January 25, 2021

The Big Worship Goof


One of my major premises in the writing I’m doing these days is that evangelicals have become a movement actually destroying itself.

At no point does that seem more obvious than in the recent evolution of worship within evangelicalism.

Does anyone- I mean, really, seriously- have any idea what is actually happening within the worship culture of evangelicals?

We have, within a matter of 50 years, completely changed the entire concept of what is a worship service. We’ve adopted an approach that demands ridiculous levels of musical, technical and financial commitment and resources.

We have tied ourselves to the Christian music industry and its endless appetite for change and profit. We have accepted that all of our worship leaders are going to be very, very young people. Traditional worship – a la Tenth Presbyterian in Philly- is on the verge of becoming a museum piece.

The reformed- of all people- have led the way in this revolution. I attended a seminar last week where a room full of reformed were instructed in why the optimum worship leadership option was “the band.” Not the choir, the worship team, etc. But “the band.” Does anyone realize what that means for public worship?

Diversity, generational compatibility, even simplicity are all being blown up. Worship is now a major audience event, led by skilled entertainers, aimed at a demographic and judged by the audience reaction.

God? God has been moved around to be things like a reluctant Spirit we sing down with our songs or a divine innovator always blessing as much radical change as possible.

Why do I call this a goof? Because there is no way for this to end well. This is like a NASCAR car with the throttle stuck open. We’re stuck on a roller coaster and we can’t get off.

Worship has now become a musical term. Praise and worship means music. Let’s worship means the band will play. We need to give more time to worship doesn’t mean silent prayer or public scripture reading or any kind of participatory liturgy. It means music.

Even singing is getting lost in this. As the volume and the performance level goes up, who knows who is singing?

And who can stand for 20, 30 or 40 minutes?

We have a lot of happy people right now. They have no idea what Biblical worship is outside of the context of their favorite songs played by a kickin’ band. They have little idea of worship in vocation, in family, in ordinary work or in silence. They credit their favorite songs as major spiritual events.

We have goofed up. Simple, plain liturgy. Diversity and inclusion. Appreciation and full Biblical understanding. Cross generational intentionality and suspicion of the profit motive. Renouncing the spirit of competition. Hearing the prophetic warnings about God’s disgust with much of Israel’s “big show” worship culture. We need all of this.

We need Jesus shaped worship, and we need worship that promotes a simple, direct, uncompromising Jesus shaped spirituality.

Commenters: If you start a discussion on hymns vs choruses I will not post it. Read that sentence twice.