November 12, 2018

Masturbatory Worship Music

A few weeks ago, Gail and I were sitting in a restaurant on a Sunday following church. This particular restaurant must be owned by evangelical Christians, because every time I go there, I hear Christian praise and worship music being played as I eat. I don’t know if it’s a Sirius channel or some form of Christian muzak, but it’s all worship songs in the background.

As we were finishing our meal that day, I commented to Gail, “Every single one of those songs sounds exactly the same!”

  • The same chord progressions.
  • The same production style and instrumentation.
  • The same song forms — verse/chorus/bridge, with a quiet, intense penultimate chorus followed by a musically aggressive restatement of the main theme.
  • Vocals that try to come across as passionate and intense, wringing every emotion possible out of the lyric.
  • Lyrics that emphasize grand adjectives in what I assume is an attempt to lift the listener up into a sense of transcendence.

These songs have become a style unto themselves. When we talk about “worship music” now, we are not only talking about music that is used for a particular purpose, we are referencing music that is all the same style and substance!

And its design is singularly programmatic as well: it is meant to stimulate a certain emotional response in individuals and crowds. As a former worship leader in evangelical congregations, it is remarkable to me how utterly formulaic this music has become.

And, if you will forgive my vulgarity, how masturbatory it has become.

It is designed to be “an experience” for me, not a thoughtful expression of obeisance to God.

It does not enable me to consider my duty to respond to God in daily life, but rather fools me into thinking this wave of emotion I’m feeling is the proper response to God.

Jonathan Aigner recently posted an example of this, as it actually took place in a worship service. In addition to the manipulative music that follows the form above, the video you’ll see in a moment includes the “spiritual” rantings of a worship leader that exacerbates the situation by adding hyper-emotional “testimony” to the mix.

What makes this particular example so egregious to Aigner (and to many others, including me) is not only the “performance,” but the fact that it took place on the same Sunday that the pastor confessed to the criminal act of sexually assaulting a girl to whom he was youth pastor twenty years earlier., Then, in essence, he swept it under the rug, to the cheers of his audience.

This is a rather well known story by now, having been covered by Aigner and our friends at Wartburg Watch, so I won’t focus on that (though you are welcome to discuss the matter in the comments).

What I want to focus on is how this kind of “worship” enabled this congregation to completely avoid the serious issue at hand. It swept them up into a wave of emotion that left them powerless to exercise sound judgment, truly respond to God, and consider the issues raised by serious sin. What, in fact, they did, when the pastor gave his “confession” later in the service, was give him a standing ovation.

Which is what you do when you can’t help it, because, after all, this is the star of the show that just lifted you up into glory and sent tingles down your spine.

I can’t put my response to this any more prophetically than Jonathan Aigner did in his post, “When a Worship Song is Blasphemous”:

…Sanctimoniously parroting your quasi-biblical catchphrases while offering a seminar in corporate crisis management is a rejection of your calling as ministers of the gospel.

It is bad worship.

It is blasphemous.

It is gross malpractice.

It is a litany of lies, proven by our own words and actions.

It is a masturbatory, self-preserving, self-worshiping, self-referential pursuit.

It is worship that is about the self. I don’t care how many butts are in your seats. I don’t care how many campuses you have. I don’t care how many podcasts are downloaded, how many books ordered, or how many propagandists you manufacture.

Worship is ethics. And what you called “worship” today certainly was worship, but it proclaimed a false gospel. The gospel of saving face.

But even if this example had not been part of such a travesty as that service, it still represents something deficient and deadly in the church. Commercialized, formulaic, self-centered “worship” is as far from what that word is supposed to signify as possible.

Where are the pastors, artists, and wise leaders who will move us toward maturity? Who will get us to stop playing with ourselves and grow up so that we can truly love God and our neighbors?

Comments

  1. I’ve never been an evangelical. In the past I’ve visited evangelical churches and tested evangelical culture, but never joined the culture or a church, in part because so much of there, including the worship styles, was chock full of what I disliked and wanted to distance myself from in American culture. So I get it, what this post is saying. And yet, the level of anger and visceral antipathy of post-evangelicals toward evangelicalism never ceases to surprise me. It makes me very glad that I never dove into those waters, but merely got my toes wet.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > the level of anger and visceral antipathy

      Yeah, I was there. It has cooled; these days I find them to be sad, cowardly, and very repetitive.
      Outrage is sorta pointless, they don’t care.

      “””to completely avoid the serious issue at hand”””

      This is a good example. There is a lot of outrage at the applause-to-the-confession. And, yes, that is very weird thing to applaud in any case. But in a modicum of defense of the congregation – if you go back and watch/read the event – the congregation was misled, the presentation of the situation was extremely biased, and from the presentation they could have assumed the situation was handled much more pointedly then it was. So, the outrage should be directed more at the leadership than at the congregation.

      On the other hand, that the congregation was so primed to just follow along to the leaderships propaganda… yeah, that’s Evangelicalism “in a nut shell”. It is a question-free-zone. This is a different Evangelicalism than I experienced ~20+ years ago. It was always a deeply flawed movement/community, with a bent toward authoritarianism, but now the disease has overtaken the host. 🙁

    • Robert, I wonder whether the Aigner article which Chaplain Mike refers to helps you to be less surprised by the ‘anger and visceral antipathy’? When I started reading the post I was surprised by CM’s choice of title. By the time I’d read the links and understood the context of that ‘worship session’, I understood entirely and I was angry with evangelicalism all over again. I know that all evangelicals are not like this and I am sure that the young woman in the worship video has a good heart and that I’d like her if I met her. But unfortunately I can see echoes of the ‘normal’ evangelical church that I grew up in in the way that Highpoint Church has responded to this situation (and I know I’m blurring the issues of the worship and the abuse but that’s the trouble – they are related because of the way Highpoint handled the situation on that morning).

      Not that the lovely people I hung out with in evangelicalism behaved like this, but I can see the connections between the attitudes of the church I was in – the teaching and the culture – and the attitudes displayed at Highpoint. Today in the UK we are celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage and then I read into the Highpoint situation and felt ashamed of the church in its use of (usually male) power. Clearly abuse is not just an evangelical problem – far from it – but as a former evangelical I feel particularly sad (and, yes, angry) about the way some evangelical churches are handling it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Worship” has just copied the Trendy bad habits of secular pop music, after the usual “Wait til it Jumps the Shark” late-adopter interval.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVME_l4IwII
      Day late, dollar short, hopping on the bandwagon going “ME, TOO!”

    • Oh I get the anger. I so get it. Just as I understand atheist anger towards the faith. That anger needs to burn itself out over time. It’s a form of being honest with the abuse and lies and utter bs you went through. But there has to be a light at the end.

      A few weeks ago, Gail and I were sitting in a restaurant on a Sunday following church. This particular restaurant must be owned by evangelical Christians, because every time I go there, I hear Christian praise and worship music being played as I eat. I don’t know if it’s a Sirius channel or some form of Christian muzak, but it’s all worship songs in the background.

      I refuse to ever eat at another Pizza Ranch because of this exact same hs. And it was barely even praise and worship, it was ALTAR CALL music interspaced with pleadings, “won’t you come? won’t you come? Christ is calling, won’t you answer him, join us this Sunday to answer…the Master’s…Call…”

      Ain’t no crappy pizza worth listening to that swill.

  2. I grew up with hymns, which C.S. Lewis famously described as “fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music.” Not even second-rate, huh Jack? I actually like a few of ’em. But I admit I actually like a lot of present-day worship songs.

    Not all of them, clearly. Many are crap. All they have in common are, as you said, verses, chorus, bridge, quiet bit, anthemic burst—meant to goose the emotions, and utterly stolen from U2, who’s been doing it since the ’80s. Listen to “Bad” from Wide Awake in America—there’s your template. Arguably I like ’em for the same reason I like U2: They feel good. And God is not a sadist—ain’t nothing wrong with liking your worship music! But the important thing is that the lyrical content is actually worth keeping in one’s brain. Too often it’s not. True of hymns too.

    My issue with recent music isn’t that people are enjoying it so much they forget to honor God with it: It’s how so homoerotic so much of the current crop is. The singers love Jesus so much, they’ve blurred the lines between agape and eros, and clearly wanna cuddle and spoon our Lord, who makes their hearts turn violently inside of their chests when they think about the way that he loves us; oh, how he loves us so. I know these guys are the bride of Christ, but they need to pull it together.

    • I agree that there are the erotic undertones, although it’s not always very under but pretty overt, in much of Contemporary Christian Music. My dentist used to play CCM over the sound system in his office so I had to listen (nothing points you to the love of God better than having the crud scraped off your teeth!) So many of the lyrics mentioned things like wanting Jesus to be “with me all through the night” or Jesus holding the singer close enough to feel His breath or other lyrics that brought to mind things other than Jesus the sacrifice. I seriously do not get the draw of this kind of music.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I seriously do not get the draw of this kind of music.

        I assume it is a cultural echo. If that is the only category of metaphor you know – then you use it for everything. It isn’t like Pop music provides rich veins to be mined.

        For much the same reason most adolescent poetry is dreadful – because adolescents do not have enough experience to provide them with perspectives. They have the passion not yet seasoned by the time in the trenches, and not leavened by other voices.

        Notice how CCM musicians are overwhelmingly young and – very – white.

        One of the reasons by music collection is littered with a seemingly bizarre array of everything from Hip Hop to FILK – people trying to talk about other topics [non-pelvic] in music is Interesting. If you can render *pointed* social commentary [not vague hand-waving about mean people] or talk about something as esoteric as the space race, in music/poetry, and have it come off moderately well: that is talent. CCM scores a flat zero on that index [as sappy and droll as Michael W Smith may have been – I give him points for trying in some songs to be pointed – interesting those never went viral].

        • I do think some of it is a cultural echo…of baby boomers who want to feel young again and weren’t allowed to listen to rock music when they were teens or have it in church.
          There is a local Christian radio station in my area. All the DJs are in their 50s or older and one was a local early iteration of a shock jock back in the 1970s (before the likes of Howard Stern were on the scene) until the station changed to a country format, he had to leave, and then had a revelation from God that he should go into Christian radio.
          Our son lives in a different state and we went to a contemporary service at his church a few years ago. The entire praise band had gray or graying hair. Everyone of them had to qualify to be AARP members.
          As for the, as Chaplain Mike calls it, “masturbatory” nature of modern praise music, think about it. There is something kind of creepy about a 55 year old lumpy white man or woman getting so excited they wave their arms and shout with joy at a Kesha or Beyonce or Justin Timberlake performance, but if it’s church and the song is about Jesus, it’s just fine, it’s ok to get that kind of emotion out. So for a segment of society, the whoop it up nature of modern worship is kind of like an Elvis concert.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            There is something kind of creepy about a 55 year old lumpy white man or woman getting so excited they wave their arms and shout with joy at a Kesha or Beyonce or Justin Timberlake performance, but if it’s church and the song is about Jesus, it’s just fine, it’s ok to get that kind of emotion out.

            During the whole Twilight craze, have you ever heard of “Twimoms”?
            AKA 55+ year-old rabid Twilight fangirls — “EDWARDDDDDDDD!!!!! I Want To Have Your Vampire Child!!!!!”

            Well, this sounds awfully similar. Like the exact same dynamic is at work.

        • ATW, you put it well and, in another way, you express my concern. Although I admit that there was a time in my life when I might have thought this was a good thing, I now wonder and worry — the evangelical church is being formed by adolescent poetry.

          • Chaplain Mike, that’s pretty much what I was trying to say, although you said it much more succinctly (which is why you have a blog and I don’t!). I would add that it’s the evangelical church being formed by adolescent poetry, supported by Boomers either reliving their youth or, in a sense, getting back at their parents for what they dismissed as garbage all those years ago.
            It will be interesting to see where this goes once all us Boomers either die off or can’t remember where we are, but of course, we won’t be around to see it.

            • As a boomer, I acknowledge and regret the part I played in bringing the current situation to pass. But, thank God, I always had voices around me who encouraged me to focus on pastoral priorities rather than on merely creating good performances for people to enjoy.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > the evangelical church is being formed by adolescent poetry

            Where do you gain the experience that provides perspective, or receive the leavening of other voices, when you view The World as a dirty place to avoid and you distrust everyone? There is no path forward.

            • So true. The lament of “We brought up our children in a Christian homeschool environment, kept them away from the evil, lustful desires of the world, made sure nothing impure crossed their eyes or ears, and look what happened!!! They left the faith!” Because, as you say Adam, they never receive the leavening of other voices and when they finally do, they either run back home, terrified, but more often, head for the hills feeling they’ve been lied to.

              • Can second generation Christians truly be Christians?

                I honestly don’t know. I think it’s possible but improbable.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Where do you gain the experience that provides perspective, or receive the leavening of other voices, when you view The World as a dirty place to avoid and you distrust everyone?

              i.e. “WHERE’S THE REALITY CHECK?”
              (Oh, I forgot — Reality is EVIL, only the Spiritual is of God…)

            • Unfortunately, you don’t. You wind up with neo-Amish, only with Precious Moments figurines and CCM instead of jam and furniture.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                To be fair to the Amish they have an at least semi-viable economic model. Which is more than can be said of the suburban America where Evangelicalism ‘flourishes’. I’m not really angry with Evangelicalism anymore, I just fear them, because they are certain to blame someone else for thier situation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          One of the reasons by music collection is littered with a seemingly bizarre array of everything from Hip Hop to FILK…

          Does FILK mean what I think it means (the novelty song tradition of F&SF fandom)?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Yes. Strange stuff, but one must give some of them props for effort. At least it is something different.

      • My dentist (years ago when I had a full set of teeth) treated his patients to the Chuck Wagon Gang, free of charge as we sat in the chair. It left a bad taste in my mouth. There has always been schmaltzy Christian music and Jesus-boyfriend stuff permeated the old gospel songs we’d sing at Sunday evening service. I saw this new trend beginning 30 years ago with so-called solo performance tapes, where someone would sing a ‘special”, karaoke-style with full orchestral backup over the sound system. It was more performance than worship. Why should the devil have all the good music, Luther asked. I think it’s just because we don’t understand the role of music in corporate worship. I haven’t seen Miguel here for a while but I always appreciated his take on that.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          That’s worse than my opthamologist with Cheezy Christianese movies looping in the waiting room. (God’s Not Dead and one whose title I can’t remember, it was that forgettable.) At least he doesn’t pipe it into the examining/treatment rooms.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My issue with recent music isn’t that people are enjoying it so much they forget to honor God with it: It’s how so homoerotic so much of the current crop is. The singers love Jesus so much, they’ve blurred the lines between agape and eros, and clearly wanna cuddle and spoon our Lord, who makes their hearts turn violently inside of their chests when they think about the way that he loves us; oh, how he loves us so.

      Someone said once that “Jesus-is-My-Edward-Cullen” CCM is REAL popular in the gay community because “Where else can you listen to a man gushing erotically over another man?”

      It’s a contemporary genderflip version of a type of late Medieval devotion called “Bridal Mysticism” where spiritual ecstacy was expressed in highly-EROTIC language. (Entered into with the gusto that only those sworn to Total Celibacy at age six could get into.) “Thrust me through with Thy Divine Love! Fill me with Thy Holy Spirit as with child!” and the like. Not the first time sexual fantasy got spiritualized, and won’t be the last.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        P.S. Don’t these churches into “Jesus-is-My-Edward-Cullen (Shekinah Sparkles and all)” CCM are also into “Gawd Hates Fags”?

        It as always struck me that a culture into Male Dominance would have an ambiguous love/hate attitude towards male homosexuality. And the more Denial, the more it’ll sneak out.

        • Patriciamc says:

          That’s why I give the side-eye to the ministers into “muscular Christianity” and cage fighting.

      • Patriciamc says:

        “Jesus is my Edward Cullen” LOL!

        I’ve wondered if the part of the brain that processes religious thoughts and feelings is near the sexual part of the brain.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Jesus is My Edward Cullen…”

          When “Jesus-is-my-Boyfriend” doesn’t go far enough.

          I’ve wondered if the part of the brain that processes religious thoughts and feelings is near the sexual part of the brain.

          It would not surprise me.
          Both are associated with really strong emotion.

    • –> “…, and utterly stolen from U2, who’s been doing it since the ’80s. Listen to “Bad” from Wide Awake in America—there’s your template. Arguably I like ’em for the same reason I like U2: They feel good.”

      Yes. A U2 fan here, too, and I totally agree. It’s why I love U2. It’s why I like a lot of more recent Christian music. I basically like the sound. It’s a lot better than John Michael Talbott (yawn). There’s a lot of talented musicians in the Christian world now, and I like where a lot of them write from and toward.

      But I also don’t like where some write from and toward, too. Odd theologies mixed with some of the music these days.

      As I watched and listened to the woman leading worship on the video, all I could think was, “She doesn’t have much background in Christian theology. She’s making a lot of this up on the fly, and it’s just not good theology.”

      • I agree. It’s not all bad, and I enjoy some of it. Just like the hymns of old. Some good some bad. To each there own. I think what matters most for me is God being found. God being praised. God being given the glory. No matter the melody or instruments. Peace to you all.

      • As I watched and listened to the woman leading worship on the video, all I could think was, “She doesn’t have much background in Christian theology. She’s making a lot of this up on the fly, and it’s just not good theology.”

        I was thinking the same thing. Most of the music has the same shortcomings.

      • I wish they’d steal from Acrobat, Wake Up Dead Man, Bullet the Blue Sky, Raised by Wolves, God Part II, Exit…

        Nope. They cherry pick the Psalms.

      • “She doesn’t have much background in Christian theology. She’s making a lot of this up on the fly, and it’s just not good theology.”

        That’s just the Holy Spirit leading her instead of fallible man made theology.

        BARF

      • John Talbott says:

        Hey! Careful now. You never know who might be reading your posts …

        • John Talbott says:

          Smile … I’m actually not the monk from the Hermitage, but we do share the same name and I appreciate some of his music. U2, however, saved pop music for me. Just watched the Harlem Gospel Choir version from 1989 again yesterday. Bono really is over the top in that video with the bizarre erotic movements, but when that choir started singing they put the God in that song.

    • I know these guys are the bride of Christ, but they need to pull it together.

      They’ve misappropriated the metaphor which describes the Church, and applied it literally (to use the tired term we hated on last Saturday) to themselves as individuals.

      Combine that with a stage full of performers living out their latent rock-star fantasies and the outcome is as predictable as it is cringeworthy.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Combine that with a stage full of performers living out their latent rock-star fantasies and the outcome is as predictable as it is cringeworthy.

        In the words of the prophet Shel Silverstein:

        Well we’re big rock singers
        we got golden fingers
        And we’re loved everywhere we go
        (That sounds like us)

        We sing about beauty
        and we sing about truth
        At ten million dollars a show
        (Yeah, right!)

        We take all kinda pills
        That give us all kinda thrills
        But the thrill we’ve never known
        Is the thrill that it gets ya
        when you get your picture
        On the cover of the Rolling Stone!

        Rolling Stone…
        I’m gonna see my picture on the cover
        Stone…
        Gonna buy five copies for my mother
        Stone…
        Gonna see my smiling face
        On the cover of the Rolling Stone!

        I got a freaky old lady named Cocaine Katie
        Who embroiders on my jeans…
        I got my poor old gray-haired Daddy
        Driving my limousine…
        Now it’s all designed to blow our minds,
        But our minds won’t really be blown
        Like the blow that’ll getcha
        When you get your picture
        On the cover of the Rolling Stone!

        Rolling Stone…
        I’m gonna see my picture on the cover
        Stone…
        Gonna buy five copies for my mother
        Stone…
        Gonna see my smiling face
        On the cover of the Rolling Stone!

        We gotta lot of little teen-aged
        blue-eyed groupies
        Who do anything we say…
        We got a genuine Indian Guru
        He’s teaching us a better way…
        We got all the friends that money can buy,
        So we never have to be alone
        And we keep gettin’ richer,
        But we can’t get our picture
        On the cover of the Rolling Stone!

        Rolling Stone…
        I’m gonna see my picture on the cover
        Stone…
        Gonna buy five copies for my mother
        Stone…
        Gonna see my smiling face
        On the cover of the Rolling Stone!

  3. Clay Crouch says:

    The contemporary “worship” songs that I’ve heard seem to share the common failing of being written almost exclusively in the first person singular.

    • Headless unicorn gjy says:

      “I! I! MINE! MINE! MY! MY! MY! MY! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME ! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME!”

    • Jon Bartlett says:

      And the most popular hymns don’t? “When I survey”, “The Lord’s my Shepherd”, “And can it be, that I….” Surely just universal human failing….

      I’m sorry, but I can’t see the difference between the worship leader and the organist who plays the last verse with all the twiddly bits and makes it unsingable, and the choir master who lives for the ‘performance’ where his choir shows off.

      But I grew up with the Beatles, Hendrix, and the Blues….. It’s a cultural thing?

      • –> “But I grew up with the Beatles, Hendrix, and the Blues….. It’s a cultural thing?”

        Yep. Same here.

        At one time I used to believe, “I like Beatles, Hendrix, (U2) outside of church, I just don’t think that kinda music is appropriate INSIDE of church.”

        I’ve since changed that belief/opinion. Hey, I like rock music. So…why not good, worshipful music set to melodies that I like and have me tapping my foot!?

  4. Burro (Mule) says:

    I have heard many decent worship songs, although more formerly than right now. Especially if they based on the Psalms, they can be tasteful and uplifting.

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      I also expect the older communions to be plundered ruthlessly, strip-mining the liturgies for “deep worship moments”. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

      Very little can compare with the Great Doxology in a good arrangement, or from the Latin side, Te Deum.

      • brianthegrandad says:

        oh, they’re doing it. Tomlin and others have taken solid hymns, added a bridge and a new chorus in the middle, and made it bad in the process. there are a couple that are done well, but what kind of hubris is it when you think you can improve on Amazing Grace? what’s next, rocking up the Gloria Patri or the Offertory?
        I think my friend and theologian Hank Hill says it best:
        https://i.imgur.com/kujsU.jpg

  5. Rocky Cephas says:

    It is my escape music. When I want to take nap in about 20 seconds. No worship going on, just white noise.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Didn’t Screwtape wax eloquent over the triumph of Noise?

    • It strikes me how mantra-like a lot of praise choruses are. Your reaction is not an accident. Music like that is supposed to shut down your mind.

      Sorry, but if I want my mind shut down, it won’t be in worship. It’ll be afterwards, with the aid of a nice cigar and a finger of bourbon, neat.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Don’t these Christians(TM) also denounce the Rosary as “Vain Repetitions”?

        At least in my RCIA catechism they DID admit the “Hail Marys” were a Christian mantra to occupy part of the mind and free another part for meditation on the Mysteries…

  6. I think the heart of the problem is not so much the music, or its content (though I agree fully with CM – and the term ‘masturbatory’ is quite appropriate), but rather the whole ethos and focus of contemporary worship. It is totally and completely ‘worshipper-centered’ – it’s all about ME and whether I ‘experience’ God in the service. My emotions become the gauge of whether ‘worship’ has happened or not, or whether ‘God was there’.

    My wife and I attended an Anglican church for a year and very much appreciate the liturgy (ACNA – it was a good church but at heart too much like those Baptist churches I attended for 30 years – same simplistic views of the Bible, same ‘certainty’, same political positions – Jesus was a Republican, etc.). But the focus of worship was God and ‘meeting’ him, but on HIS terms. Everything pointed toward the Eucharist and we always left celebrating Christ and his victory. It was as though we were approaching him (humbly) instead of bringing him down to us (and asking him to ‘fill me’, ‘bless me’, ‘touch me’, ‘heal me’, ‘move me’ emotionally). This worship had a completely different focus, and purpose. I might also add that it was much more communal – it was not ‘me and Jesus’ but ‘us and Jesus’.

    The fact that contemporary worship is ‘worshipper-centered’, or one could just as easily say ‘market-driven’ is symptomatic of the larger problem – Evangelicalism as a whole is ‘worshipper-centered’. Not just the
    ‘cool’ contemporary Evangelical churches, but even the fundamentalist SBC churches I attended for all those years. Everything done was focused on the people in the pews – teaching them, ‘convicting’ them so they would ‘get saved’ or ‘rededicate their lives’ or give more money or whatever. The music was always the ‘warm-up’, building toward the sermon. And after the sermon was the invitation, with 47 verses of ‘Just As I Am’, usually with a sad story thrown in between verses 21 and 22 if people weren’t ‘responding’. The focus is on people, and not on God. And even the music in those churches was about as sappy and romantic as contemporary music (e.g. ‘In the Garden’ – ‘He walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own . . .’).

    I think all of this demonstrates how ‘Americanized’ the faith of Evangelicals is – from American individualism (and consumerism) to the impact of the frontier revival movements (which were also emotion-driven) – it has created a ‘Christianity’ that the early Christians probably wouldn’t recognize (in its practice OR its theology).

    • So very well said.

    • I agree with Suzanne. “Worshipper-centered.” Well said.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      You know, you could go down the road and find a ECUSA church that has that eucharist-centered worship without the Jesus-was-a-Republican part.

    • Bp. Berkeley says:

      This is what I’ve been saying for years, but put better than I’ve said it before. I feel isolated enough as an American without having church be all about me and my feelings. I want to be part of a larger body which is part of the Church across space and time. So, the Episcopal Church welcomed me.

  7. john barry says:

    I personally believe that religious leaders in positions of trust who violate that trust should never receive a “second” chance in the public arena or their deeds forgotten by the organization. They can and should of course confess and repent to God but it should be the end of their career in their religious organization. Anyone who abuses children should never get a second chance and should forfeit their right to work in certain professions.
    To me the pastors, priest, youth workers and all those who abuse their positions should themselves resign and publicity take themselves from their positions, it they truly are repentant.
    There is a deep divide in the dreaded evangelical churches about the music described in the article. It is at first a generational thing but morphs into a dumbing down and acceptance by the general pew sitters. They do trust their leadership which is letting them down in my opinion. Often they take loyalty to their local church as loyalty to their faith. This is not unique to the dreaded evangelicals as evident though history, church leadership protects church leadership at times unless accountability is demanded, even then it hard to effect institutional change.
    I do not like the label of evangelical as it is too broad and now used in political and cultural terms that it loses its meaning. Churches such as Highpoint seem to have lost their perspective in dealing with a leader who violated his position. They should not put him in a position of leadership . Without a doubt the Pastor n question should have been repentant and stepped after the assault years ago, this is at first and foremost a personal failure.
    Again the music is a major issue and has split many a church usually along generational lines. South Park had this pegged years ago when the guys started a Christian band , as Eric said just say Jesus instead of boyfriend or girlfriend and tell how you feel, the band was a big hit.
    Most churches I have ever attended would not react to the situation the way Highpoint did. I hope they are an outlier and see their error one day.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      South Park had this pegged years ago when the guys started a Christian band , as Eric said just say Jesus instead of boyfriend or girlfriend and tell how you feel, the band was a big hit.

      Funny because it’s True.

      Especially when the examples in the show were filked from really really steamy not-quite-pornographic songs.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Jonathan Aigner recently posted an example of this, as it actually took place in a worship service. In addition to the manipulative music that follows the form above, the video you’ll see in a moment includes the “spiritual” rantings of a worship leader that exacerbates the situation by adding hyper-emotional “testimony” to the mix.

    It’s Nuremberg 1936:
    “SEE HIS FACE! HEAR HIS VOICE! FUEHRER! FUEHRER! FUEHRER!”
    — Leon Uris, Armageddon: a Novel of Berlin

    What makes this particular example so egregious to Aigner (and to many others, including me) is not only the “performance,” but the fact that it took place on the same Sunday that the pastor confessed to the criminal act of sexually assaulting a girl to whom he was youth pastor twenty years earlier., Then, in essence, he swept it under the rug, to the cheers of his audience.

    “I kill my own mother and still they cheer me!”
    — Caesar Nero, in Paul Maier’s historical novel The Flames of Rome

    What I want to focus on is how this kind of “worship” enabled this congregation to completely avoid the serious issue at hand. It swept them up into a wave of emotion that left them powerless to exercise sound judgment, truly respond to God, and consider the issues raised by serious sin. What, in fact, they did, when the pastor gave his “confession” later in the service, was give him a standing ovation.

    Which is what you do when you can’t help it, because, after all, this is the star of the show that just lifted you up into glory and sent tingles down your spine.

    Anyone remember Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber?

    The “Parasymp” organs used for “worship music” by the Heirarchy (the corrupt religious dictatorship in the novel)? Whose music was engineered with subliminal tones (Scientology Tone 40?) to force Immediate First-Time Cheerful Blind Obedience in all the peasants in the pews?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      P.S.

      In addition to the manipulative music that follows the form above, the video you’ll see in a moment includes the “spiritual” rantings of a worship leader that exacerbates the situation by adding hyper-emotional “testimony” to the mix.

      What’s next? Cutting?
      Worship leaders(TM) slashing their arms with knives in Spiritual Ranting Devotions to their god? “BA’AL! BA’AL! BA’AL!”

      • Worship leaders(TM) slashing their arms with knives in Spiritual Ranting Devotions to their god? “BA’AL! BA’AL! BA’AL!”

        Well some people handle snakes. Others just like to aggressive wave flags and bang tamborines and then writhe on the floor.

        • We should create a new worship sensation: Trust Fall Pits Filled with Snakes.

          The best of the old with the best of the new! God doesn’t put new wine into old wine skins, but there’s nothing new under the sun!

    • Dana Ames says:

      “It’s Nuremberg 1936”

      When I was in college my major was German. One of the other academic departments sponsored a showing of “The Triumph of the Will”, and of course I went. Seeing the masses of people who were mesmerized by Hitler shook me up, but in living life I pretty much shook that off.

      What made me do a double-take was watching the Republican convention when Reagan got the nomination. Those in charge of filming were using the exact camera angles and framing techniques with Reagan as the center as Riefenstahl did with the Führer as the center.

      Dana

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Probably justified by Working PR.

        And according to my copy of the 1943 OSS psych profile on Der Fuehrer, foreign witnesses to Nuremberg 1936 described it as “A Revival Meeting”.

        • john barry says:

          Headless U Guy, If you are interested their is a German film titled Downfall about the last ten days of Hitler in the bunker. It can be in subtitle or English. It is like a documentary and you are in the bunker. If you do not know the “players” it is hard to follow but I am sure you do. Check it out if you have not seen, I think you will find it very interesting.

          This has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand but I think this is a rare movie that is in the Das Boot category but much more compelling. I got it off nextflix couple years ago. Dana you will like it also I believe. What an amazing life Riefenstahl lived.

    • john barry says:

      Greg, Would it be true that the Catholic Church became Romanized because it was in Italy? When in Rome do as the who do? Would it be true that the Greek Orthodox Church was influence by Greece? Would it be true that Latin was for centuries the language of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches used their native language, influenced by their culture? I believe the missionaries of all faiths in a foreign country have to incorporate the national culture and heritage and blend it to the message of accepting Christ. We would not support imposing a another cultural value system on them other than Christianity.
      So why the surprise and I sense perhaps wrongly the somehow the influence of America on American Churches is somehow sinister and novel? I think that what you about the dreaded evangelicals is correct that they do believe they have a personal relationship with Jesus, he is their personal Savior as well as all the others believe him as Savior. They do not really think the “church” saves them as the people are the church. It would be like one of the low info evangelicals stating the Roman Catholics pray to statues and the Greek Orthodox believe icons save them. Does the Catholic Church or Greek Orthodox Church or the Methodist Church offer salvation by being a church member only?.
      I understand this site is mostly like minded people but the dreaded evangelicals do get stereotyped and broad brush painted a lot with the extreme on the evangelical side portrayed as the norm. Is the focus on people in most of the dreaded evangelical services on getting people accept Christ as their Savior/ Is that wrong? If it is the style and language objected to then I get it but if it the substance of trying to get people to believe and accept Christ as their personal Savior, what is the objection? I have asked only one of my Catholic friends who does she believes save her, her answer was Jesus, she was correct as I believe.
      I do not get into it much with people whatever their faith but if pushed my only response to them on what I believe is Jesus is my personal Savior and if you believe that you are saved no matter what Church you attend. If you want to add extras to it , fine with me but do you accept Christ as your personal Savior, it is a yes or no question.

      • Boy … how to answer that one!

        I would agree with you about the primary question being important ‘do you accept Christ as your savior’.

        I have been hanging around the imonastery long enough that I can say that question has been important to all the custodians (including Chap Mike).

        But I think the original builder (Michael Spencer) felt that question had become diluted to the point where it was merely a get out of hell free card that actually meant nothing, and that evangelicalism itself was going off the rails and was a mile wide and an inch deep, was not very thoughtful and did not permit questioning.

        As it turns out it drew many people who felt similarly and had come out of their churches quite wounded and bitter. Some of them received real healing through discussion and picked up and moved on-some to a greater Christian commitment, others to agnosticism, yet others to a deeper skepticism. It has not changed. (Note: this is my perception, others may not agree)

        My own thought is that revivalism is becoming increasingly irrelevant because we are in the process of becoming post-christian. It worked well in a society that had some kind of Christian memory. We are quickly becoming a culture where we have to define clearly what we mean by good news, who Jesus is, and why he came. Most people I know were not raised on bible stories, so we are more like Athens than Jerusalem. That means we need to change how we engage those around us.

        • –> “But I think the original builder (Michael Spencer) felt that question had become diluted to the point where it was merely a get out of hell free card that actually meant nothing, and that evangelicalism itself was going off the rails and was a mile wide and an inch deep, was not very thoughtful and did not permit questioning.”

          Yep. If “I accept Christ as my savior” becomes “Now I can act like an a-hole because I’m saved and one of the elected,” then…Houston, we have a problem.

          Michael Spencer pointed out his own drift toward that in his book “Mere Churchianity,” along with many times here in his posts.

        • john barry says:

          Ken, thanks for your thoughtful reply, well said.

  9. Dan from Georgia says:

    I sometimes secretly think to myself that most of these “worship leaders” should just quit church and go out and be pop stars…that seems to be what they are trying to do anyways, so why not just let them go for it, and quit polluting the pulpit.

    • +1.

      Watching that video, I didn’t think I was so much watching a worship band as a “secular band wanna-be.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > so why not just let them go for it

      They would end up earning a lot less money. You need to be **REALLY** good to make a living as a performer.

  10. Thought experiment: if King David had been removed from leadership and banned from media after his scandal of power, sex and (essentially) murder, how would our bible be different today?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Watch where you’re going on that one.

      “King David did It, so that makes It OK in the sight of God” is a standard defense used by the fanboys and spokesholes of corrupt Pastor/Dictators.

    • Steve, I didn’t mean to short-circuit your question with a simple one-liner. Clearly, yes…that’s a deep topic.

      One thing I noticed after reading 2 Samuel a year ago: David is essentially a non-entity in terms of being a leader following his Bathsheba affair and the ordering of the killing of her husband. In a sense, he was removed (or removed himself) as he’s basically a non-existent leader from that point forward, and then some really awful things come to David and his family post-Bathsheba.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Look how things turned out for David. It’s a cautionary tale if there ever was one.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        A lot of ha-Tanakh is.
        A Jewish contact of mine called it “subversive wisdom”.

        Problem is, a lot of Christians read these cautionary tales as “plain reading of SCRIPTURE” go-to commandments.

  11. Michael Bell says:

    Throwing crude insults at someone’s preferred form of worship is no way to start a meaningful conversation on the topic. I could throw crude insults in return, but instead will refrain from commenting further on this topic.

    • Mike, I didn’t mean to offend. However, in my view this is no longer just a matter of preferring a style of worship or music. Style has become formula has become substance. And, especially in the megas, the combination of the worship music and the charismatic or celebrity pastor has gotten way out of hand. The influence of media driven “ministries” like Hillsong has further commercialized the “product” and made it almost completely formulaic. And as I said in the post, it is all designed to create an experience for me. In my view this serves to take me further and further into my own world rather than forming me to live in the real world in a fully human manner.

      So I used the crude term advisedly, not as a mere slam on someone else’s preferences.

      • Chaplin Mike, Who are you to tell me if I find Christ in a mega church service and enjoy the music it is somehow deficient ? Sometimes the childlike simplicity is what is needed. It may not be as deep as you want but the decision is not yours it’s the Lords.

    • Good point. The music is not perfect, but such slamming does not help, especially in light of the number of growing churches that use it (I am not saying numbers are everything, but it does need to factor in the conversation).

      Much of this pushback against this music (and often painting w/ a broad brush I must say) seems to come from more of those of the Lutheran tradition.

      I am wondering if the “experience” aspect is so foreign to their theology, that it overlaps with how such music is seen as dangerous.

      • Dana Ames says:

        You ever read Luther’s hymn lyrics (and those of other poets whose work made it into the Lutheran hymnals)? There’s plenty of emotion expressed in them. Some even venture into the “Jesus my sweetheart” territory.

        Dana

      • RDavid, this has nothing to do with me being Lutheran. And many of you are missing my point. I like all kinds of music, including some contemporary Christian music. But So much of it has risen to a new level of being formulaic and expressive of bad worship theology. The megas and the commercialized entities have led to an intolerable level of homogenization of both what worship is and the music by which we “experience” it. When I led worship as an evangelical, a large church could still have a variety of musical forms and elements in a single service, and we intentionally tried to avoid the impression of a stage show. Well, bye to any of that today.

        I don’t think I’m just being a music curmudgeon here. The example given in the post shows what can happen when this is the model that forms us. That’s my main concern—being formed by adolescent “wisdom” rather than mature pastoral and doxological guidance.

    • Yeah, it seemed a little jarring to me, too. It wouldn’t have been my choice, and I’m not sure I’ll point people to this post because of it, but certainly it’s a poetic license thing.

      • It sort of fits, with the whole emotional release thing of ‘entering in’ that modern worship theology is focused on.

        Actually, it’s dead on.

    • Michael I agree with you plus 11. Also to Chaplin Mike , if you don’t care for the music as I don’t care for a lot of it don’t listen You have no right to tell people what is best for them. If people like it fine , if they don’t shut you ears !!!!!

  12. Emotional has often been confused and substituted for the spiritual. It is attempting to reach the same place as some concert goers have with LSD and “acid rock” in the past. My experience is that it isn’t about God as much as my personal experience with a “god-related topic.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      JMJ – Does this have any relationship to your overview about Dualism and its side effects?

      P.S. Will try to send that packet to you next weekend.

      • Premise 1 (Dualistic View):
        God is of and dwells within the “other.” We are of and dwell within the (inferior) material. Therefore, to know God, or to experience God it must be of an “other” experience. Since the human emotions are a function of the brain (material) they are also inferior and cannot be used but rather it must be supra-natural (superior) experience (which is the really the emotional, disguised as something “other” to make us feel better).

        Premise 2 (Christian Monistic View):
        There are the (parallel and seamless) seen and unseen worlds. God has created them all as good (although tainted by the fall). God is of and dwells within both. We can fully embrace God with the emotions, and call them emotions, because the material is not inferior. Our bodies, brains, and emotions are not inferior, so we can embrace God with our minds too. We do not require an “other” experience to know God because the material is a worthy place to meet him. The material is “God’s stuff.” He is not just on the “other side.”

    • I agree. I used to live in Branson, MO (and don’t live far from there now). I have been to many shows (they were free to locals back in the 90s), some good, some bad, some very good. But I have had the same kind of emotional ‘worship experience’ in many of those shows as I’ve had in churches. The music creates emotion that can be mistaken for spirituality or ‘experiencing God’.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Branson, Missouri. It’s what Las Vegas would be like if it was run by Ned Flanders.”
        — The Simpsons

    • Jon Bartlett says:

      Agreed that emotion comes into it. But what worship service is not manipulating emotion in some way. I’ve often thought that the conservative evangelical service with a long intellectual preach spends it’s time freezing the emotions. There is far more emotion in every book of the Bible than in one of these rather boring events.

    • The thing is, *genuine* spirituality can often be downright scary and uncomfortable. And apparently we don’t want to sing about THAT.

      • It can also be boring. People loathe being bored, but I don’t see how you can move forward in spiritual paths without a willingness to undergo lots of heavy boredom.

  13. As a church musician, I am just plain tired of the inappropriate music. I’m even more tired of all the arguments. At this point, I would probably prefer no music. That is a shame, since I’ve always considered music to be an integral part of worship. It seems many have forgotten what worship actually is.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Other than a 50/50 blend of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s “Karn Evil Nine” and Shel Silverstein & Dr Hook’s “On the Cover of the Rolling Stone”?

    • 12 years ago, I did a short work rotation in London. The Anglican church I attended had several Sunday morning services. Most were standard evangelical fare, with standard CCM praise music (yep, we’re teaching others our bad habits, too). However, the earliest service – sparsely attended, and mainly intended for staff – was what is called in Anglican liturgy a “said service”. Meaning, NO music. OT and NT readings, a short homily, prayer time and communion. Boom, done.

      It was a lifesaver.

      • You can still find them around, at early Sunday and weekday evening services. But they are getting even rarer than they already were.

    • As a former worship leader, I used to be very selective about which songs our band played in the service; good lyrical content (correct theology) was the highest priority; at the time I didn’t think I was out of the norm. What eventually drove me out of worship ministry, though, was the double trend of “The congregation just wants you to do the songs that _they_ like, not the ones you think are spiritually relevant” and “If you play too skillfully, then you’re not really worshiping — you’re performing”. Where I live, church is all about the self — self-improving, self-gratifying, self-worshiping, self-serving — and in this environment, trained and/or skilled musicians are deemed incapable of true worship (and are generally scorned, because they make the less-skilled and hobby musicians feel inadequate, and that won’t be tolerated in a church whose mission is to make its members feel good about themselves, sigh).
      I might consider returning to church if I could find a good service without music, but the attitude here is that worship=music, and it simply can’t be excluded from the service.

  14. “Where are the pastors, artists, and wise leaders who will move us toward maturity? Who will get us to stop playing with ourselves and grow up so that we can truly love God and our neighbors?“

    For starters, here are some consistently good musicians making music that can be used in church for worship:

    Sandra McCracken
    Liz Vice
    Fernando Ortega
    Latifa Phillips
    Caroline Cobb
    Rachel Wilhelm
    Cardiphonia

  15. Dana Ames says:

    I used to be a strong advocate of bringing our emotions to worship, along with all the rest of who we are as people. I was never an advocate of The Emotional taking over the expressions of worship. I agree that some (some!) of the older CCM worship songs had good music and enough good theology in the lyrics that qualified for use by people bringing their whole selves to God in worship. Interestingly, the move into hyper-emotionalism in Evangelical churches coincided with my move out of said churches and up the liturgical ladder. One of the greatest benefits for me in moving to EO has been that I have never once left the Liturgy with the feeling that I haven’t worshiped today; I have brought my body into God’s presence with my brothers and sisters in the Christian community and have received the Holy Mysteries, and no matter what my level of interior presence and attention may be that day, that’s the basis for everything. People’s emotions are certainly there; how can they not be? But they don’t lead.

    The farther I read back into church and liturgical history, the more I became convinced that the first Christians’ worship services were not like Evangelical services. If anything, they were more like Jewish prayer services (even today’s iteration of them), which had a particular structure that did not deviate. The first Christians were Jews, who had a pattern of worship they believed was given to them by God; why would they give that up and all of a sudden become non-liturgical? The answer is, they didn’t. They simply re-focused the meaning of all of it around Jesus and how they believed he had fulfilled it. What developed into what’s called “The Liturgy of the Word” in the Catholic Mass and the Orthodox Liturgy was basically a Jewish prayer service, with another Jewish-style but new prayer service for the consecration and distribution of the Eucharist (“The Liturgy of the Eucharist”) attached.

    I used to think that the reason the NT records barely anything at all about the details of Christian worship was that different people needed different styles of expression. I do still very much believe that God meets people where they are – but that’s not the reason for the paucity of worship references in the NT. I think there are 2 reasons for that: 1) Christians participating knew what was involved and didn’t need it written down; 2) Christianity was, like every other religion of its day – including Judaism – an ***initiatory*** faith. You didn’t get to know all of what went on until you were baptized. You didn’t talk about participation in The Ineffable; people didn’t reveal things then the way we do now. People understood about keeping holy things holy. As persecution increased, you also didn’t know who would be listening or reading.

    Because Christians didn’t talk much about their ceremony, what did get out fueled rumors that Christians practiced cannibalism. Justin Martyr, around AD 155, wrote a bare outline in his Apology of how Christians worship, trying to quell those rumors. That bare outline is basically a sketch of the framework of the Catholic Mass and Orthodox Liturgy. That’s only 125 years after the Resurrection – quite rapidly in terms of the development of religious practice, and certainly long before the rise of what became the Roman Catholic Church (contra Luther’s understanding of “captivity” of the Church Fathers).

    (puts away soapbox)

    Dana

    • And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. Justin Martyr: First Apology Chapter 67 (ca 150 AD)

    • Currently reading a book on the history of Liturgy…. bravo Dana!

  16. senecagriggs says:

    Is this just another article upon which you can proclaim your disdain for Evangelicals? Sheesh.

    You could read this – unless you are intent upon holding all Evangelicals at arms length as if they were all one and the same.

    https://www.reformedworship.org/article/june-2007/singing-psalms-modern-worship

    _______

    Hint; even a lot of Evangelicals [ especially the more conservative ones ] are not happy with modern worship music.

    But don’t forget; even the old hymns are not inerrant and inspired – they are a part of our heritage for better or worse.

    • Dana Ames says:

      How “old” you talkin’, Sen? 🙂

      Phos Hilarion (Joyous Light) is first written down around AD 300, which means it was in use before then…

      O Joyous Light of the holy glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy Father –
      O Jesus Christ!
      Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening,
      we praise God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
      For it is meet at all times to worship Thee with voices of praise,
      O Son of God and Giver of Life;
      therefore, all the world doth glorify Thee.

      No, it’s not Scripture – and there’s no “errant” theology there, either. Just sayin’ – “old” is in the eye of the beholder…

      Dana

    • john barry says:

      It all comes together, the CCM is being written and popularized by latent homosexual whites, untalented and emotional driven lyrics of an Americanized culture based on emotional responses only. Now I know why I do not like it and ask if we can sing Amazing Grace but even that song had an emotional base and was written by a white guy who was on a ship with just men. Where do I go for just music?
      I also think that when I recall the Republican Regan years I thought not of Triumph of the Will as much as Bedtime for Bonzo and Death Valley Days.
      Regan best role was acting as aPresident but the whole world is a stage, sorry Bill stole your line.

      • I dislike COM as much as anybody, but COME ON – are you going to slander people you’ve never met with a charge of patent homosexuality? What, do you have to be a clone of a Duck Dynasty star to avoid getting tarred with that label?

    • Seneca – evangelicalism DESERVES the grief we’re giving it. It’s as plain and simple as that.

      • But evangelicalism isn’t listening. It couldn’t care less. The grief that you’re attempting to give it is only coming back to you to be experienced as lament.

  17. I used to have a prominent role in music ministry in an evangelical church. We were certainly genuine in our approach and wanted people to genuinely worship God. For instance, no one member of the ministry would seek to stand out and play a big solo or any such thing. We wanted the music that we played to be background to people’s experience but toward the end I did start feeling uncomfortable with the repetition of things that seemed to be harkening back to an earlier experience that we were all trying to regenerate time and time again. Somewhere between sappy, drenched with emotion, and utterly cold and without feeling is where we wanted to go. Sometimes the spirit just took us there. Other times not so much. It was a mixed bag. Sometimes work and other times a ride on a magic carpet but never the production value seen in the video. Low tech gave it some simple grace.

    • The way I see it is that worship can tend to one of two poles:
      Catering to emotion and becoming manipulative or too cerebral and not touching the heart at all.

      Most humans are neither extreme. That’s why I think the entire service matters.
      My hat is off to a worship leader that can combine ancient and future. Theology IS important in our music because it shapes us and our perceptions.

  18. Did a command F to look for it, but I’m not seeing any reference to the bs theology about tabernacles and temples in regards to worship music. The idea that we are musically entering into the Holy of Holies, and the worship service must be structured in order to spiritually enter someone in and elevate them.

    WTF is with all these pentecostals and evangelicals about ditching the NT in favor of ancient Israelite worship, Harp and Bowl, Joel’s Army, and other nonsense.

  19. All this sound and fury might get a few evangelical church music leaders to change their programming, if they’re aware of it, but for the most part it signifies nothing, and will lead to no change. That is true of the American church scene, but even more true of the international one, where the leaders are looking to their own indigenous music forms, in combination with the popular music of their own societies, for use in worship, rather than to European and American traditions and culture. They’re not paying any attention to our domestic arguments about what music is or isn’t appropriate for worship; they are making their own way through the wilderness, using the resources they have at hand. European and American music traditions are something they’re leaving behind. The ship has already set sail, in fact has left the port.

    • If they changed their programming they risk losing their sheep.

      Now how irresponsible would that be? They’d be a poor steward of God’s flock. Remember he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and they need to grow those number of hills each year. Doing the right thing or even the Biblical thing would hurt you, and eventually you’d see declining numbers and irrelevancy.

      And that just won’t save or preach.

  20. Wow, take one 7-hour nap and see what happens…

    “Must’ve hit pretty close to the mark to get em all riled up like that, huh, kid?” – Han Solo, existential philosopher

    • People have strong feelings about music; for many people, their devotion to the music they like is more intense than their devotion to their chosen religion. And while they may or may not have a religion, they certainly have music about which they feel passionate. Music is religious in its ability to bind us to it.

  21. I work with a guy
    who’s really high on Jesus —
    I wish he’d come down

  22. Dennis Fitzpatrick says:

    Thanks mike for this article and your leadership on this issue.

  23. I don’t know if we can definitely say to anyone “this is how you should worship”. All we can do is say “this is how I worship and for these reasons”, and open a discussion about someone else’s reasons and what they lean on to create those reasons.

  24. On a purely secular level I find Christian Music to be very cheesy in my limited sampling. I put some of that blame on the record companies who require musicians to follow the formula reflective of the hottest trend (also being done in all the other popular juandras). Modern Country is almost as bad. But then I am stuck in the rock of the early seventies (with some 90’s singer/songwriter stuff mixed in).

    I went off the tracks when, in my youth I thought My Sweet Lord was about Jesus (completely ignoring Turn, Turn, Turn and Morning has Broken)…..

    • “I am stuck in the rock of the early seventies”

      Prog Rock rocks. (But I wouldn’t want to set worship music to it…)

  25. Patriciamc says:

    On one hand, I usually have no problem with religious music with a rock and roll beat, but on the other hand, where is the sacredness? Are we giving up too much of the sacred in favor of the popular?

    I attend a megachurch that in general I love, but like this video, it too has replaced the choir made up of members for the semi-professional musicians who are obviously cut off at around age 32, and that’s pushing it. (I’ve joked that our church must be like Logan’s Run – we kill anyone over 30!)

  26. I was on the road so I missed this discussion yesterday but better late than never I guess. What I find interesting is the difference in attitude between when I was a kid in the seventies and the current approach. Popular music was of the devil back then and there was the opinion that the music of the church and the music of the world should be separate and distinct. Of course that meant we were trapped in Fannie J Crosby he–, well purgatory I guess. Music I found utterly banal and tedious. How could that compete with the sounds I heard coming out of the radio? Well it couldn’t (and didn’t apparently).

    Well when I visit my dad back in Georgia and go to the church I grew up in, no piano or organ, but drums (with sound baffles!) and an electric keyboard. They sing one verse praise songs (and make us stand up through them all) which surprise surprise I find utterly banal and tedious. Oh well plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, right?

  27. senecagriggs says:

    I think it’s a Lutheran Church – smile

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvJbUWzL4HM

  28. I asked a girl in my church why she did not sing during the service. She replied instantly, “I’m not good enough.” I asked her how good she would have to be and she replied, “Carrie Underwood.” A few weeks later I asked another girl the same question. Her answer was the exact same to the first question, and she answered the second question “Celine Dion.” It dawned on me that technology has shaped our idea of music in this age more than any other thing. Whatever genre of music that you enjoy, you are always privileged to hear the very best of that genre through the modern miracle of radio, television, cd players, etc. . . I went into a Mexican restaurant that was a dive, not a matching piece of furniture in the place! But the Mexican music being played was first class. Technology has made the very best music cheap and affordable.
    The chief purpose of most of these mediums is entertainment. The music we hear today is always presented to us as entertainment, and we expect the best and the most beautiful to deliver it (Christian or not). The difficult job before us is how to convince an entire culture that there is another purpose for music. Community singing that enjoys a certain camaraderie with people of all degrees of talent. Sadly, that kind of singing is hardly known in church these days, only at football games when the fight song is sung and everyone is encouraged to participate. I am not against technology, amazing talent, or being entertained. But when my young son flips through a Christian music catalog and notices that no Christian artist is ugly, he has perceived a reality that shapes church culture for the worse. I know this will sound puritanical, but can anyone argue that we are shaped in a powerful way by the content of TV, movies, and radio more than we are the Word, the Spirit of God, and Jesus Himself? Lord have mercy.

  29. CM,

    Thank you for linking to my post, but so much more than that thank you for continuing this conversation. The comparison of contemporary Christian worship to masturbation is not something I do for shock value, nor do I really enjoy making the comparison to begin with. I do so because it is so completely unavoidable.

    Lex orandi, lex credendi.

  30. Mark Sikkila says:

    “Recless love of God?’ Not sure about that statement.

    To follow a point in your comment, Chill, have you noticed that television news people are almost all men with full heads of hair and square jaws, and pretty women with professionally-styled hair, full makeup and cleavage?