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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Has Worship Become a Big Show?

Darkness suddenly fills the room. A hush comes over the crowd. The only sounds are whispers of anticipation and the smoke machine. Abruptly spot lights fill the room. Music from a live band plays loudly while three guys prance across the platform; one from the left, one from the middle and the last coming from the right. The meet together and look at each other as they sing. They appear to play around with each other by bumping back and forth. They change places from right to left to middle. The song finishes, the crowd erupts and another song begins.

Is this a rock concert? No, it is the late morning worship service at the Church of the Brothers and Sisters of a Good God. Their preacher is an equally good showman. He will do cartwheels, jump high assisted by bungee cords and use every gimmick at his disposal to keep the congregation excited. He tells sensational stories and makes the congregation get up and sit down so many times during his sermon that they are more tired than he by the end.

Don't get me wrong: I don't see any value in a boring worship service. However, I believe we must be very careful that our attempts to lead in worship doesn't turn into pure entertainment. Jesus said that our worship should be in spirit and in truth. Entertainment is neither.

Worship should result in people praising God- not those who have led in the worship. So many people are following these acts across the country that it makes me believe they are worshiping the ones leading.

Worship should call us to a greater commitment to God. Entertainment may make us glad we came but we basically walk out the same person as we were when we walked in. The person walks out and has made no commitment to bring others to Christ, tithe, spend time in the Scriptures or do something about the terrible relationship they have with a former friend. They are unchanged.

Worship should bring us into God's presence. Humility is the result of someone coming into His presence. People who worship defer to God's will in their lives and seek to follow Him in their everyday lives. Entertainment may leave an afterglow but it always demands more. The show must get greater if they are going to continue to attend. Humility makes it about God- not about whether it is good enough for their presence.

Worship should bring change our hearts. This goes beyond commitment. Worship changes who we are. We are no longer people who are oppressed by our sins. We have not only been forgiven but we become victorious over these sins.

The Bible said there would be a day when people would want their ears tickled. Is this because they do not care what God wants?

I believe worship should draw attention to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe it should contain a message from God's written word, the Bible. I believe it should bring people to Christ. I believe it should be convicting, encouraging, instructive and corrective. I believe it isn't about the preacher or the musicians. I believe true worship pleases God.


Royce said...

While I agree that some churches are nothing other than entertainment, I also believe that a solid contemporary service is quite necessary in today's society. Chuches are full with mature attendees, but they struggle to capture the youth of America. An example is the church that we previously attended. The mature members contribute more and basically called the shots on church issues. There was an attempt to provide contemporary services. Unfortunately, it was held in the fellowship hall, and at the same time as the 11am service. The pastor didn't even give the sermon. All it did was take a small group of youth and their parents out of the 11am service so that congregation looked emptier. Any younger visiters walked in and knew it wasn't for them. Eventually the contemporary service folded from lack of growth, and the younger members began moving elseware.

There is a fine line between entertainment and worship, but when properly combined, it will capture the hearts of our youth and they will hopefully continue their walk with Christ into adulthood. The music may draw them in, but it is indeed the message that is presented that will change their lives. Thalia seems to be right on target...

Prentis said...

I think contemporary music is just a different style of music. It appeals to a certain group of people. I am one of those people, though I also like the stately nature of some of the old hymns.

That being said, entertainment is different in its focus. "Who is being honored" will always be the question.

This is not about music style. We have recently purchased electronic drums, put in a state of the art sound system, spent over a quarter million for lighting, purchased in-ear monitors for our musicians and have four screens which we use to add emphasis to our worship. Our musicians rigorously practice during the week and right before the worship service. We want to give God our very best.

However, we do not want to bring attention to ourselves even though self wants to bring attention to itself. We pray before each worship that this will not be the case. During worship we have at least two people in our prayer room at the back of the sanctuary praying that God will be honored.

It is very easy for this to get out of hand. We know that and try very hard to be God honoring.

But, on the other hand, entertainment can happen in a traditional service too.