October 24, 2020

A Rant from a Loser in the Worship Wars

By Chaplain Mike

UPDATE: I’m not sure if some of you did not read the post carefully or if I communicated poorly, but I want to clarify something. This post is NOT about music styles and what styles are better or worse. This post is ultimately about how today’s evangelical church has changed the definition of “church,” “pastor,” and “worship.” The so-called “Worship Wars” have been part of context for these changes, but they are not the real issue. If the comments continue to take the track they’ve taken, I will write a follow-up post and try to make myself perfectly clear.

I will admit it from the beginning: I’m on the losing side in the worship wars. As such, I feel a little like what I imagine a southerner who’s still fighting the civil war in his heart must feel, calling it “The War of Northern Aggression” and still clinging to the Confederate flag as a symbol of his rebel nation’s pride. When it comes to evangelical church culture in the United States, what we loosely call “contemporary” worship has won. Hands down. The score wasn’t even close, and it’s been over for years, decades in many places.

Oh, I know some of you will argue that there has been a publicized renewal of interest in the “ancient-future” path, a restoration of liturgy and a movement by some evangelicals back to mainline Protestant churches as well as Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Let’s not fool ourselves. This is a distinctly minority movement. Most evangelicals today know less about the history and traditions of worship than they did when I was in seminary in the 1980’s. And my highly respected evangelical seminary had never even had a class on worship before I attended!

The fact that a few of us have found a place to talk about worship here at Internet Monk merely confirms my position. It’s not being discussed in the churches in any terms other than who has written the new hot worship song and whether our band is better than the one over at Living Waters Church. To evangelicals, worship = music. And music = “praise and worship” music—from a stage, by a band, with projected words. It all follows certain rules, and with a few variations here and there, it has become the “liturgy” of the evangelical church.

And here I sit, having seceded from the evangelical Union, still whistling “Dixie.”

So, while waiting for the service to begin in my small Lutheran “word and table” congregation on Sunday, I had a discussion with a woman who identified herself not merely as a loser like me, but as a casualty of the worship wars. Confession time: this conversation set my blood a’boiling. I know I said awhile back that anger never helps, so I’ve waited until I got home, had some time to decompress, poured myself a glass of iced tea, and took a deep breath before beginning to type.

Still, I’m warning you—I’m going to rant here.

The woman I talked to today spent over 40 years of her life teaching music in public schools. She is gifted, experienced, knowledgeable, and loves to serve. I had not seen her in our services before, so my wife, who had met her, introduced me. Turns out she is at our church because she wants to sing in a choir. We are a small congregation but we have a talented choir director (also a teacher), some fine instrumentalists, and a good group of singers. She knew our director as a teaching colleague, and so decided to come and sing in our choir. And then…

And then she would return to her church later in the morning to attend their service too. They no longer have a choir, and won’t consider a choir ministry. She’s out of job. Without consulting her and others like her, the leaders simply determined choral ministry didn’t fit any longer. Not wanting to leave behind a church family she had been part of for many years, yet gifted and trained musically, she is now shuttling between congregations on Sunday morning, trying to have both.

Her church would be called a megachurch around here. It is part of the independent Christian Church denomination, which has a strong ethos of outreach and evangelism. Nothing wrong with that, but as I set forth in an earlier post, I might be tempted to call them more of a mission than a church. It’s all programs for all ages all the time, with huge facilities designed to attract the community and keep them busy. They are a family-friendly, full service Christian activity center. It perfectly represents white, middle-class American suburban culture, evangelical style.

Their “worship” is also defined by this ethos. It is a pragmatic, attractional, upbeat, performer/audience style program, the antithesis of the historical meaning of “liturgical” but just as highly scripted and consistent. Their church growth mentality has subsumed and thus changed the meaning of “worship.”

If the way we approach public “worship” services is based on a mindset of reaching out, then one principle determines everything: Know your audience. And the next step is: Conform what you do to attract that audience and satisfy them. Thus, if we are trying to reach young suburban families, then we adjust our “worship style” to suit their tastes and preferences and do things that will “speak” to them and keep them coming.

So, to get back to my friend, in her church, choirs are out. Singing hymns is out, except for the occasional contemporary adaptation. Style of music is limited to a narrow range of “praise band” tunes and sounds that may be folk-rock, light jazz, contemporary pop, alternative, or some such style that represents whatever church leaders and the high priests of the music ministry decide will have “impact.” In a lot of churches like hers, having people on the stage who are past their 30’s (with the possible exception of a pastor) is rare.

Apparently, these leaders assume there is no need to “reach” the older generations anymore. They must think they are already there. Except, in reality, they are not—I can’t tell you how many people from 50-80 years of age I visit every day as a chaplain who are not in church—what makes them any less important to reach than young families? And since many of today’s leaders grew up in the a-historical, non-traditional, nondenominational, “Bible only,” parachurch-influenced, children and youth-focused, pop-culture saturated churches of the past 30-40 years, they don’t know anything else. They know what they like. They know what other young people like them like. And the only thing they can imagine might possibly be better than what they like would be something even newer and more “cutting edge.”

So here’s a woman, immensely talented, gifted, and eager to serve, who has always delighted in using her musical expertise and ability to serve God and encourage the church, and there is simply no place for her in that role any longer in her congregation.

In corporate terms, the company has withdrawn support for her department, because it no longer contributes to the company’s revised business plan. The leadership has decided to go another direction. Her job was eliminated when the corporation restructured. She is collateral damage.

It really is as heartless as that. She told us the leaders said to her and others like her that decisions had been made, the style of the worship service was set, and if they did not like it, they should find another congregation.

This is how the church treats faithful, gifted people. Cutting edge? Or cut-throat?

So, here are the questions by which I rant against this anti-Christian way of treating people (yes, you read that correctly). Even if you don’t share my exact perspective on worship, these questions still apply:

Where is a proper understanding of the church? If the church is God’s family, made up of all different kinds of people, all ages, all generations, all backgrounds, all ethnic groups, all social classes, then why do we insist on this narrow, mission-focused emphasis targeting particular groups and building our ministries around them? The church growth ethos has completely overwhelmed the way church leaders approach ministry and I for one utterly reject it as in any way representing a sound NT ecclesiology.

If the church is a family, why do we tolerate practices that dishonor our elders? If the church is the Body of Christ, why do we restrict the gifts God has distributed and think we can retire some of the Body’s members? Who set an age limit for priests in the priesthood of all believers? If our God is a God of infinite variety and creativity, why are our imaginations so limited that we cannot figure out ways to include the contributions of others who may not fit into our narrow little models of “worship”?

I would argue that we ought to find ways that people of all ages could be included and represented in a variety of ways in our worship services. When people come to worship they ought to see the whole family of God in action. They should not see a group of people that fills a market niche. That includes children, teens, college age young people, singles and family members of all ages, and adults from every available generation. We ought to learn to appreciate music that reflects what has been spiritually meaningful to people down through the years, as well as learning new songs of praise. Our church leaders should be courageous to challenge their congregations to obey the Scriptures and “accept one another” in these matters. We ought to see people from all generations “up front” and involved in the public ministry of the church.

Programs and specific ways of doing things will change, but no one should be left behind in the name of pursuing the church’s mission.

Where is the creativity to find ways of including all people? Are you telling me that in a congregation of two or three thousand people, you couldn’t find some exciting ways to make use of a choir and other forms of more traditional music ministry? I’m not a big fan of split services, where some are traditional and others contemporary, so I don’t think that’s a long-term answer. I’ve got to believe with all our emphasis on “creativity” and “innovation” today, we could easily imagine ways to include the older folks and the ones who appreciate more traditional forms in our worship services and in other important ministries where their gifts could be honored and used.

Where is the courage to be counter-cultural? Last Friday’s post on the Epistle to Diognetus quoted a strong challenge to today’s church. “Christians are recognized when they are in the world, but their religion remains unseen,” its author wrote. It seems the evangelical approach in this culture is exactly the opposite. Our religion is recognized in the world, but we remain hidden. The attractional philosophy tries to make our religious services and practices enticing to our culture, while we fail to teach people how to actually live in the world day after day as followers of Christ.

You will find little, if anything, in the NT about attracting people to the faith through the gathered worship of the church. That is simply not what worship is about. Worship is an activity for God’s people. We should certainly be hospitable and welcoming to those who may come among us, but the NT church is not a “temple” designed to draw people in. The NT church is a community of people, who worship together and then scatter, in order to penetrate the world by fulfilling our various vocations in the world, testifying to the Good News face to face, person to person in all the contexts of daily life in the world.

Any gifted showman can attract a crowd. Any gifted program director can design and run an organization that will get and keep people involved in activities. It is being done all over the country. But who is forming the community in which Christ is central and spiritual roots sink deep, where people are being encouraged to have quiet hearts that pay attention to what God is doing, sensitive hearts that pick up on subtle signs that a brother or sister needs attention, thoughtful hearts devoted to study, meditation, prayer, and contemplation, hospitable hearts that welcome the neighbor and are open to the stranger? Who is encouraging the kind of worship that forms such hearts? Who is providing the grace and space, the otium sanctum—the holy leisure—the silence and intimate conversation by which they are formed?

Church leaders have traded their calling as pastors for jobs as showmen and program directors, and that is the essence of our culture, not counter-cultural. The people we are trying to win should be getting to know us, not our religion. But we wear our religion on our sleeves and hide ourselves from the world. We have rejected the kind of worship that would include someone like my friend because she’s of no use in the show anymore. She is like the aging Hollywood starlet who can’t find good roles because the producer thinks people won’t want to look at her wrinkles. She’s not marketable any longer. She has become an outmoded commodity, not a respected elder who can speak and sing and serve with credibility and gravitas in God’s family.

Where is the wisdom and love of Christ in relating to people? For my friend, years of involvement, friendship, and service in a local congregation were summarily dismissed in a single sentence: “This is the way things are now; if you don’t like it, you should find another church.”

Now, I am fully aware that I am only reflecting on her report, so don’t jump on me for that. I have heard enough similar stories over the years; have heard pastors themselves tell about such conversations, to conclude her report accurately represents what happened. Those who have won the worship wars are not going back to the way things were before, and they have little imagination for other possibilities. In their view, the “old ways” of my friend were ineffective in reaching the world for Christ back then, and they certainly wouldn’t be effective now. If we’ve learned anything, it is “change or die.” Besides (here comes the theological justification), isn’t the Holy Spirit always doing new things? Isn’t it our job as church leaders to spot the next good wave and catch it?

And I would say, no. No. No. Your “job” is to love God and love people. And if you are entrusted with leadership in God’s family, that includes paying attention to what God is doing in the lives of the specific people God has brought your way. Your job is to work with God to create an environment through which the Spirit can form Christ in them. That does not happen by “catching waves.” And it doesn’t happen by this or that particular program or method. It happens by listening, having conversations, and being with people in the context of their lives—”walking” with them through life. It happens through spiritual friendship which, multiplied, is community.

If you find you have to change something in the church that affects people, you work with them personally in a spirit of forbearance and patience. You don’t dismiss them. You don’t treat them like consumers who might just find the product they are looking for somewhere else. If you want a congregation full of ’em—consumers that is—that’s the way to do it.

Before you complain that this post is one-sided, let me save you some trouble. I know that. I have been around awhile and have seen most every permutation of the “worship wars” since the mid-1970’s. I realize that churches did not always act with imagination and grace toward those who wanted to introduce contemporary music and other elements into the church’s worship. Certain traditionalists fought long and hard to resist change. In the process, they dismissed people with different views, and sometimes looked down on younger people and did not honor what God was doing in their lives. I’m sure it’s still going on in some persistent enclaves of resistance. At times older generations did not act Christianly, and I am not here to defend them. Even my friend, in the midst of our conversation, acknowledged that she has the responsibility to be forbearing of the changes in her church. She is trying, but I know from talking with her that she also feels she got slapped in the face. I hope she’s asking God to help her turn the other cheek.

But this is today and I am speaking to today; and I am speaking especially to church leaders and music directors and worship leaders. This is not ultimately about music styles or technology or architecture. It is not about choirs vs. praise bands. We can talk about all those things and never get the root of what’s going on here.  I am concerned that our ecclesiological foundations are being washed away in a tidal wave of capitulation to culture.

The bottom line for me involves what it means to be the church, what it means to be a pastor, and what it means for God’s people to gather for worship. Through the years of skirmishes and battles, I have tried to approach the worship wars and guide churches through them from those three perspectives. And my conversation with the woman in my church on Sunday brought all these issues to the fore for me again. Her testimony shows me that many evangelicals have forgotten what it means to be a church for everybody. Many of their pastors have perverted their callings into something other than pastoral ministry. And many have no clue at all regarding worship, who and what it’s for.

Lacking a rich Biblical, historical, and theological imagination, we have surrendered unwittingly to our culture and followed its lead in all three areas. I may be on the losing side of the worship wars, but it is the church that is truly losing, as well as a world that needs more than another place to entertain them and keep them busy.

In the short term, I’m not optimistic.

Comments

  1. Where is a proper understanding of the church? If the church is God’s family, made up of all different kinds of people, all ages, all generations, all backgrounds, all ethnic groups, all social classes, then why do we insist on this narrow, mission-focused emphasis targeting particular groups and building our ministries around them?

    Wow…first one to take a crack at this post. CM..I have a lot of love and respect for you, posts like this one show why I like to hover around here. Let me tell you what I leanred from my days as a fundegelical. Quite simply many people don’t belong in the church, nor do they belong to God. Cruel…I know, but that’s what I leanred. The worship wars are one area where this plays out at. But it happens in so many other ways….

    1. I have a friend who dealt with homosexuality and the church was less than kind in many ways. His family who consume Focus on the Family material were harsh to him. What he needed was love and help, not judgement and a harsh line.

    2. I myself leanred that I don’t belong in a church. And to be brutally honest with all the anger, rage, and 10 years of challenging and disturbing expereinces I don’t know if I will be a part of a church culture again. Doubts and people who struggle with faith are looked down upon and the system is hostile to them. Its gone beyond a simple faith in Christ to a system where “You have to believe in Jesus + this version of the pre-tribulation rapture..” in order to believe. And as the Senior Pastor at the Fundegelical Church I used to attend on Leesburg Pike said, if you don’t believe in some of this then get out of this church. So I’m out, I learned I don’t belong…and this is part of the reason why I view Christianity as being toxic and like a cancer today. And this cancer is fueled by the likes of the worship wars, mega church super pastors, books becoming the new rage, etc..

    3. I have another friend who is a closet atheist. He plays the Christian game when he visits family and friends becuase he doesn’t want to tip that boat. Last he I heard he was miserable becuase he couldn’t be himself.

    Life is hard and the church is a joke. I’m sorry to say but if the church is what God intended to be his bride (to quote scripture…) then I have to ask…what the $%#@ was God thinking?

    I cringed when I read that story, but sadly that’s how life is. For me I’ve had a lot of fires that fueled and created me to be an agnostic…church experiences were one of them.

  2. David Clark says

    I think this is one of those things that is only going to change when the current praise band practitioners join the “turn that music down” crowd. At that point many will probably prefer a more subdued approach to worship, but they will have a dilemma on their hands. How can they refuse the next generation’s desires when they advocated for precisely the same thing before they joined the “turn that music down” crowd? When that happens I think you will see an agreement or at least a detente.

    And, I think the only long term viable solution is to have multiple services with different music. And I think this is distinctly an American problem and this only only solution that will work is an American solution, that is give everyone what they want, i.e. everyone gets their own service.

    The real issue at work in my opinion is an utter lack of music knowledge and appreciation in American culture in general. I say this because in the 18th century there was a guy who produced cutting edge contemporary church music and his name was J. S. Bach. Every single week for seven years straight he turned out a fresh new Lutheran church cantata for the enjoyment of the congregation in Leipzig. Yet, what was fresh and contemporary is now old fuddy duddy Bach. The problem for most Americans is that music reduces to old stuff and new stuff. Old stuff is not seen as relevant, and new stuff is no longer informed by the old stuff.

    The real long term solution is to send all of the CCM bands at every big box EV church to learn music theory, composition, and above all to play Bach and realize why he was so revolutionary. If they all did that, they might produce something that everyone would like, which would then solve the problem once and for all. Of course, the congregation would have to learn a thing or two about music to appreciate it as well, beyond the useless old vs. new mentality.

    Anyone want to put a wager on the odds of that happening? Probably close to zero. Thus we are stuck with the “would you like fries with that” mentality of most CCM worship styles.

    • Andy Zook says

      Brilliant points.

    • Some good points, but regarding Bach, there are a couple things I think are important to recognize when saying that he was churning out “new” stuff in the same way that today’s new music is “new.”

      First is that Bach wasn’t throwing away historical styles and practices—-Bach didn’t introduce the organ into church services and he didn’t stop using the same kind of musical forms that had been used by his predecessors. Undoubtedly, he churned out new compositions constantly but his music and the way it was used in worship was very much evolutionary not revolutionary—he simply did things better….by leaps and bounds….than anyone else before him. He was not out to try just anything that seemed new, introduce it into worship services and see if the shock value generated some interest.

      Second is that Bach’s efforts were essentially defining a culture rather than copying it. Rather than copying an outside secular culture, mimicking some version of it in the church, he was instrumental (no pun intended) in stretching the definition of BOTH sacred and secular culture in the direction of greater expressiveness and beauty.

      • David Clark says

        Yes, your points about Bach are well taken. Thank you for the historical clarifications, I simply didn’t have the patience to write them all out. Wouldn’t it be something if we could also say of the CCM movement that it is “essentially defining a culture rather than copying it.”

    • This Bach-loving worship leader and composer completely agrees with you, but thinks your odds are overly pessimistic!

      The fun part, as a composer, is to try (and succeed) in writing worship songs that appeal equally to the “old” and “new” crowds. It can be done with a bit of judicious listening, namely by finding and incorporating the good qualities of each genre into the new songs.

    • A quick point about Bach from a music history perspective…I think that it’s interesting to note that in Bach’s first few church appointments he ran into trouble from church authorities who tended towards Pietism and regarded his music as being too complex for “appropriate” worship! Further, the cantatas written in Leipzig were regarded by contemporaries who knew his work as being somewhat stuffy and in an out-of-date style even then; this particular part of Bach’s output remained in obscurity until the Bach revival in the 19th century. The point is that battles and debates about what constitutes appropriate or up-to-date church music is nothing new.

      That being said, as a classically trained pianist and musician I wholeheartedly agree with the thrust of Chaplain Mike’s post. I have two strokes against me: I have never been able to master the type of improvisational playing necessary for successful viewed as necessary for playing either traditional hymns or contemporary praise music. I have experienced a great deal of frustration over my life wondering why God gave me a gift that can’t be used to worship Him in church, and have seen the lack of charity described in the “worship wars”. This post is very revealing, as I think it hits the nail on the head: the worship wars aren’t really about music at all (and never have been at any part of church history), but are about our relationships to tradition and culture as a whole.

      • I feel for your frustration. I’ve been blessed enough to be in congregations through a lot of my life in which I’ve been able to share piano music and also served as a classically-oriented church organist for many years. But for me, the frustration is that the choices now seem to be either a YEC, Sarah-Palin-promoting church with heavy metal rock bands in which sensitive, worshipful classical music offerings are aggressively unwelcome or a gay-rights-promoting, Kahlil-Gibran-reading church with Bach in which any inkling of conservative thought is also unwelcome. I don’t mean to be unkind in those words, but that’s how I feel. Again, I share the frustration.

    • Very true. And Bach, according to Albert Schweitzer in his two-volume study of Bach’s works, was criticized being influenced by contemporary Italian cantatas of his time. But according to Schweitzer, Bach was still deeply rooted in the medieval period. He truly is the inventor of ancient/future worship.

  3. From the view point of a prodigal who left church in her early teens when choir, piano and organ were still the norm and found she very much enjoyed “devil music” like, AC/DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith and the likes. I have to say this:

    I tried church in the spring of 2010. Based on my music experiences, I thought I wanted the whole rock the congregation style of worship. Sure ‘nuf, they had the band goin’ the volume up loud and I. Like. Loud.

    Funny thing……I didn’t care for it. Not one bit. And when I started volunteering in the church office, I found they talked alot about numbers and goals and trends and numbers and goals and trends. I wondered, in all my naivety……Where does Jesus fit in?

    At that time, I had been on my journey with Jesus for over 2 years. He had revealed much to me in all His unfailing love, mercy and grace. I continue to be dumbfounded. But, sadly, through it all…..I found church leaving me wanting more. Much more. So……I left. Again. Not to return. And like Eagle, I probably never will.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I tried church in the spring of 2010. Based on my music experiences, I thought I wanted the whole rock the congregation style of worship. Sure ‘nuf, they had the band goin’ the volume up loud and I. Like. Loud.

      Funny thing……I didn’t care for it. Not one bit.

      Probably because their Christian Rock (TM) was DERIVATIVE rock — sanitized third-generation copies and imitations of the Rock you knew in your teens. Watered down with saccharin and sucralose instead of straight on the rocks like AC/DC/Van Halen/Aerosmith. You expected Headbanging, you got an Amish Bonnet Romance. “Just like fill-in-the-blank, Except CHRISTIAN (TM)!”

      • I think it goes deeper than that.

        I’m all for crakin’ up some really fantastic tunes! You know, when I’m making dinner, cleaning the house, driving. But the “headbanging” in church felt misplaced.

        And I’m not old. Err…..uhhh…..maybe I am.

        I just don’t want what the trends are telling us to do! I crave to gather with other people who JUST WANT JESUS! And the rest can stay at the door!

        I had to laugh at your “Amish Bonnet Romance” phrase though! Ha!

    • When I was involved Rebekah I would have traded all music, church events, etc.. for some bona fide community. To be in a Bible study and hear people talk about their messy situations at work, difficult bosses, how they lived with their scars in the context of life as they aged, difficulties with alcohol or pornography, etc..

      Just an environment where I could be me and not “Super Christian” who has all their s#!* together. A place where people can be honest about difficulties of life, encourage each other, talk about their doubts and how they can still love God despite difficult doubts, etc..

      But its not to be becuase in order to be a Christian you have to live a facade and be incredibly phoney.

      • Hey Eagle…..I hear ya! Everything you said there is validated from me and my past experiences!!!

        But…….

        I’m a Christian. And there ain’t no facade or phoniness to me! I’m not the only one! I can’t be! There’s more of us out there…….the ones taking the narrow road……I’m just not sure how to find them.

        So……I’ll be one instead.

        • Jim Ellis says

          Rebekah,—Pray and ask God, He will either send them your way or direct you to them!! HE cares about your situation and WILL NOT leave you hanging out there all alone!! I will be praying that he will direct you!!

      • Radagast says

        Eagle….just want you to know that what you seek does exist… although it may not be in evangelical circles….

    • I can relate to Rebekah,
      I enjoy listening to heavy metal.
      However I don’t think church was the place for it.
      I found the evangelical church I was formerly in was more about entertaining non Christians than Christians worshipping God.
      I am now out of the post evangelical wilderness and have found a home in the Greek Orthodox church.
      I no longer have mony of the issues expressed on this site.
      I appreciate the Orthodox chanting to facilitate contemplation, reflection etc.
      Also I enjoy listeing to heavy metal, Iron Maiden, Metallica in the car or exercising.
      (By the way, using discernment not all secular/ heavy metal music is the devil’s music – much of it is about just being human though not in a sinful way)

      • David,

        Just for clarity……I only said “devil music” because that’s how I was raised! It was partly sarcasm. Just sayin’ *smile*

        “I found the evangelical church I was formerly in was more about entertaining non Christians than Christians worshipping God”

        True! Gotta get those seats filled!

  4. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    I’ve got faith that choirs and hymns will rise again, Chap!

    Seriously, though, I think we’re reaping about two generations of really crappy catechesis in the West. This is something I’ve heard from the best voices in Catholicism and Anglicanism, but I’ve noticed that it applies across the board for Western Christianity. Though you’re right that recognizing this sort of thing is a serious minority effort, I think we’re in the early stages of waking up to and turning around this problem from prior generations. This sort of thing is certainly grass-roots, but I think there’s hope. Mostly, I think that has to do with exposing folks to wider, deeper, more ancient expressions one by one.

  5. I would like to introduce the thought that the “worship wars” are not being fought at all. The wars we describe are music wars. What these real wars have done is completely mask the worship of God and perhaps made it all but absent in churchianity. Let the music wars be what they are. I personally don’t think they will be resolved this side of the Millenial Kingdom. But God definitely has a resolution and a timeline in place for worship.

    But first, what is worship? The Strong’s and Vine’s define it simply as either to bow down (kneel) or prostrate oneself in humble obeisance to our Holy God. We have been commanded to worship in precisely this form since the beginning. A simple word study throughout the God’s Word shows no connection whatsoever with music and worship. Music and praise – yes. Praise and worship – no. Worship and service – yes. And service is not the weekly Sunday meeting. It is the priestly execution of prayer and sacrifice.

    When will God bring this to resolution? He spoke the words, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess” three times. First in Isaiah 45:23. Paul tells us in Romans 14:11 that this time is at the Judgement Seat of Christ. However, in Philippians 2:10, the term is written in the present. Now.

    In other words, as we fight this so-called worship war at the expense of true worship, we perish, just as God promised we would from the beginning.

    I once said that it is nearly impossible to worship God in most churches today because the pews get in the way.

    • Lawrence wrote, “the “worship wars” are not being fought at all. The wars we describe are music wars.” Good point, Lawrence.

      I appreciate your “rant,” Chaplain Monk, and I feel sad for this woman that there is no longer a place for her musical talents in her congregation. Perhaps, though, by attending your church, she will find a deeper sense of worship now. So, even though this starts out as seeming sad, God may intend it for good (manipulating a passage of scripture a bit there.)

    • Radagast says

      It is only through outside observation that I see worship wars – the signs on the churches, the battle for membership, catering to what people want….

      When a church is geared like a business, in this case to gather bodies for membership, it will conform to whatever technique increases that membership.

      What would you think of a church that has service even if only one person shows up? Would you call it rigid and unchanging with the times? Or would it be evident that membership that is guided by what the masses think they want is less important? Liturgical dance, cafe’s for Jesus, Jesus Zumba… too much for me.

      Yes, I have watched people leave my faith expression because they want the fun of the emotion filled service. Not sure what to say about it except – if I want to see a band I’ll go to a bar- because I will “feel” the same at either place I go at that point.

      My thoughts….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        When a church is geared like a business, in this case to gather bodies for membership, it will conform to whatever technique increases that membership.

        In the Gilded Age of the19th Century, that would have meant hired Pinkerton goons, bought-and-paid-for Aldermen, Judges, and Congressmen, torches and kerosene, and even dynamite used on the other guy’s business.

  6. I only have time to respond to just a portion of this post, but what I don’t get is the lack of imagination on the part of the leaders who simply can’t see a way to incorporate this woman’s (and others’ gifts and expertise) in the music ministry.

    Some of the most popular contemporary worship music today comes from Hillsong, which incorporates a choir in background vocals on many songs. I happen to think it enhances the music considerably. In many church worship setups the vocals are almost drowned out by the amplified instruments and drums, and a choir restores that missing “presence” and helps to draw out the other worshippers.

    As for the “my way or the highway” approach to decision making, that’s just shameful. There are a lot of red flags in this story …

    • Jim Ellis says

      I would have to say that the “my way or the highway” approach is not “just shameful” but according to the Word of God it’s downright CARNAL!!

  7. Very pessimistic and depressing CM, but unfortunately very similar to my own experiences and I think your conclusion is true.

    A church I’ve been attending has dual services, one “more traditional” and one “less traditional” (i.e. very contemporary). In the summer, there is only one service which is billed as a “blend.” What this means is that anyone from the traditional service isn’t allowed on the platform. Only the drums and guitars and electronic keyboard are used while the very beautiful grand piano and large organ are left to gather dust. It’s a “blend” because the praise songs use some text from hymns once in a while, but otherwise, the music is blaring and people are jumping around in the pews, really rocking. I tried a few of the services and I know some older folks who have as well. Usually, they end up leaving early and more often than not, they (and I) are covering our ears or trying not to get our feet stepped on by “jumpers” in the pews. Many of these older folks have attended the church for decades, back when choirs and handbells and things of that nature were the norm. Now they don’t attend at all in the summer or go try to find other churches for a few months. I discussed this with the music director, suggesting some sort of ways to give everyone a chance to participate and when I mentioned how many folk go to other churches during the summer, his response (a younger guy who probably wasn’t born yet when many of these folk had already been serving this church for 10, 20, 30 years) was that those people were “immature” and probably of doubtful spirituality. What can one do with that sort of uncompromising, unloving and yes, un-Christian attitude?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Soon enough, that Music Director will be old enough to get thrown under the bus to make room for the Latest and Greatest Fresh New Worship Experience (TM)…

  8. Andy Zook says

    You are not the only loser in this struggle, Chaplain Mike. I’m young but definitely in the “turn the noise down in this sanctuary” crowd. I once thought that rock n roll with christianeze = worship. God has graciously revealed to me that biblical NT worship is something completely different…I am trying in small ways to push back…but in all my circles of relationships, except for the few, I am alone in my convictions/understandings.
    I’m committed to my church but there is a struggle peculating under the surface as the younger crowd (except me) throws its heart and soul into the “renewal and deeper relationship with God via more contemporary worship music” while completely ignoring the older folk who I know have different tastes. Those dear spiritually mature folk sit through the “worship” nicely and don’t raise a fuss, but they’re not engaged…I know it’s not their thing and it never will be and neither should it be. It’s a great burden and I don’t know how to tell my peers to “shut up”, clear the stage and/or as David Clark above suggests – get some real music education besides guitar lessons and “worship conferences” and then come back. I don’t know how to do this in a loving kind way…I really don’t.

    Sorry for the heart pouring out, but it aches…I guess last Sunday’s “worship performance” made it fresh again. We actually do get some variety at church but one young music leader in the rotation has a penchant for the same songs and for beating those songs to death…I’m talking repeating lines 10-15 times…it really gets excruciating at times and then I see our row of old wise women sitting there twiddling their thumbs (literally) and my heart aches…

  9. cermak_rd says

    I’ll have to mention, that some traditional hymns are err, umm, rather dirgy. When I attended the Episcopal Church I was distressed by the slow tempo, stilted lyrics, etc. These people may have been persecuted (most of these were from 1600-1800CE), but I saw no reason for them to perpetuate it on future generations.

    On the other hand, I can still enjoy listening to some traditional gospel music (“Down by the Riverside”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “Wade In the Water”…) even though I don’t believe the underlying theology.

    • Good points and I think CM rightly points out that the traditionalist crowd has in many ways sowed the seeds of their own defeat by being too uncompromising themselves years ago. I can fully understand when I walk into a church that uses traditional music and it’s sung and played like a funeral even when the words are joyful.

      My experience nowadays is that traditionalists are often much more open to a range of styles. There is still a preference for a certain approach to music and worship but there is a willingness to embrace Bach, Debussy, old time Southern Gospel, 40s big band-style music, barbershop, chamber music and occasionally, yes, even some guitars or tasteful drums. There is an appreciation for the best, tried and true music from all styles and eras. I honestly believe that’s the feeling of more traditionalists out there than not. On the other hand, with CCM, if it’s older than 5 years, it’s not appropriate any longer.

      BTW, love those gospel tunes you mentioned!

      • Andy Zook says

        You’ve described me, the “traditionalist” very well. I don’t want to sing just ancient hymns and hear only an organ…but I do want something that is beautiful; that has depth musically and spiritually; that calms my soul and suggests God’s peace…most of CCM does not do that.

    • cermak, one challenge for some churches is having musicians who can really play the hymns well. Without that, they can come across as dirges. The organist who can play with speed and power is especially rare today.

  10. Mike, thank you for this important post. It’s greatest value is in helping us see that the issue is not one of style, but definition: What is worship? And what is its purpose in the local church?

    As you note, if worship is seen as an attraction, it is defiled, no matter what the style.

    I was fortunate enough to have served as an associate under a wise senior pastor (who is now a chaplain), and that alone has helped me not to give in to the pressure to craft worship services primarily for their attraction. This last Sunday we had several hymns, and our organist was in her eighties (but still plays a mean tune). We also had some newer songs. No doubt my own biases creep in, but I try to focus not on the style of music as much as which lyrics fit represent a fitting way to honor God (in light of that week’s sermon).

    It’s hard, though. Recently a dear family (former elder) left for a seeker-type church because, “the kids find it more interesting”. And all the churches that are growing around here seem to be very attractional in their worship style (at least from what I hear).

  11. Amos 5 – Brian version:
    21 “I hate, I despise your concerts;
    your worship centers are a stench to me.
    22 Even though you bring me guitar solos and video clips,
    I will not accept them.
    Though you bring choice fake ferns,
    I will have no regard for them.
    23 Away with the noise of your rock ballads!
    I will not listen to the music of your synthesizers.
    24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!
    🙂

  12. To Chaplain Mike and all the others who feel like him (as I do myself): Remember II Kings, Chapter 22:

    In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the LORD. He said: “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him . . . supervise the work on the temple. And . . . pay the workers who repair the temple of the LORD— the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple.” Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the LORD and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

    And now, imagine a day years from now when some workman is prowling in the crawlspace or attic of a church and also finds a book — in fact dozens or hundreds of them — similarly stacked away and forgotten. And imagine that workman giving a copy of the book to an earnest pastor who opens it and discovers . . . . some really excellent poetry set to very stirring tunes. And the name of the book shall be ‘hymnal.’ And imagine that pastor “reading from it in the presence of the king.” and then declaring that the hymns shall be sung by all the people.

    It could happen!

  13. Your writings save me from much, Mike. This one in particular forces me to view my church from the perspective of one of those aged saints, and gives me a lot to think about.

    By the way, your “rant” is polished and persuasive, and deserves the widest reading.

  14. I forget where this image came from – I think it’s Lewis – but I remember reading a description of the Christian life as a resistance movement in an enemy-occupied country. Though the Church is in the right, she is oppressed, slandered, and persecuted. There’s something fundamentally wrong about that, like the tyranny of a foreign power, or the genocidal disdain for citizens of a conquered land. We’re still holding to the truth and honor of what we believe in, but we have no justice or protection. We’re still fighting for what we love, even though the odds are impossible and it seems as if all we can do is die for it.

    Sometimes I feel like the Poles in Warsaw: I know there’s help out there, I thought it would come in on my side, but it didn’t. (I’m thinking of the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church protestors at military funerals.) Why, I wonder, does my side always seem to lose?

    Because “my side” is not in control of the country nor of society – but we’re darn well holding on until relief gets here. Jesus’s resurrection was D-Day. Now we’re just waiting for the Allies to sweep through so that the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands . . .

  15. Over the span of my 30 yr. life, I have gone from liking only one genre of music to many. The more I learn to appreciate and enjoy the more I realize that this type of music does not belong inside a service at Church. Sure the history of the Church is bespangled with many adaptations to outside influences such as ancient Jewish, medieval folk, utilization of instruments, choir, and congregational participation in singing, etc. But these forays in music were scrupulously and slowly added and then refined for the Glory of God (eg Bach) NOT TO ENTERTAIN. When I go to corporate worship, I don’t want to be entertained nor do I want the service to be entertaining. If it is entertaining then worship, esp. the musical portion, becomes amusing, ie. without thought. The Sanctuary is where our deepest thoughts and emotions are to be stirred from anger and bitterness to sadness and lamentation to joyfulness and zeal. We come to grasp that which we could not grasp or reckon or deal with on our own in our personal little bubble of “quiet time.” –Psalm 73:16-17 “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.”– Don’t get me wrong now. I am not against a mighty performance in honor of our King. Look at the way that David brought about worship reformation in Israel. It was multitudinous place filled with the clans of Levi in various rolls as singers and instrumentalists. They were all skilled and proficient as well as hand picked for the task, eg. Asaph. I think that one of the major problems inside of what is termed, “worship wars” is not so much a lack of musical appreciation, generational understanding, or the function of the amygdala in the brain…but a lack of Gaudeology, the study of rejoicing. (yes, I just coined it) When you ask a fellow Christian or Worship Curator about the ways of worship in the Word, more than likely not too many will be aware of what is set out in the books of Leviticus, the methods David employed in Chronicles, and most forlornly of all, an utter lack of knowing the Psalms.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And if you’ve ever read the Psalms, a LOT of them weren’t Shiny Happy Clappy Joy Joy Joy. Lots of Lamentation in that worship.

  16. Odd that I would read this right now. Just this morning I was trying to teach my 3 and 4 year old a hymn but they only wanted to sing one of the praise songs they learned at church. It made me sad.

  17. Two things. There is a church in a rundown section of Middletown, Ohio called The Oaks. Their music is mostly older hymns reimagined for acoustic guitar. Often times the only instruments are guitar and mandolin. The hymns are old John Newton hymns. And–here is the point–this church is filled with high school and college age students. Very few old people like I are there. There is no show, no dancing bears, nothing but the Gospel proclaimed in music, in message, in communion. So why is this church growing?

    Second, the style of music is not as important as what we are singing. Style can mask the words that speak of what God is doing for me, me, me. And that is NOT worship. Well, it is—worship of me. And this life is not about me. It is about the great and gracious and merciful and loving and frightening King of Kings. Any song, no matter the style, that focuses on anything other than the greatness of God is not worship.

    Good rant, Chap.

    • My children are in their 20s and they, and many of their friends, also have no interest in the Rock-On Jesus model of church. They think it’s lame.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Re “Rock-On Jesus model”: Out here in California, we have something similar in academia and politics where it’s called “The Thin Grey Ponytails model.” Thin Grey Ponytails as in aging Sixties counterculture types now in positions of authority trying to time-stop everything in their own Glory Days of 1968. Groovy, Man…

        • Here in middle America, it’s Rock-On Jesus in churches and many of those in authority want to time stop to the pre-Sixties when women and minorities knew their places.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I’m an aficionado of the Nifty Fifties (which included the First 1960s), but by no stretch of the imagination was it the Godly Golden Age you hear from the pulpits.

    • jim the Lutheran says

      Jeff,

      I think I know where are you are “coming from”, but I disagree that true worship is not what God is doing for me. This EXACTLY what should be spoken and sung about in church. It does focus on the greatness of God and what he has done for me/us through Christ’s work.

      Too much CW is about what I must do for God and MY work.

      That is what separates true Christian worship from all the other religions. The others all focus on what I do to please God or get his blessings. God really does not need our works, but our neighbors do.

      We get the Word and sacraments on Sunday, and share that love and grace with our “neighbors” the other 6 days of the week.

      • JIm, I think I must not have been clear. I mean songs about how God is blessing me, how all this and that and the other is there for the taking, how…in other words, songs NOT about what God is doing, but what I deserve.

        Then there is the whole other topic of Jesus is my boyfriend/girlfriend songs.

        Worship is about who God is and the greatness of his being, his works, his faithfulness, etc. You are right–it’s not about what we do. That is what I was trying to get across. Thanks for the assist…

    • There is a huge undocumented movement of younger evangelicals desiring older music. And the bulk of it is probably in the PCA. “The Oaks” in your town is one manifestation of it, and so is Sojourn church in Kentucky, a liturgical and hymn based SBC. This blog is a part of pointing many 20 something evangelicals such as myself down the ancient-future path. Don’t worry, I believe the overdose of pragmatism, chronological snobbery, and embarrassingly blatant trendiness is a flash in the pan. People are getting more sick of it as we speak. I don’t think it will bear as strong of a mark on the future of the church as it appears to now. The church does stupid things, it has in every age, and will continue to. But the good will survive. The gospel will go out, and he who marries the spirit of the age will soon find himself a widower. I think that much of the source of this worship malpractice is rooted in the corrupt theology of Wesleyan pietistic revivalism, and while Calvinism may not be the cure all solution for the situation, the rise in popularity in reformed theology (including Lutherans and Anglicans) I see as only a good thing, and a step in the right direction.

      • Andy Zook says

        I think you’re right but I don’t see this happening in my neck of the woods…all and I mean 99% of the young I know have left the churches of their upbringing and run to the 3 or 4 mega-entertainment complexes in our county….hence their multi-million dollar “growth”

        • I feel you. My area is pretty barren as well. Things like this can’t reverse overnight. But it helps to know what sort of churches to look in. SBC gives low odds, Calvary Chapel even worse. PCA, AMiA, URCNA, and other conservative denominations with older roots tend to be more fruitful and have richer worship. If they have absolutely no presence in your area, have hope, because these are very missional and church planting groups. I think a good strategy would be not to hope for the unregenerate thrill seekers to return, but to reach out to those in the community who have no church experience. They might prefer some real relationships and a reverent form of worship to what they can get on TV any day of the week.

  18. I was bothered less by the decision to change music styles, as I was about the absence of kindness on the part of the church.

    There are any number of really good reasons why a church would discontinue its choir and stop singing the old hymns. (Maybe they have received overwhelming opinions from their members that they prefer a more contemporary style of worship. Maybe interest in the choir was waning. Maybe the choir was just not very good.) But, there really are no really good reasons to be unkind.

    I didn’t want to blame this woman, but part of me did wonder how she presented her position or if she tried to understand and/or reach some kind of compromise, or whether she strongly insisted that the choir be part of the worship, and then she received the advice to possibly go elsewhere. Just wondering. I’m assuming from Chaplain Mike’s rant that this woman was reasonable.

  19. The modern American church has tied itself so directly to free-market consumerism, it should not be a surprise that this is what you get in the end. We feel compelled to do what works today, what gets us the most bang for the buck, and innovation is the name of the game, lest market forces draw the consumers elsewhere.
    I attended a Christian concert recently, not because I really had any interest, but felt obligated for reasons I won’t get into. I got what I expected. Snide comments from the musician about how those who say modern worship really isn’t their cup of tea really mean they don’t approve, and the requisite anti-Obama comments. Modern worship really ISN’T my cup of tea. I don’t listen to Country, Rock or CCM much, but that obviously, in Christian circles, makes me a loser. I’m a moderate politically, who sometimes leans toward liberal. Again, big time loser.
    You are so right. Our “job” is to love God and love people, but that doesn’t generate much market share or make us look in any way, shape, or form like the next trend setting wave to catch.

    • @ Suzanne…that’s becuase evangelical Christianity in the United States is largely a business model. They approach everything from a marketing and sales view point which is driven be numbers. Take out the worship…look at how mega churches measure their “success” How many campuses they have? How many people are involved? I remember back in 2009 being at a wedding and hearing someone describe a mega church as being succesful because of how many Bible studies they had. I sat back and thought to myself..”S#!*…they’re measuring success just like I measured success when I worked in sales and marketing in doing analysis of ROI (Return on investment) and RR (response rate)”

      Remember the church in the United States is a business!!!! The only thing that hasn’t happened yet is it being tradeded on Wall Street….

      • Which it no doubt will be, Eagle! When oh when did American Christianity stop bowing at the altar of God and start bowing at the altar of Business?

        • Well, Suzanne, my first answer would be in 1000 A.D. But I could be off by a year or two…

          Your point, though, is right on target…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          When John Galt made the Sign of the Dollar over all the Land…

    • @suzanne & eagle:

      like i’ve said here before: let the church renounce its tax exempt status and we’ll see how many of the faithful are left. we’ll see how many pastors remain.

      i think we’d be shocked to see the void that would be created. many who are regarded as “called” and “set-apart” would no longer be there.

      why?

      because being in ministry can be lucrative. it is a tax-free enterprise, and modeling the church growth paradigms that it does, the north american evangelical empire successfully ‘design(s) and run(s) an organization that will get and keep people involved in activities.’ it’s a business. period.

      wake up christians, the game is fixed, the fix is on, and Jesus wept.

  20. Growing up in pentecostal & modern churches, and moving into the church that my husband and I attend now, I feel like I’ve seen this from both sides.

    On one hand, I don’t want to say that modern praise & worship music is *wrong*, because it is indeed possible to worship through that music. I have and still do on occasion, but I think there is a tendency to equate “great worship” with “this awesome set lineup that had people rockin’ out in the pews”, and to glorify the music leader and the band above Christ, which *is* wrong.

    I attended churches like that as a child and well into my twenties. The sad thing is that our children and young folks are missing out on learning church history and traditions… yes, there was a Church long before the age of Family Life Centers and Hillsong. It’s kind of like eating a candy bar. Candy bars are great, but if they’re your sole source of nutrition, you’re going to have problems. I myself never even heard the Doxology until I was in my mid-twenties. While every Sunday was exhilarating, it also felt a bit shallow.

    My husband and I currently attend a Brethren church that we really enjoy. They have what I consider a true “blend”… a full choir with traditional hymns, handbells, and organ, but they also incorporate accoustic praise & worship as well, all in the same service. It brings all ages together in an easy blend: the younger folk are exposed to traditional church music, the older folk aren’t alienated by the newer songs, and it emphasizes unity & diversity rather than rock-stardom. 🙂

  21. It is true that it was common in Luther’s time to borrow secular tunes for use in sacred music. As Luther exclaimed, “the devil does not need all the good tunes for himself” (no, Larry Norman did not originate this). But as documented by Schweitzer, by Bach’s time, available tunes from which to borrow were exhausted, which ushered in the “epoch of the composer”. American evangelicalism may be reaching that point; contemporary worship songs are running out of secular music to imitate.

    • jim the Lutheran says

      These are both myths about Luther. Find some documentation and I will retract this statement.

  22. Christiane says

    Give me the traditional liturgical music any day. I’ve heard some of the shallow versions of what passes for ‘praise’ music, and I’m glad it helps some people, but there’s got to be MORE to praise than music like that.

    Does everything have to be ‘new’ and ‘improved’? I remember when ‘Chant’ was a best-selling album in Europe not so very long ago. And ‘Be Thou My Vision’ . . . a thousand years old and still even Protestants will sing it.

    Give ’em something ancient and powerful, with percussion if they must have it, and watch their faces come alive.

    http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=DGfBwWrNOic&feature=related

  23. Sounds like the ongoing battle of consumeristic preferences. The “Why do we insist…” is valid. The successor is off the mark. The platform/pew; performance/passivity paradigm perpetuates. It’s an ecclesiastical theater district out there. Let’s get back to authentic gift-exercising community. I think we’re headed that way anyway like a reverse diaspora.

  24. Wow, what a great topic. First and foremost, there are no perfect churches. Anywhere. Get that point. Everyone likes and dislikes parts of their church. Churches are run by people, who are flawed. Even Christian leaders. So pointing out that this church or that church did or didn’t float my boat is very much focused on me.

    Second, what is a church? That is an important question to answer and your answer will impact how you feel after visiting any particular church.

    Third, many churches are missing the most important part – the only focus being on Jesus. Numbers and programs are a waste of time if attenders aren’t discovering or growing in relationship with Christ. Choir or rock band, doesn’t matter unless hearts are breaking and becoming repentant, and then being renewed.

    It is a shame to see so many comments from those who felt a pull to God, only to have their church experience push them away. I would caution any in that boat – don’t judge the God by the church. There are good and bad churches, but only God is great. Meet a loving Christian one on one, read the Bible, and accept that it may take more than one stop to find your church home.

    • @david: now i’m not saying that you are saying this, but your comment:

      ‘First and foremost, there are no perfect churches. Anywhere. Get that point.’

      just does not sit well with me and never has. i agree with the logic of this assertion, but i have seen it abused and used as a silencer too many times to not cringe when i hear anyone touting that line.

      the problem for me is that, if the church itself really accepted that it is not perfect and that it is full of hypocrites, then that should open the church up to the subsequent correction that being a flawed hypocrite brings with it. if i now that i am a hypocrite, then i am not surprised when someone points that out. moreover, i welcome such bravery and forthrightness because i do not want to remain a hypocrite.

      sadly, however, the church in my experience has played the “hypocrite card” as a way to silence anyone who does not go along with the particular group think that is occurring within their particular denomination.

      “there is no perfect church”, more often than not, is really just christianese for, “please be quiet and stop asking such difficult questions. we’ve got a good thing going here and really do not appreciate you rocking our boat. so, if you persist in asking such questions and pointing out where and how we are being hypocrites, why don’t you just go start your own church.”

      that last little bit was actually said to me in a conversation that i was having with a “brother” about the church’s response (or lack thereof) to the war in iraq.

  25. Christiane says

    What is wrong with singing the OLDEST Christian hymn (that is not in sacred Scripture) still sung today?
    It is called the ‘Phos Hilaron’ and it transcends people’s ages and tastes and goes straight to the spirit:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFU3LojPuM4

    The song was sung by the early Christians who met together inside of the garden tomb where Christ arose from the dead. There, they lit candles and prayed. As the sun set, they emerged from the tomb with their candles lit and from those candles, lit the evening lamps.

    Singing this hymn brings people together with some of the earliest of Christian people in the praise of God
    ‘with reverent voices’:

    Phos Hilaron (The Gentle Light):

    “Gentle Light of the Holy Glory
    of the Immortal and Heavenly Father
    Holy and Blessed O Jesus Christ

    Having come to the setting of the sun
    Beholding the Light of evening
    We sing to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
    God

    Thou art worthy at every moment
    To be praised in hymns by reverent voices
    O Son of God, Giver of Life
    All the world glorifies Thee”

    • Φως ιλαρον αγιας δοξης αθανατου Πατρος,
      Ουρανιου, αγιου, μακαρος Ιησου Χριστε,
      Ελθοντες επι την ηλιου δυσιν, ιδοντες φως εσπερινον,
      Υμνουμεν Πατερα, Υιον, και Αγιον Πνευμα, Θεον,
      Αξιον σε εν πασι καιροις υμνεισθαι φωναις αισιαις,
      Υιε Θεου, ζωην ο διδους,
      Διο ο κοσμος σε δοξαζει.

      • showoff 🙂

        • A tan and black DOG that knows greek……how wonderful/

        • Wikipedia cut-and-paste, converted to unaccented Symbol Font so it displays on all browsers. 🙂

          Here it is with the accents:

          Φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δόξης ἀθανάτου Πατρός,
          οὐρανίου, ἁγίου, μάκαρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,
          ἐλθόντες ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλίου δύσιν, ἰδόντες φῶς ἑσπερινόν,
          ὑμνοῦμεν Πατέρα, Υἱόν, καὶ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, Θεόν.
          Ἄξιόν σε ἐν πᾶσι καιροῖς ὑμνεῖσθαι φωναῖς αἰσίαις,
          Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, ζωὴν ὁ διδούς· διὸ ὁ κόσμος σὲ δοξάζει.

  26. According to Thomas Aquinas, organ and instrumental music in general did not stimulate devotion. Again according to Schweitzer, the council of Trent imposed very strict regulations governing and restricting the use of organ music in worship. Organ music was also said to have contributed to the downfall of congregational singing. This problem dates back to ancient times.

    The music should not be blamed, rather the leadership. I saw an article recently lamenting that we will probably never see another movie like “Inception”, despite it’s box office success. The article sited that in spite of its success, movie producer think the format is too risky, and that fun, brainless action films or comedies are no-miss investments. I think similar decisions are being made in American churches. Sure, a worship service with substance might attract a few people, but the “Be Happy-Be Nice” worship show packs the house every time.

    We need to go back and ask fundamental questions: why do we worship? Based on that, what should be important, non-negotiable components of worship? What things are a distraction from the ultimate reason for worship? What things make no difference and can be incorporated in worship or left out? I recommend finding a copy of “LIving the Liturgy” by Edgar S. Brown, Jr. and using it as an outline for a worship service. Such a fundamental framework should be laid before adding any externals – organs, guitars, bell choirs, flowers, candles, banners, jumbo-trons, etc. Once the foundation is laid, then these externals can be added back in where they contribute to the ultimate purpose of worship.

    • Calebite says

      If this were the point of this post, I could almost buy in. But, the point of this post and the comments following it seem to be the opposite of yours – that we need to go back to the organ, choir and hymns, instead of contemporary music. Seems to me that most of this is people whining that they aren’t getting what they would prefer.

      • Calebite, that has been the focus of many comments, but it was certainly NOT the point of the post. I can only assume that either you didn’t read the post carefully or that I communicated poorly.

        The problem is not a style of music.

        The problem is that the church has changed the meaning of “church,” “pastor,” and “worship.”

        Our preoccupation with music styles is a surface issue.

        • sarahmorgan says

          I just want to add that It’s not just those on the traditional side of the worship wars that lose out….a modern worship team I led was replaced by pre-recorded worship DVDs that were projected upon big screens….guess we were not good enough, or that real musicians, with all of their human failings, were too much of a nuisance for the church to deal with. 🙁
          I am learning the hard way that there is simply no place for a middle-aged musician (with decades of training and experience in both traditional and modern church music styles), in any of the churches in my town. And it distresses me how unkind the churches (represented by their leaders) have been about it.

        • CM,
          I got your point in your essay and in one of my earlier posts, I think I was also trying to convey the idea that notwithstanding my dislike for the music style, the real issue was the total disregard (even contempt) for the half of the church that didn’t find meaning in that style—some sort of cordial compomise seems like it should have been possible among professing Christians. However, I wonder if trying to make the stark separation is really possible. Don’t get me wrong—churchgoers involved with classical music can be haughty, condescending, real jerks sometimes. But it seems that with all the changes in church “culture” often discussed, criticized, mourned on this blog, more often than not, those negative changes are associated with churches that practice a certain style of music. We can try to say it’s not a question of style, but it seems almost unavoidable to notice the correlation. Maybe that’s too pessimistic and I don’t mean to offend by asking, but I think it’s a worthwhile question.

          • “with all the changes in church “culture” often discussed, criticized, mourned on this blog, more often than not, those negative changes are associated with churches that practice a certain style of music.”

            I would not deny this, Jeff, simply because most churches that have bought into the church growth movement have decided that music is a key element in attracting particular demographics of people to church, and therefore they have transformed “worship” into a stage-centered performance that is designed, if not to entertain, then certainly to stimulate and possibly even manipulate emotions. And the music that does this best in our culture is the music that comes from pop culture.

            “Contemporary music” can be used differently than that, so my problem is not necessarily with the music itself (some of it can certainly enhance worship). The problem is that music is being used as a “tool” to draw and wow a crowd. Strategically, music is being used in the service of church growth first, and that has transformed our understanding of “worship” in ways that I find unhelpful.

          • thanks for that very thoughtful reply, CM

        • CM,

          I retract. It wasn’t the point of your post (overall!). I stated it better below, when I mentioned that the comments were getting away from the intent of the post. As seen there, I think we all would find a lot more common ground on this issue, if we could set aside the preferences, and realize that the struggles to keep worship what it was meant to be are similar in varying traditions.

          I tend to rant in the opposite direction: when liturgical types seem to imply that they have the corner on purposeful content-filled services. My prideful hackles come up, since I put a lot of time into purposeful content-filled contemporary services, and have seen much tradition made empty for the sake of tradition!

  27. @Christiane:

    Yep. “O Gladsome Light” as some call it. We sung that at every vespers service.

    Gotta go with Eastern Orthodox if you want consistent, reverent, theologically-deep, non-faddish, unchanging, non-conformist, God-and-church-focused, relevant-for-all-ages-because-it’s-what-the-church-has-sung-and-done-literally-for-ages-and-by-all-ages, worship, where even though the choir leads, all sing – and without an organ or other instruments, and definitely without pews. 🙂

    • Christiane says

      Hi ERIC,

      I love the Orthodox . . . I am Roman Catholic, but my godmother was Ukrainian Catholic (Byzantine rite, I think), and they had a liturgy all of their own, though they were in union with Rome.

      If I am not mistaken, the ‘O Gladsome Light’, originally written in Greek, was translated into Latin and used in Catholic liturgical worship also.
      BTW, that ‘melody’ was by Roman Hurko, who also wrote a beautiful memorial liturgical suite for the remembrance of the victims of the Chernobyl disaster. The choir singing is Ukrainian. (Orthodox, I think)

      Phos Hilaron is so ancient, it predates all divisions. I don’t think Protestants would reject it, either, as a hymn.

      I so love the Orthodox liturgies and music, Eric.
      ‘Ethereal’ . . . you could stand for three hours listening to that liturgy, and lose track of time, so that it would seem only minutes gone by . . . powerful, powerful music.

      • Calebite says

        Agree that protestants have not rejected it either. Passion – Hymns Ancient and Modern has a remake of the hymn that I have used many times. Not wide spread, I am sure, but on an album from the heart of evangelical worship movement.

        I find most contemporary evangelicals don’t have any issue with hymns, as long as they aren’t done at half-speed on the organ.

      • Radagast says

        Agreed…

    • Christiane says

      Eric, I think that Phos Hilaron always was a ‘vespers’ hymn . . . sunset was a time of prayer for Christian people from time immemorial . . . the ‘hours’ in the Latin liturgy are connected to Christian traditions so old that few can account for when they began.

      Nice to pray as the early Christians prayed . . . removes time as a barrier to the Body of Christ.

  28. …end up with about 100 arrows in my backside no matter what I do!”

    Hang in there liturgists! About a third of the Denver Seminary student body has visited our Anglican church and many are there or with a new church plant. The return to liturgical theology is small but vital movement.

    On changing the status quo, I just posted a cartoon on my blog…

  29. By the way, I love the Simpsons cartoons CM put in the post. I laugh thinking about the scenes they came out of.

  30. Only obliquely related: Where do I sign to get the word “ministry” banned? Seriously, it has achieved a life of it’s own.

    Of course, couple it with the word “worship”, and I need a barf bag.

    Maybe it’s just me…

    • jim the Lutheran says

      Amen

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) has found out the hard way that “Ministry” means “you’re expected to do it all for FREE.” (Last I heard, he was having to do stage magic shows on the side for extra survival income.)

  31. For all the world, it looked as though Jesus was a loser.

    St. Paul, and the rest of the apostles, likewise.

    The Lord has a way of bringing back that which belongs to Him.

    It may not look too good, but often that is when the Lord impliments His plans.

  32. I am not that old yet at 59, but I do remember being a little unkind about the wavering soprano voices of the older women in the adult choir of my parent’s church. The choir always came in singing from the back down the center aisle and I liked that, it was dramatic. They still do it that way at the church my eighty-something parents attend in Florida, with the booming pipe organ music. It’s like a blast from the past.

    At my church the choirs and hymnals went away years ago. I miss the special music the most. Whether it was a trumpeter or a string quartet or even just a female or male trio with a special song to share. I enjoyed it all. It also gave those with special music gifts a way to utilize their talents. Maybe at times there was too much emphasis on the performance and the applause. Now it is only the worship team with guitars and drums. Not a gray hair among them as I think about it. At least we still have natural light coming into the sanctuary.

    My daughter and son-in-law attend a mega church in another state. They have auditoriums or theaters in my opinion instead of sanctuaries, with top of the line stage lighting and audio equipment but no windows to let in natural light. Our children love their church and everything about it though, and for twenty-somethings that is significant. They were married up on the stage in one of the auditoriums and it seemed a bit dark and cold to me despite our attempts to decorate. They asked their favorite preaching pastor there to perform their ceremony but he doesn’t do weddings. The pastor who did perform the wedding was warm and personal though.

    I don’t have any answers, just these observations as the evangelical church has transformed over time. It is a great loss if the people no longer get to hear the musical gifts of the classically trained musicians. It is a shame if churches no longer perform many weddings delegating that over to the wedding venue industry. It is a shame when a group of seniors wait outside the sanctuary until the praise music ends before entering for the sermon because the music hurts their hearing aids. It is a shame when the only ones who show up for intercession hour week after week for corporate prayer are mostly the senior citizens. Is corporate prayer old fashioned too? Have any of you seen videos of the worship at the house churches in China? They put our worship to shame.

  33. As both a keyboardist in a traditional church and in several rock bands, I want to offer a different perspective:

    I’ve seen a lot of Christian vocalists and instrumentalists who are primarily looking for a place to PERFORM; lyrics about God add a veneer of “ministry / service ” to it.
    And in my experience, this happens just as much in traditional choirs as in praise bands. The choir may be technically talented, and the music may be intellectually stimulating, but the choir is often no more (or no less) worship-oriented than the Mommy and Me class, or any number of other special-interest church programs.

    I love to sing older hymns and incorporate them into the worship service. However, we keep it simple during corporate WORSHIP time, with out a lot of harmonizing, male vs. female vocal tradeoffs, solos, etc; the focus is on what we are saying to God while in His presence.
    Those traditionalists who are interested in a more technically sophisticated exercise are encouraged to get involved vocationally in a community choral group. Likewise, “for those about to rock” we refer you to your neighborhood garage band.

    • Calebite says

      Thank you for offering the other side. It’s ironic to me that many decry the performance orientation of contemporary worship, and then ask for choirs and special music instead so that people can use their talents for worship. I grew up singing in church choirs and providing special music, and find that the contemporary worship I lead now is so much more participatory.

      I think this post was meant to start a discussion concerning the purpose of worship. Instead, it’s become a forum to bash contemporary evangelical music for those who would prefer a different style – whether it is the “powerful, powerful music” in an Orthodox service or the choir/orchestra in a traditional service.

      I will readily agree with critiques that evangelical worship is often happy clappy with no real purpose or meat. It needs purpose and direction and has much to learn from liturgy. But, as I attend liturgical services – Protestant and Catholic – and see the vast majority of people going through the motions and missing the purpose and direction that their liturgy richly provides, I realize that going through the motions at a service that is comfortable to the worshipper is not unique to evangelicalism.

      I hear the same criticisms expressed here from the ex-mainline, ex-liturgical or ex-Catholic members of our evangelical congregations:
      – There was no sense of community, people showed up in time for the Eucharist and left when the service finished.
      – It wasn’t Christ-centered, I never heard the gospel until ________________.
      – Everything was done a certain way, and there was no room for new ideas or differing opinions.
      – Liturgy was meaningless repetition, so now I want to sing this same inane chorus 500 times in a row!

      Seems like we all have the same problems! Glorifying God above all; purposeful, meaningful worship; strong community and keeping sinful people focused on what’s really important.

      • Christiane says

        ‘bash contemporary’ . . . depends on the ‘contemporary’ 🙂

        • Calebite says

          Agreed. I’m pretty choosy in my contemporary evangelicalish song selection. There are many ‘popular’ songs that I try to avoid, almost always based on content. And a few that I avoid just because they are musically poor!

      • Thank you! This entire thread is making me tired.

  34. Boethius says

    When I was a Roman Catholic, they had different masses to reach different portions of the “family.” They had guitar masses for the younger folks and the good ole organ with choir for the older folks. They had the French speaking mass for the French-Canadians and masses with no music at all.

    I am a winner in this war because I love the contemporary stuff.

    So, the answer is to have more than one service.

    • I am not a loser in the worship wars because I like traditional music and not contemporary. I am a loser in this war because the evangelical church has changed its definition of what “church” is, what “pastor” is, and what “worship” is. These changes are the real problem. The “worship wars” about music styles are a surface issue.

  35. According to the latest Christianity Today magazine, the worship wars are over. So why the rant? 🙂 I thought worship was a matter of the heart and all about my relationship to God. I’ve never been to a church where I thought I couldn’t worship….that includes everything from Church of Christ (no instruments) to Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, to the very contemporary, rockin’ praise band mega- churches. As long as the songs lift up the name of Jesus, it’s all good!!

    • Did you actually read the post beyond the first few paragraphs, Deborah? You and many others are completing missing the point of the rant. Let me spell it out: it’s not about music; it’s about what church should be.

      • To be fair to everyone here, you spent most of the post complaining about music styles and bemoaning the fact that this woman could no loger lead a choir. I walked away from this post this morning thinking you were trying to restart the worship wars and wanting nothing to do with it. I’m glad to hear that wasn’t your intent 🙂

      • Wow! What a hateful comment! Yes, I read every word of your article and I also read all the comments ahead of mine. My comment was mostly directed to all the other comments about which style is better. I see a lot of mean-spiritedness in you. Hope I’m wrong about that but you often criticize your fellow Christians and hold up your own beliefs and practices as superior. Maybe I am as ignorant as you accuse me of ’cause I just don’t understand that.

        • Jim Ellis says

          Deborah–just a thought–maybe you are the one being mean-spirited?? Mike is just frustrated because his comments are being mis-understood and you call that “hateful”?? Where o’ where is the Spirit of Christ in MANY of these responses!! We talk about worshiping The Master and we can’t seem to even get along with our own Brothers and Sisters!! No wonder a lost and dying world is so turned off by ” the church”!! We DON’T need a different style of worship–we need REVIVAL!!

  36. I wish I had a learned comment to contribute; I don’t. I can only sigh in sadness at how Chaplain Mike’s new friend was treated by a congregational leadership that cares more about things (like a new worship style or its implementation) than people. And at how common that attitude is in the American church today.

  37. For all the talk of priesthood of believers, some aspects of Protestant liturgy (worship) do send the message that lay people exist to hear, not to be heard.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It’s just another form of Clericalism.

      (Or given the context, shouldn’t that be Full Time Professional Christian Worship Leader-ism?)

  38. Dodi Short says

    I thank God that my church has found a way to incorporate both styles in our worship activities. We have three services, and they are each the same – no splitting between contemporary or traditional.

    Every Sunday the worship director tries to have at least ONE traditional hymn, along with whatever songs seem appropriate for the topic the Pastor has tipped them off to, or the celebration on the church calendar (Christmas, Missionary Sunday, etc.). There might be more hymns, or more choruses. We also not only have a choir, but we have a small orchestra. Our church isn’t really a mega church, but more like a mid sized church. Our building only holds 300-320 ppl, and we don’t fill it every service (we have parking issues, too, when services are ending/beginning).

    I see a wonderful blend of families with children of all ages, and many folks with gray hair and laugh lines in their faces. I pray that this will be the trend for God’s people.

    Bless you!
    Dodi

  39. Clyde Denny says

    Dadgum! I wish I had written this! This is exactly where we have missed hearing and following the Lord’s “still, small voice” to love and include everyone, not just a demographic that can make church economically sustainable or apparently effective.

  40. Would you feel so sorry for this woman if she had been an accordianist instead of a choirgirl?

    • Point missed, Biff. I feel sorry for her because her church and pastors were not church and pastors to her. The music situation was just the context.

  41. Talking about exhibiting kindness to the worship war “losers” – – in my experience, the musicians who have exhibited the least amount of kindness in our church were the orchestra members brought in for TRADITIONAL music special events (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and a Summer blowout).
    They demand the closest parking spots, displacing our elderly and disabled… and we’re not talking about the percussionist or harpist with heavy gear… we’re talking about violinists. They have short tempers when children get close to their instruments. And it’s been the traditional vocal soloists who demand to wear white or red when everyone else is in “concert black”. The pettiness is astounding, especially given the shrinking demand for their particular talents.
    In contrast, the contemporary band musicians are relatively easy-going. (Heck, they’re happy as long as they don’t have to wake up too early.) Must be because they’re used to playing in bars and touring in vans.

  42. it was the post-modern, emerging, forsake-the-institutional-church types that wanted to encourage the arts in greater expression in their spiritual spaces & gatherings. seems there should be a place for any trained musician or choir singer or whatever the gift/talent is that could be utilized in a worshipful setting…

    reminds me of a theoretical scenario where a fictional contemporary church eliminates the service position of ‘tape duplication’ based on the newer technology…

    or the official church picture taker replaced by someone more comfortable dealing with digital imagery instead of, [gasp], actual film…

    there was a post not too long ago about the technical advances impacting how ‘church’ was being done now.

    when it comes to skills & talents & a deliberate place within the order of service to allow such giftings to be expressed is a way to show honor where honor should be given. if the impersonal dismissal of people simply because they are deemed irrelevant to the way church is done is done in the name of newness or efficiency or being cutting edge, then i must include my disgust at the callousness of such behavior. since when does the insensitivity of becoming bigger, better or more upbeat can now be passed off as being more Christlike? with the way our economy is & the resulting joblessness a very real point of suffering for many Christians, deliberately relegating long serving members to the ‘now obsolete’ bin of ministry is simply wack! yeah, make people feel either used & under appreciated, or ignored & considered unwanted. what a classic example of what the gospel is not…

    Lord have mercy… 🙁

    • I understand your sentiment behind the statement “there should be a place for any trained musician or choir singer or whatever the gift/talent is that could be utilized in a worshipful setting.”
      In reality you can end up being an enabler to karaoke night… would you like your service to look like this?
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6lBopUbtqY

      • sarahmorgan says

        Why does the “worshipful setting” have to be the service itself? What about the church creating, say, a quarterly “worship music” event on a non-Sunday for the musicians and music fans?
        As for karaoke night, someone with authority should be able to nip that possibility in the bud before anyone thinks of bringing the karaoke machine. I say “should”, however, because, in my experience, most evangelical church leaders are so afraid of hurting people’s feelings that it seriously inhibits them from putting their foot down against bad worship (or music) practices.

        • we had karaoke nite in our house group Friday nite meeting. now that was a blast!

          the neat dynamic i observed was this: all generations participated whole heartedly. was quite the sight to see…

          in a church service? well, i could argue that yes, ‘theoretically’ one could be worshipful doing karaoke, however, i would not particularly appreciate the experience. but other posters have also suggested an appropriate venue or opportunity for godly gifts & talents to be expressed & a loving way to incorporate & encourage them maybe as a special presentation. we do drama at our church. not a regular every Sunday thing, but it is incorporated. and we do video presentations done by the young people. homemade skits they have created. there are ways to honor those that have served in church services without the artificial stage element intended to show-off rather than bring glory to God…

          anyway, thanx for the responses…

        • Sarah – great idea about the quarterly performance. I would just be sure to promote it as a “performance”, not a “worship service”.

          • but an artful performance can be a worshipful experience for the individual connecting with God thru it…

            i do understand the ‘corporate’ worship time as a dynamic that only can be expressed+experienced with like-minded believers whose sole (soul) intent is to magnify & worship God together…

            and since it is a communal (group) dynamic, there are limitations on its expressiveness.

            Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Col 3:16

            now if that isn’t a recipe for disaster! sure, let everyone get in on the act…

            well, i think if any error should happen, it should be in regards to inclusiveness vs. exclusiveness. how that is to be expressed must be a communal agreement. anyway…i have no real, practical solutions to the issues raised, but i do understand our responsibility to always esteem each other higher than ourselves…

  43. One thing I’ve noticed is that the practice of throwing grandma under the bus, so to speak, is a lot more prevalent in churches that are predominantly white than in other ethnic congregations. We recently left the area we were in, but in the predominantly African American church my wife and I attended, the pastors and the congregants went out of their way to honor the older members of the church, and a lot of the seasoned citizens were involved in the worship band. Actually, age wise, the band spanned from preteen kids to people in their 70’s. I just didn’t see the same sort angst in that environment that plagues other churches I’ve been in.

    Perhaps it is because these churches have developed their own unique worship vocabulary over the years, and they are very concerned about passing that tradition down. I also think there is more an idea that we are all family in a church like that. Heck, all the older women in the congregation use “Mama” or “Mother” as a title before their names.

    I will also say that the music at the church was probably louder than any other church I’ve been to. The older people don’t seem to complain, though. Most of them seem to genuinely enjoy being there.

    • I have seen the same thing in the inner city black churches of Indianapolis, Phil. Suffering has forged a real community, and despite continuing brokenness in so many areas of their lives because of poverty, violence, etc., the unity of the extended family, involvement of all ages, and respect of elders remain important values to them.

  44. God1mylove says

    Good evening everyone. What a great topic! Everyone always has an opinion on what “true worship” is and what it looks like. The obvious answer is that “true worship” is not about music or styles, it’s about relationship. But you know us Christians… we just have to have music. Every generation there is always some group of believers that say they are being “pushed out” for the new/secular styles of worship. At one point, hymns were frowned upon, but now they are “sacred cows” that must be preserved and held holy. Yeah, I’m not buying it! But anywat, I just have a few quick points.

    1) Did anyone find out the othe side of this post? I mean, did anyone ask the leadership at the “megachurch” what their side was? I’m not saying that the lady was not truthful, but sometimes we hear what we want to hear and interpet it not how it was intended. We shouldn’t condemn anyone or any ministry without knowing both sides.

    2) Who decides what type of worship is appropriate in the church? If the members decide, then would that be a “seeker sensitive” church? God called me to plant a church and I did. I never take a vote on what I will preach or what music I will use. I pray about it. God is not going to bring everyone to my church, and therefore I do HIS will, not the people’s will. There are plenty of churches out there that worship different than my church and preach the same TRUTH! So really… what does it matter if I have a choir, band, or ipod? When I was helping a pastor of a COGIC (church of God in Christ), they played ALL GOSPEL!!! I mean… all gospel, all the time! Everyone that came to their church hear GOSPEL! I even brought in a contemporary band and they loved it… but they never tried to change in the slightest… they still played GOSPEL. And even if they had a contemporary song, they turned it into Gospel. That was what they were doing and they reached a “specific” group of people and it worked.

    3) My final point (main point) is simply this… it doesn’t really matter how you sing, if you have your priorities in order. God loves worship, but desires so much more. In the beginning God created Adam and Eve. No where in the beginning did it say that Adam “worshiped God”. Instead it said that Adam “walked with God”. In fact, it wasn’t until Genesis 4:26 that the bible says that Seth had a son Enosh and this is when people began “worshiping God”. That was awesome, but God still desired that we “walk with Him”. If you don’t agree, keep reading to Genesis 5:24… the bible talks about Enoch. It does NOT say that Enoch “worshiped God and was no more…”. But it says that ‘Enoch “walked with God” and was no more’. While everyone else was giving God lip service, Enoch touched God’s heart by walking with him and God had to have him closer.

    You see, when truth is preached and not petty differences… it won’t matter what your mind says the definition of worship is… because your life will have already defined it!

    Just my toughts,
    You all have a wonderful night.

  45. Chaplain Mike,

    Off topic. Let me assure you as a one time member (haven’t paid my dues this year) of SCV Camp #469 it was a war of Northern Aggression, and we were not Rebels. Rebels seek to overthrow a government. It was not a civil war in the classic sense of the word. 🙂

    I say this only half way in jest. This is the 150 year annivesary of the War Between the States.

    Like your post. Couldn’t agree more.

  46. I would like to copy this whole rant but can only get page 1.

    Surely you could make this available , right?

    • When you click the (Read More…) link, you should get the whole page and all comments on the new page. If that doesn’t work for some reason, try clicking the title of the post. It is a link that should open a page with the entire post on it.

  47. Joe Scordato says

    Worship is not about making the worshipper feel good or about attracting people to a local church. Worship is declaring the worth of God to God. It is intended for God’s ears and God’s heart. We worship God because God deserves and enjoys worship, not for what we get out of it. Church is not about drawing people to us because we offer what they want. It is about banding together as a community so that we may encourage each other to follow Christ in our daily lives, and meeting with Christ Himself as the center of our community. It is about being His body, so that where the Church goes, Christ goes, and what the Church does, Christ does. A pastor’s role is the care of souls, encouraging his people to see God and to seek God in every circumstance of life, even when His silence may seem deafening. His role is to encourage them in their journey toward becoming more like Christ in every way, as they develop Godly character and quiet, peaceful and joyfully surrendered hearts. His role is to encourage them to love each other, as well as those outside of the church, even (especially) when they are the most difficult to love. When worship, the church, and the pastor are defined rightly, Christ is displayed in a way that is radically counter-cultural, and the world is shocked by the enormous difference between the way of Jesus and the way of culture and is compelled to decide between the two. The consumer mentality has taken us far adrift of what Jesus intended when He called us to be His Church. Thankfully there are some congregations that still get it. Me we light our candle at their fire.

  48. I don’t care if it is contemporary or traditional; I’m just tired of going to worship and getting entertainment. Whether it is a rocking lead guitar or a classically-trained violinist, the focus is more on the performance than on God. Contemporary services get bashed for it, but traditional services are just as bad.

    • And “specials.” Nothing says Jesus-tainment like a “special” performance by a musician, of any type.

      Maybe rather than an offering plate, the church could just have a cover charge or use ticketmaster, LOL.

  49. I like P&W music, and I like hymns, and I like Gregorian chant, and I might like plainsong if I heard it. I do NOT like pretentiousness or excess, which can come just as easily via a Powerpoint projector, a fog machine, a towering pipe organ, a massive choir in vestments, or a full orchestra.