50 Reflections on Worship in the Contemporary American Church — An Introduction

According to my records, my last post to this blog was almost three years ago, which is rather hard to believe, but a lot has happened in that time.  My father died.  My wife’s step-father died.  My daughter graduated from Judson University.  My son graduated from Waynesburg University.  My wife and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.  Judson’s Center for Worship in the Performing Arts, which I am privileged to direct, became the Demoss Center for Performing Arts, to recognize the significant contributions of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis and JoAnn Demoss to the ministry of the music and worship programs at Judson.  Judson’s Artist-in-Residence, Rev. Huntley Brown, and I took the Judson University Choir to Jamaica one May and Europe two years later.  It’s been a busy three years.

I also retired from active, “weekend-warrior” church worship ministry after 24 straight years (and 31 years out of 34).  The time clearly had come; my responsibilities at Judson had increased, but I had not made sufficient adjustments in other areas of my life to compensate.  After a few minor health scares, it was apparent that I needed to remove something from my plate, and so I resigned as Worship Pastor at Elgin Evangelical Free Church.  Almost immediately, the absence of the week-in-and-week-out stresses of church ministry produced lifestyle benefits that have since more than corroborated the wisdom of the decision.

Life without a weekend church gig has been interesting.  My wife and I have gone to a few churches with some degree of regularity, but we have also spent many Sundays doing something I’ve always wanted but never had the opportunity to do (because of my previous weekend commitments)–visit churches where current and former students serve in worship ministry.  It’s been thrilling to see how God is using these twenty- and thirty-somethings in ministry, and to recognize that my colleagues and I have had perhaps a small part in the process by which these young men and women currently serve the Church has been both humbling and gratifying.

Thanks, in alphabetical order from first name (corresponding pictures below), to current and former Judson students Aaron Andries, Aaron Niequist, Aaron Wiewel, Abby Wheatley, Adam Moxness, Andy Boettcher, Aubree Flickema, Ben Kafer, Bethany Timmons, Branden Benskin, Catlin Walton, Chad Negley, Chip Read, Cobey Bienert, Izy Hermosillo, Jeff Kuester, Jen Alderson, Jen Dotson, Jessie Garcia, Joey Atansio, Joshua Hoegh, Mara Schumacher, Martine Hunter, Mat Camerer, Matt Archibald, Matt Calio, Mike Rancharan, Sara Price, Sarah Gordon, Scott Bunn, Tiger Khokunthod, Tim Caffee, Tim Kindberg, Tina Spears, Walter Halliwell, and Winter Burnett.  And thanks, in advance, to the students, former and current, who will, Lord willing, bless God and His people in the months and years to come.  There are so many more of you whose worship leadership we want to experience.

I have Tweeted about these visits under the general banner of “The Worship Leader Roadshow,” and I’ve also taken field notes to help me, as a worship educator, get a sense of where the contemporary American Church is and appears to be going, at least where its corporate worship is concerned.  As an easy on-ramp back into the blogosphere after a near-three-year hiatus, I thought I’d share these notes for public consumption and, perhaps, further reflection over the next months.  If you happen upon one of these next posts, I welcome your thoughts.  May the Lord’s Church be edified in our efforts, and may the Lord be with you!


About Warren Anderson

Emmaus Road Worshipers is written by Dr. Warren Anderson, Director of the Demoss Center for Worship in the Performing Arts at Judson University (Elgin, Ill.), where he also directs the Judson University Choir. A Judson alumnus, he has served his alma mater in a number of capacities over the past 30+ years, especially the chapel ministry, which he led for 22 years. From 1982-2016, Dr. Anderson served six different churches--American Baptist (X2), Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist--as a "weekend warrior" worship musician/pastor. He is a former member of the editorial board of Worship Leader magazine. The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of Judson University.
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