Authors note: This is not a blog entry about traditional vs. contemporary worship. This is not a defense for pipe organs and against guitars and drums. It truly does not matter to me the “style” of worship, but what matters is the “substance” of worship. Worship is not merely expressive but also formative and should be for His Glory alone. Therefore, please read this blog as an observation of how worship has evolved over the past 20 years and the urge to get back to a more Biblical-approach to ministry and worship.
Have you ever wondered how the Worship Band has become the most vital part of the modern evangelical church? Have you ever wondered why we changed from a pulpit to a stage? Have you ever wondered why we have replaced our true worship to God for the superficial worship of the god of entertainment?
I think I have found the metamorphosis of the worship band through a logical progression of observations. It first started with the development of Christian rock bands in the 80’s and 90’s. First of all let me say there is nothing wrong with spending you money to go to a Christian rock concert and be entertained. But there has been a logical consequence to these rock concerts…let me explain.
A high school youth group takes a trip to go see a Christian rock concert. The stage is lit up, the smoke is rising, the flash of the strobe lights are going, the crowd is dark, and the place is rockin’. As the band plays every tune you hear on the local Christian radio station, people are raising their hands, closing their eyes, and having an emotional experience with thousands of religious people in one place.
Then the band stops and one person plays the piano softly in the background. The band leader (or the one who can speak somewhat coherently) says “it is no accident you are here tonight and if you just ask Jesus into your heart, there will be a party in Heaven.” (Insert everyone clapping and yelling!) So he has everyone bow their heads and repeat some prayer in their heart and raise their hand if they asked Jesus into their heart and viola…you’re in the Kingdom!
So after this amazing worship experience where you so-called accepted an incomplete and watered-down message of Jesus, you make the logical conclusion of “if this is what it is like to be close to God, then every worship experience must live up to the same hype.”
So the next logical step is that the church thinks that in order to keep these high school kids around, they have to duplicate this type of worship-experience in their youth ministry. Enter in stage lighting, electric guitars, drums that knock the hat off your head, smoke, and a paid worship leader to string together the loudest band you could possibly imagine.
Next logical step is these kids grow up and become young adults. Now in order to keep these young adults coming to church you have to meet their needs too. This means the same youth rock concert event duplicated in “big-person” church too. Stage design, lights, mirrors, huge television screens with the repetitive words to these worship songs, electric guitars, drums, digital pianos, dark crowds, the whole works.
The justification…they state that they are trying to reach the unchurched. The only problem is that if you attract someone with carnal means, you have to continue to keep them with carnal means. You have to continue to top yourself.
How can you prove this to be true? If you ever go to a “Christian’s only” church service on maybe a Wednesday night, they will worship the same way. Lights off in the crowd, huge emotional and visual stimulation, and the focus on the worship band and not on God. They know no other way to worship. They need the superficial, carnal means that tickles their worldly appetites.
A recent blog I just read had three great points to worship bands:
1) If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship.
2) If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship.
3) If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship.
The marketing experts of church growth will say that one will never win people until one develops effective alternative forms of entertainment to capture people’s attention away from the world’s offerings. And there is no denying that this form of “giving the consumer the entertainment they want” works – it draws crowds, makes attendance figures look amazing, and keeps money pouring into these churches.
But it is entirely contradictory to the Biblical view of ministry. It feeds people’s emotions for entertainment and enlarges the problems of emotional experiences, materialism, and self-preservation.
The Biblical view of ministry is to 1) Proclaim the Gospel fully and unadulterated, 2) Teach the Word of God exegetically, and 3) To live holy, genuine, uncompromising lives for the glory of Christ.
I’m sorry to say this three-step approach is totally against what the pragmatic marketing experts say will work. It is absolute foolishness to the seeker-sensistive church. It is offensive to the unregenerated sinner and it is definitely not attractive. It may make your attendance figures look horrible and may not make your budget be a six-digit figure.
But this approach is the power of God unto salvation. It does not rely on man’s wisdom but on God’s wisdom. It does not rely on man’s pragmatic approach to winning people’s decisions but on God’s sovereignty in salvation. It does not rely on man’s words to build a crowd but on God’s Word to build His Church. It does not rely on every fad that comes through the door but on His unchanging Word.
Let’s move away from the metamorphosis of entertainment to the Master’s approach to church worship. I’ll put my trust in Him.