I told myself that I would never write about worship. It is a topic that never seems to start a dialogue – just arguments. People can handle bad theology, bad doctrine, and bad practices — but worship? If you discuss worship, be prepared for people to roll up their sleeves and throw a punch. However, recently, I read an article in a local newsletter. The article disturbed me for 2 reasons: 1.) It was from the “Wittenburg Door,” which is a Christian satirical publication. 2.) The person who commented on the satirical piece took it as truth and argued in favor of what satire was trying to put an end to.
I cannot reprint the article, due to copyright infringement (of which this newsletter most likely violated), but what I can do is accurately summarize it.
The article was about how worship leaders should not talk. It satirically pointed fun at how we have such “strict” requirements for preachers but not for worship leaders. It said that worship leaders should sing and nothing else. They are not theologians nor are they teachers — but their music can teach, just not the musician. It was a rather humorous piece when looked at as satire.
Unfortunately, the preacher who commentated on the article did not view it as satire. In fact, he viewed it as truth. He agreed that musicians should not talk and that they are just there to sing – nothing else.
Obviously, musicians have to be some form of theologians. Some churches expect preachers to lead worship. So if musicians are not theologians, does that mean that theologians are not musicians? These are insights that are to be gained from this satirical piece.
This is the mindset of many rural Illinois churches. They don’t have a problem with worship as long as there is a piano, an organ, and all 9 verses of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” But the moment you take away a verse, or the organ, you’re in deep water.
I’m really tired of the worship wars. It’s a never ending battle in the traditional evangelical church. The older generation thinks that God hates the younger generation’s worship. And the younger generation thinks that God is tired of the older generation’s worship. We argue about these nonessential things. What we truly should be focusing on is obviously God. However, we focus instead on the guitar that is playing, the drums that are banging, and the bass guitarist that is jumping.
I remember a phone call I made to an individual in the church. They had been writing comments on the back of their attendance cards (I’ve been thinking about publishing some of these comments…). So I decided to give him a call to see how we could somehow meet in the middle on old and new worship. Long story short, it did not go well. He told me that I was robbing people of worship. I stopped him there and told him that people decided in their hearts that they would not worship. This was a bad move because it ended up causing him to get even more angry and involved him telling me how I didn’t respect my elders.
This is the kind of thing that I see in the rural Christian churches in Illinois. It upsets me beyond belief. When I lead worship, I see the angry stares and the tightened lips. God must really hate our worship. It’s the only explanation for why I see so much anger in the faces of the people I’m leading in worship.
I hesitated writing this piece because of the content. We will always argue old versus new. It will always be an argument. It will never end. The people who want to walk down the middle of the road (like myself) will never fully satisfy either party. And the middle should not be an option — for it is an option that is only made available because we are too scared of ticking off either side.
What I can say is this: God must really hate our worship. Because instead of worshiping Him, we complain about a song — whether that be a hymn or a new song (I have heard both complain). The older generation wants hymns because that is what they grew up singing. The younger generation wants new songs because they’re more exciting. Both sides will not be pleased. Ever. Therefore, God must really hate our worship. The younger generation tells themselves that this will bring more people in the church (even though worship is consistently proven to have little effect on why a non Christian would attend a church). The older generation tells themselves that the hymns are more theologically sound (even though looking through the lyrics of “I’ll Fly Away,” “When We All Get to Heaven,” and “In the Garden” prove that they are not more theologically sound). Both sides tells themselves things to support why they want what they want.
You can sense the worship division in the church. Both sides must get over themselves. No more waiting for the older generation to die off and no more waiting for the younger generation to come to their senses. Books have been written and will continue to be written (and will sell quite well) but none will solve the problem – for the problem is inside all of us. That’s what has to be fixed. Not the service. Us. There, I saved you from paying $400 to go to a worship conference.
God has to hate our worship. Look at the hatred that both sides display to one another during church — doesn’t that taint our worship?
10 thoughts on “God Must Really Hate Our Worship”
Very interesting post! As a Catholic, the debate between old and new worship is still present, but decidedly less important than it seems to be here. I’m not sure whether that is because the Catholic Church’s style just tends to be more traditional anyway, or if it’s because the whole concept of worship as being about music is not core to our ideas.
The point I take most to heart from this post is that actual worship is something that dwells in the heart. Good worship is not about trends in music.
Great post. Worship is not about music styles or church styles. Worship is about a heart that is hungry after God. A worship leader doesn’t necessarily need to be a theologen, but should be someone who runs after God with everything they have. And if they get some form of revelation for the church, they should feel free to share as long as it is okay with the senior leadership of the Church they are leading worship at.
Worship is a very touchy subject for a lot of people. Thanks for taking a stance!
Thought you might appreciate this recent article in a similar vein, from Duke Divinity: http://divinity.duke.edu/community-student-life/divinity-magazine/fall-2011/church-musician-overlooked-theologian?page=2
Very insightful and helpful. I wrote a letter to the individual who published the article and said that requiring musicians to not speak, teach, or evangelize is furthering bad theology in music. It moves us away from a holistic view of ministry. It tells the musician that he/she is not essential to the community of believers unless he/she sings. I’m tired of bad theology in music and I think much of it has stemmed from not allowing our musicians the opportunity to study and speak – and also from allowing them to say “whatever the Lord laid on their heart.” The former creates empty music and the latter creates borderline heretical music.
A musician is a theologian. Everyone within the leadership of the church needs to be. I’m going to share this article with him. Thanks, Drew.
So Caleb, if the worship leader should be a theologian does that mean that the worship leader should be a Christian?
Leader? Yes. How can one lead where he/she does not know where to lead? Does one need to be a Christian in order to be part of the worship team? No.
Rich Mullins was quoted once as saying that song writers tend to not be very good theologians. He said this to a college professor who initially disagreed, but after talking with him a little while said he came to agree.
I really, really appreciate your message and your writing skill. I’ve been there, done that with the whole worship thing and have finally found a nice little fellowship group where music is not an issue. We just sing acappella with no leader, but it’s absolutely wonderful. As a former church pianist, I love the fact that there’s also no performance syndrome going on. Old and young just flat-out sing while gazing at the beautiful trees outside the windows in front instead of at a leader who “better be doing it right.” I’m so glad to have stepped out of the evangelical music fray. Hope you can, too. Great post!
Reply to Willow Feller..(and in general to calebtrimble original post). What do you do when someone wants to share a new song ?
Who teaches/leads so you all are not singing something different , different key, or whatever ? Or would it matter?…I see the advantage of no instruments to some..especially if playing instruments is simply a distraction rather than a compliment or unifying factor of worship.
God hears us worship through singing, and sees us worship through our actions honoring Him. But each of us is diverse in bringing our self to worship in/as a group.
You sing bass, I sing alto….he/she sings soprano…some can hardly sing at all… some like sonorous chanting and others love giddy lilting melodies.God never asked for cookie cutter worship, but demands unity in purpose of adoring Him only. We come to worship, to proclaim God as the almighty holy One, even if the leader and/or song choice is not MY/ YOUR choice. Over the years I too while being part of a praise team, have stood in front, looked out over fellow worshipers and noticed signs of disapproval and distaste or indifference and boredom. Unless the leader is bringing false words to sing we should join in as we best can. Even the person who can’t speak or hear may worship this way by seeing the lyrics commonly displayed, the blind can sing from learning the words and melody from listening… the key is to worship TOGETHER when we assemble together. Otherwise we may as well stay home alone and watch the televangelists. Why assemble at all if only to bring disapproval and dissention? In our hearts, we “better be doing it right” !! Other wise we mock God and our purpose for speaking His name.
Sadly, yours is not the only church that has this challenge to overcome…to worship God “in Spirit and in Truth” (not “in traditional and in contemporary”).