"The problem with much Christian worship in the contemporary world... it is not entertaining enough"

“Worship characterized by upbeat rock music, stand-up comedy, beautiful people taking center stage, and a certain amount of Hallmark Channel sentimentality neglects one classic form of entertainment, the one that tells us, to quote the Book of Common Prayer, that ‘in the midst of life we are in death.’” Carl Trueman: Tragic Worship

1723 reads

There are 8 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture


I don't buy a basic premise: that worship should be "entertaining" at all. But he's got a solid point that doesn't depend on that--the tendency of contemp. worship to be syrupy. People talk about "feel good" movies. And then you  have "feel good" worship.

And I've seen this happen in places where the music is all "traditional" as well. Everything is happy, happy, happy rather than joyful (which can coexist with repentant, humble thankfulness).

Caleb S's picture

So it seems that the fault is the mindset of the worshiper rather than the style of music.

Aaron Blumer's picture


His point seemed to be that what is chosen for worship purposes omits tragedy. The mindset of the worshipers is certainly part of it though... they get what they want.

It would be interesting to find out what CT's thoughts are on styles/forms and culture. But it's not in focus in that essay.

Caleb S's picture

It would seem that "dying" has a place in relation to "style".  Some have a certain comfort zone of the conservative.  And "dying" to self would mean going a bit more contemporary; loving your neighbor, which is worshiping God, forces one out of his comfort zone.  The point: as long as the argument is on the level of Scriptural principle and not explicit testimony, then both sides can support their points through principle.  Hence, much of the debate about "style" is a moot point.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

The article's general thesis, I believe, was and is not difficult to support and Trueman did well to do that. However, I would have preferred steering clear of using the word "entertainment" since though it can be used generally as he did its most common denotation is that of being amused, such as was his use with reference to his description of the contemporary. I understand the attempt of being clever with the irony but I am not sure the lead-in served the argument which, itself, was great. Maybe it being that Christian worship in the contemporary world does not lack our attention or focus but that our attention and focus is imbalanced if not being fed a malnourishing diet, but then such a leading premise might be too clever less as a lead. Anyway, good material.

Mark_Smith's picture

but I thought the way he phrased it was plain weird to me. Talking about tragedy from literature and theater? Really? Literature and theater is the last thing I am thinking of at church.  In fact I don't want theater elements in church! I guess I am too mundane for that...


To me the issue is our technology. Two hundred years ago, in Europe especially, it was common for the average couple to have several children die before adulthood. Many woman died in childbirth as well. Death was a lot more common. As a result it was a constant thought for many people. With medicine and sanitation many of those problems were dealt with. We like to avoid thinking of death. We need to work on relating to dying with Christ, and sacrificing for others.

Alex Guggenheim's picture


I believe CT speaks in the context of a more Protestant/Reformed luturgical setting. This includes the sermon which is substantially different in form/style than the more across-the-board heavily didactic style of many Evangelical and/or Fundamentalist groups. Hence, the theatrical reference.

James S. Lowery's picture

I read the quotation within this context:

Ecclesiastes 7:1–4
1 A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
2 It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.
4 The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Romans 8:35–39
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Hebrews 12:28–29
28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;
29 for our God is a consuming fire.


Jim Lowery; Richmond, VA