May 29, 2020

Looney Tunes: The Whacked Out, Whipped Up, Wholly Scary Theology of the Praise and Worship Movement

super.jpgIn our journey back through the IM archives, we must deal with the Monk’s contradictory attitude towards contemporary Praise and Worship music. Does he hate it? If so, why does he have a warehouse of the stuff at the house? Why is he listening to it, even as he types?

The answer, my faithful readers, lies within. Here is a survey of the theology you hear between the songs every Sunday. You’ve winced, but you’ve gotten used to it. Time to sober up. Join me in the basement, and bring an extra candle and a hanky.

Continue Reading: “Looney Tunes: Praise and Worship Theology is Goofy”


  1. I have to agree. One odd thing that CCM adherents believe is a bad concept of worship. Worship isn’t just about singing and music, it’s doing everything for the glory of God.

    In any case, I’m formerly from a charismatic church with lots of loaded music with dancing and sometimes I can’t distinguish it from a rock concert. Heh.

  2. Michael,

    I want to commend you for the courage to write so objectively. Yes, one could see that passion was present but so be it.

    As one who travels the globe in mission work, I am appalled at the seeming tide of P&W which has run like a tsunami into every culture. The tragic reality is that this wears thin and soon they are asking organizations like ours to come and teach them the Bible and true theology. Yes, the externally focused soon loses its glamour if one is truly interested in the truth.

    As Ravi Zacharias commented recently in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, our current approach to P&W has cut off a whole generation at the knees. In other words with the wholesale adoption of P&W as WORSHIP, much is excluded! Including many who have followed the Lord for years and have hungered for the preached Word. In addition, we are raising a generation who knows little of the depth of biblical theology because the songs are such rank self-promotion. Seldom is there anything sung which has the concept of denial, putting others before ourselves.

    I hope that many will hear and listen to what you have written! Right on!


  3. Dolan McKnight says

    My first encounter with P&W fanatics was some twenty years ago. Margaret Hunt of the billionare Dallas Hunt family was giving a concert that night for single adults and had gone to the morning service where I sang the old traditional warhorse, “I Will Not Leave You Comfortless,” the words being directly from the KJV.

    I went to her concert, where she was singing the genre of the period. She spotted me and there in public stated that she got nothing from my song that morning, after which she crooned what a really spiritual song should be!

    Soon after my wife and I had sung a duet, Mendelssohn’s “I Waited on the Lord,” again straight from Scripture. We were stopped after the service by a new member of our Sunday School Department and, of course, we expected to get a compliment, but not a left-handed one. He said, “You two have such beautiful voices, it’s a shame you’re not singing in the Holy Spirit!”

    The P&W fanatics have been with us a long time, they are just growing in number.

  4. Wow–At one time I think I’ve heard (and probably believed) all the statements you mentioned. Then, about 4 years ago, since I was a relatively skilled musician and had been in “praise and worship” a long time, someone assigned me to teach about the “history of worship.” This had the unfortunate side effect of causing me to think and examine both history and Scripture, thus revealing the ludicrous nature of much of what I had believed.

    I must confess you are more balanced than I am. I am so weirded out by what I used to be part of that I cannot even listen to most “Christian” music (What? Did the song profess faith and receive salvation?) without cringing. That’s not to say there isn’t some really good music out there, including contemporary stuff. Style is not the issue to me; the goofy theology is.

    Thanks for summing this up so well.

  5. Right on! To use a 60’s phrase. I think you hit the nail on the head. I am also highly critical of how P&W songs are used in worship, but have been known to listen to them at home (whoops, now itÂ’s out). So from one crack-smoking Calvinist to another, I appreciate your explanation. Of course if I hear one more rendition of “Shine Jesus Shine” I am going to get sick.

    One point that you made about P&W music ministering to this generation is all too often the pragmatic justification behind much of what goes on in seeker churches. “Music” has become practically equal to “worship” in many people’s minds. We have jettisoned much of the other aspects of worship and are communicating a false God to people.

    Everything we do in worship teaches us about God. Or another way of saying it, our theology about God, how we think about God, comes out in our worship.

  6. Jeremiah Lawson says

    The thing that bugs me most about the way people use “annointed” now is that it has been stripped of any biblical content and has become mere opinion. To say that something is “annointed” seems to mean nothing more than “I like it”. Conversely, if something doesn’t have “the annointing” it means “I don’t like it” or “I don’t like it much.”

    I sang in a choir in college that did some incredible pieces and I, at any rate, felt God speak to me through the discipline of learning to sing the music and some of my relatives said the choir I was in was good but not annointed. It was infuriating to hear this, especially when two years later the relatives heard the pieces AGAIN and decided the music was annointed after all! I liked Messiaen’s O Sacrum Convivium the FIRST time around.

    This is a tangent, I know, but I’ve noticed over the years that there are Christian musicians whose work even unbelievers appreciate. There are plenty of atheists who like listening to Bach or Mahalia Jackson or Blind Willie Johnson who would rather puncture their eardrums than listen to Amy Grant, Steve Camp, or Michael Card. The only grudging respect paid to anything like CCM my brother found in Rolling Stone’s archives was Keith Green, something like “We don’t like this guy’s music but at least he sounds like a real,living human being.”

  7. A recent “worship” service we attended amounted to about 45 minutes of the same “worship” chorus, repeated over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and the pastor getting up to share some thought for ten minutes, and then urging people to pick up the worship again as the “worship” band repeated the already well-worn “worship” chorus for another ten minutes of repeats. I don’t know about experiencing the presence of God during this service, but my head darn near exploded.

  8. I played guitar at a Pentecostal church for a while, and every so often a person would tell me they could “feel the anointing” in my playing.

    I think the situation would be helped if there were better music programs in the school systems, or even within the church. I know how to use music to produce emotional reactions, but I’m pretty sure that’s what music is about.

    I was watching the Goo Goo Dolls live DVD with a couple friends one evening, and one of them said, “Do you ever hear music, even secular music, that just makes you want to worship God?”

    I almost launched into definitions, but I realized the question deserved some thought. When I answered, it was something like this: “When the music is beautiful, it makes me think of how awesome God is, no matter what the lyrics are about.”

    I think this is the problem with the P&W scene. Rather than realizing that music is affecting their emotions, and then turning their minds toward God, people assume God is playing with their emotions and that he has anointed the music that is being played. I remember the time I spent in those circles… at the supercharged emotional services, I focused on God(?) as the source of my heightened emotions, rather than on God who sent Jesus to the cross.

  9. Dylan’s “Time Out of Mind”
    is my favorite CCM album; but then,
    perhaps I’m hijacking the term CCM

    I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
    I’d go crawling down the avenue
    There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
    To make you feel my love

  10. Greg–Oh my, have I been there. Trust me, it’s even worse when you have to be the one PLAYING the song over and over and over and over….

    Matt Smyczynksi–I think you are dead on with this. Music affects our emotions, and I’d even go so far as to say that maybe having our emotions tweaked could sometimes help us focus on God. The problem is that we then begin to associate this emotional response and the music that creates it with God; and, if we’re not careful, the music and corresponding emotions become our substitute for Him.

  11. For some reason, this discussion reminded me of Bono’s introduction to the Psalms:

    I like him cuz he’s honest.

  12. Excellent essay, Monk. I wrote about it on my web site yesterday. Peace.

  13. I notice the guy in the picture with the Superman tee-shirt is observing the “armpit rule” for worshipping the Lord — lifting one’s arms toward heaven, but not higher than one’s armpits. This rule is recognized and accepted within a number of Baptist congregations (and is undoubtedly evidence of the Baptists’ continuing slide along the slippery slope of modernity).

  14. Oh my goodness, have you at my church? What you have presented here is exactly what I see at my church, especially the 10 minutes of preaching preceded by thirty-five minutes of music.

    Thanks for writing this.

  15. I visited a student meeting recently where i was due to speak… after 70 minutes of songs and a dozen or so prophetic utterances I was I was finally called up to preach (on Preach the Word / 2 Timothy 4) to a tired, though strangely attentive group…. It is great to speak to a “worshipping group” but there has to be a blance between one song and you’re up, and this kind of marathon! 🙂

  16. Thank you for this insight into the praise and worship circus. As a former up-front leader in a relative large (given the size of the town) church, I was always uncomfortable with the degree of emphasis we put on the music time. I put up with it because that’s just the way we did things. After a few years of questioning the whole set-up I finally traded “ministry” for just regular Christianity. What a relief; no more stages. I also traded that old hyper presentation for a simple life with friends in homes and a focus on the Word of God. Thanks again.

  17. I agree with most of this article, but I also feel there is more to music than just lyrics and preparation for a sermon.

    The most often-repeated command in the bible is “sing.” Music should have a valued place in worship, and should be preformed in a beautiful manner. When I blend my voice with fellow Christians in praise of God, there is a sense of community of believers.

    There is more than just “praise and worship” wrong here – I think that largely we in protestantism have tried to make music ugly so as not to “distract people from worshiping God.” Music style should not be the most important category in seeking a church – but theology should be. And the music used in worship, as well as the lyrics to the music, are both an expression of theology. Just as the lyrics of praise and music set it up as an idol, so the music I have heard in many churches seems a product of a worldview where aesthetics are devalued and functionality (read: evangelism) is the new God.

  18. Er… I have to agree with the list but SO WHAT?

    Yes no kind music is specially anointed, but SO WHAT?


    We should do it because we’re passionate about reaching the lost, Paul says he became “…all things to all men… that I might save some…”

    Jesus used stories about farming, fishing, business and family, does that make farming anointed? NO, but it makes his communication understandable and relatable.

    Many people in England (where I live) think church is all about hymns and men wearing dresses. If they come in and “it’s no different from a rock concert” as one commenter said then GOOD. Maybe they will realise what’s different about us is the ONE WE WORSHIP not the way we do it.

  19. Ed the Roman says

    “Asperges aures meam, Domine, et hyssopo eis;
    Lavabis eis, et super nivem dealbabo”

    Bad latin for ‘Cleanse my ears, Lord, and hyssop them; Wash them, and they shall be whiter than snow.’ Which parallels the priest’s prayer before Mass (pre-V2) and describes my feelings after the contemporary service at my wife’s Methodist church.