Not long ago a friend of mine, an affluent businessman and active churchman, shared with me his growing disillusionment with modern Protestantism, especially with its worship. After regularly attending various churches in his area—mainly evangelical and conservative—he confessed that this uneasiness had accelerated rather than abated.

He went on to say that he was now seriously considering turning to the Catholic Church—mainly to be spiritually fed, but also out of a desire to be intellectually challenged. I told him that he was likely to be leaving one set of problems for another. Yet I could empathize with him, for I too have been troubled by the increasing vacuity of much Protestant preaching and worship.

Evangelical Protestantism is in trouble today as an increasing number of business and professional people are searching for a new church. The complaint I hear most often is that people can no longer sense the sacred either in the preaching or in the liturgy. The atmosphere in most of our services is clubby and convivial rather than adoring and expectant. What is missing is the fear of God, the experience of God as the Wholly Other.

Sentimental appeal

Worship has become performance rather than praise. The praise choruses that have preempted the great hymns of the church do not hide the fact that our worship is essentially a spectacle that appeals to the senses rather than an act of obeisance to the mighty God who is both holiness and love. Contemporary worship is far more egocentric than theocentric. The aim is less to give glory to God than to satisfy the longings of the human heart. Even when we sing God's praises, the focus is on fulfilling and satisfying the human desire for wholeness and serenity.

This motivation is not ...

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