type kind of un-involvement.
You can say it’s the responsibility of the individual to “give,” to “be involved,” to worship . . . no matter what. And you’ll be right.
You can also say it’s the responsibility of the church leaders to make the assemblies more like the one above. And you’ll still be right.