08 March 2013

Warring Over Worship

I remain a confirmed warrior in the “worship wars.” What once seemed an innocuous attempt by evangelical churches to add a little zest to their worship services, thus attracting new – and most importantly - young attendees, has simply gone too far.

I was once at a conference at which the "worship leader," the head of an international Christian organization, stood up and said, “We’re being very flexible this morning. We can either worship now, or I’ll open the Word.”

This is what we’ve come to in our Christian vocabulary and experience. We sing and clap for 15-30 minutes, with our children by our side. We feel good that in the mix of songs our “worship team” has included one “old hymn.” Then, having concluded worship, we open the Bible and send the kids away to “Junior Church.”

Worship is not entertainment. Nor is it intended to be focused on the alleged worshipper. Nick Needham, embedded with the worship warriors in Scotland, views today’s tendencies in worship as the natural flow of events stemming from “cultural pluralism.” Subjectivity is the order of the day as “worship teams” tinker and experiment until they find just the right emotional charge for each service. Needham describes the “tendency to construct and evaluate worship in terms of the human subject … rather than in terms of the divine object, God, the blessed self-revealing Trinity, and His will, word, and activity.” In other words, it’s all about us.*

God never said that we could make worship up as we go along. He gave us some very specific items He wants in our worship. They include music, prayer and His Word. With the emphasis on more and louder music in our “celebrations” today, we barely have time to fit in a Scripture reading. It’s more important for the Hawaiian shirt-clad “speaker” (many of these churches have ceased using the archaic words Pastor, Preacher, or Reverend. They may offend the sensitive visitors) to have properly coordinated his (or her) Power Point presentation, than to have coordinated Scriptures from which to preach to the lost, the hurting, the fatherless and the widows.

And, by the way, “never is heard a discouraging word.” These people live in a happy, clappy world in which the mere mention of sin would be an affront. No, we’ll counsel folks as they need if they come to the office on Tuesday. Today, it’s “Seven Ways that Jesus Can Make You Happier,” or “They Aren’t Really Lost, They Just Haven’t Learned Our Choruses, Yet.”

I Guess I’d better not get started on the difference between “Contemporary Christian Praise Music” and hymns’ or the “emerging church.” Yes, God’s Word instructs us to “make a joyful noise,” but that’s not the end of the verse. We are to make a joyful noise “to the LORD.”!

I’m not against anything new. I’ve tried a few new things in this century. I like music – and not just 200 year old hymns. But we’ve done a terrible thing to worship. We’ve given it away. In our striving to be accepted by man, we’ve turned our backs on God. He declared: 
       21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
    I cannot stand your assemblies.
    22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
    Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
    I will have no regard for them.
    23 Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps. (Amos 5:21-23).

He who ordained worship in the first place; He who told Israel how to sacrifice, now tells them to cease and desist. Why? Because their hearts are in the wrong place. Because they were not obedient.

How much more would God despise empty “worship” which seeks to be “friendly” rather than contrite and awed? How much more must he be offended by our efforts to orchestrate an emotional outpouring rather than expectantly waiting upon the Lord and hearing lessons from His Word about the real world in which we live?

Let’s get back to the days when it meant something to raise our voices in worship of “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!”

*“Worship Through the Ages,” in Give Praise to God, edited by Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W.H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R  Publishing, 2003) p. 407.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a link (funny) to someone who does not share my views.