There's nothing like seminary that can ruin a perfectly good church service.
I've used this saying before to connote how some severe reflection in a seminary "laboratory" on church practices can leave one ever critical of church habits. Sure it is healthy to critique what we do in the church, but vigilant care must be taken not to become so critical that church loses its appeal. For many seminarians, it's probably been years since they last were moved by a particularly convicting sermon or challenged by a biblical text. Analysis can be a drug to which seminary encourages addiction. It's a road fraught with dangers to one's own soul.
Having said that, though, I have to admit that I'm being challenged to reflect on our worship practices in a new way. Not just the practices of my church body (Woodcreek Bible Church), but the practices of the church context we're in here in north America. WBC is affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association, but we have not sought to inherit any church practice from them. Instead we've taken our queues mostly from popular evangelicalism in the free-church vein. We're not non-denominational, but we operate like we are.
What this means is that we've not sought to inherit any particular worship practices from a denominational heritage. There's nothing wrong with that; it's just that one then has to be much more purposeful about what practices you adopt. Tradition doesn't have much of a place because there's not a tradition to inherit. For this reason, everything requires sober thought and meditation. There's nothing to which you can "punt" to tradition as a guide. This can be both freeing as well as anxiety laden. Questions arise that are not easily answered, such as:
To what extent should popular culture guide worship elements? To what extent should Church history guide worship elements? How can a balance be struck between the "meaningful" and the "liturgical" in an experience driven society? To what extent should worship be user-friendly to the un-churched? To what extent is it designed for veteran believers?
I'm not sure how to answer these questions as yet. I know that worship should be characterized by elements not duplicatible with an iPod. It should be pursued with excellence. It should be true to the church's confession of faith. It should contribute to the church's disciple-growing process. What will that look like for us?