Worship and Entertainment are not Synonymous

Featuring Posted on February 15, 2010

When our focus deteriorates to style, preference and format, it is no longer worship. When we fight within our congregations because of formats, it is sin. When we critique and ostracize people for their heartfelt worship in a style that is not our preference, we are not acting as God’s children.

In the past 30 years, the Christian church has experienced a vital and dramatic change. The change is not limited to specific denominations or geographic areas. Much of the change has pivoted on music. This change has the potential to revolutionize a dead and dying church . . .

But only if we refuse to submit to the wiles of our enemy.

Part of that changing landscape has come because God is renewing his people. God is drawing people to himself in greater intimacy and understanding. He has been calling his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth. He has been calling us back into a living and vital relationship with him. And as his people have responded to his call – his wooing – songs of that interaction have begun to come forth.

Young people, bored and idealistic, have reached out to God in new ways because their hearts have been touched by the heart of God. Middle-aged ‘boomers’ have moved towards new worship styles because with change comes a renewed sense of God, an understanding that God is doing new things in their lives.

When people experience a life-changing vitality in their relationship with God, it attracts attention. Not only do we want to hear the stories of life-changes, we want to participate in them somehow. So we read about their experience. We sing songs that have grown out of their experience. We purchase music and emulate those same songs in our churches.

These new songs are expressions of our culture, written in the language we use today and the musical style familiar to our generation. Renewal helps us to understand that church and life are one – that the words we use in our church are not just ‘religious’ words set apart only for Sundays. The words we use in our church should be words we use every day. When we start to separate and fragment our lives between ‘church’ and ‘secular’ we risk relegating God to a secondary place in our lives.

In the mid-eighties this ‘new’ worship music was dominated by a young audience. Parents and church leaders naively believed that once the young drummer and budding guitarist graduated from high school and became leaders in the church, they would again respectfully adhere to the traditions of the church, forgetting that what they clung to as ‘age-old’ tradition was really just a dominant style from about 80–150 years ago. Few are the places where the truly ‘age-old’ traditions of singing Gregorian chants, early polyphonic music, or Anglican plainsong, are still maintained. Even the early Lutheran chorales have mostly been refitted with more modern tunes (referenced from an email by Dr. Peter Davids, 14 Oct. 2004).

But the new worship music connected with young people’s hearts and God met them there. The music was instrumental in bridging the gap between society and the church. It brought the passions of our everyday life into a spiritual expression and experience of God.

Because many of the new worshippers found a new experience of God through music, many of us bought into a half-truth. We saw the format as being the renewal. So we looked eagerly to the next worship conference, the next worship event, the next great worship CD to experience God’s nearness once more. We looked forward to the next anointed worship song or gifted worship leader to lead us to that place where we could feel the sense of God’s presence – because the older songs didn’t seem to ‘do it’ like they did last year.
Sure, the music touched us and somehow opened up an ability to respond with our whole being to our loving God. But we were duped into believing that it was the music that changed us. In our wrong thinking, we began to see worship as ‘music’. And we began to promote our songs as ‘the worship’ that would change people’s hearts.

A whole new market was created. Worship CDs, worship celebrities, worship conferences, worship TV and radio. In the way North Americans do it best – worship became a lucrative capitalistic enterprise.

next...Worship is not About the Music


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