The Protestant churches are getting further and further away from the Catholic church practices, though.
Back in the early 1990s, while my husband and I were devout evangelical Christians, we began noticing a trend in Protestant churches, especially evangelical/pentecostal, to totally eliminate traditions from the worship service.
Here are some examples that I remember.
For many years, the “Order of Worship” in many Protestant churches included the following:
Greeting each other.
Pastoral prayer (a long prayer)
Choir number or solo
Offering and Offertory Song
Altar call or some kind of challenge
Communion (once a month)
As you can see, all of this is borrowed from Catholic liturgy. Many of the “mainline” Protestant churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, etc.) would also recite the Apostles Creed weekly.
But beginning in the late 1980s, we were seeing services that looked like this:
Twenty minutes of worship choruses, no hymnals
Solos, usually with track music
Message–might be a drama, or some kind of “event”. Often a video.
Words of farewell.
Every week, the format would vary a little. Sometimes there was no message, only a play or musical presentation. Sometimes there was no singing, only a long sermon. Sometimes the Bible wasn’t read. Sometimes the whole service consisted of just reading the Bible.
We noticed that baptisms were only offered once a year in many churches, and communions were only offered a few times a year, usually on Sunday evenings instead of in the morning services.
We questioned all this, but were told that the Holy Spirit is moving in a new way, and we shouldn’t try to impose the “traditions of man” upon the fresh work of the Holy Spirit.
NOW our town has one of the Willowcreek spinoffs, a megachurch of several thousand people that meets in a converted mall. There are no “services”–they are called “weekend events.” Usually the speaker is on a video, and the people don’t sit in pews or chairs, they sit at tables throughout the mall sipping latte while listening to the video. The music is professional; I’m serious–the bulletin advertises for professional musicians, actors, and techies.
I think that it is fair to claim that to a certain extent, there has always been an element of “theater” in all churches, including Catholic. An “order of service” or “liturgy” is followed; this would be the equivalent of the “Script” and “Director’s notes.” Everything is timed. The musicians and pastor prepare their music and homilies and usually practice them for a better presentation. The “audience” is involved, not through applause, but through singing, praying, reciting, giving, and partaking of Communion and Baptism
Yes, it resembles theater, but it isn’t. God gave the liturgy to the Church, and they have kept it for all mankind.
But now, it is my opinion that the Protestant church is on the way to becoming pure theater, with very little God and more man-direction. What is happening now in many Protestant churches bears little or NO resemblance to any Catholic liturgy or Protestant tradition.
As for the Sacraments (ordinances in Protestant language), they are going going gone. New Protestant churches seem to shy away from these medieval ceremonies, or they change them so much that they don’t bear any resemblance to the traditional Communion or Baptism. My question is, WHEN will the Protestant church start getting rid of the sacrament of marriage? After all, it’s just a “tradition of man” too, just like Communion and Baptism.
I fear for these churches. IMO, they have nothing that a good friendly bar or gym can’t offer. Jesus is there in some of His true disciples, but He’s hard to find amidst the glitz and spotlights of “theater church.” Hollywood is one of the most godless places on this earth. I don’t know how the churches think they can turn themselves into Hollywood and remain godly.