Over recent months I have read a plethora of articles about the prevailing Church worship culture, mostly negative. The “slick presentations” and ” entertainment value” have been discussed to the point that someone outside the Church would think that Church services have no real spiritual value.
May I present another perspective?
Connie and I began our Church planting and pastoring life in a very different era, thirty years ago. We were young, ignorant, but on fire for God! We prayed, sought God, preached, sang, and served with all of our hearts! Our sincerity and hunger for God were genuine and contagious as we gave our all! Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? We have strived to continue to be as genuine and committed through the years as we were then.
Do you know what else characterized Church life across America in those years?
1. Terrible music. I don’t mean the songs themselves…I mean the way we sang them in our Churches. No emphasis was placed on good sound, quality instruments, or even people who could sing. The slogan used back then was, “If you can’t sing, just make a ‘joyful noise’!” And people did. On the platform as well as off. Bringing people to Church with you was a real risk, because you never really knew how bad it was going to be!
2. Marathon services. Being a Pentecostal, I can hang with the best of them. I have been to plenty of 3 hour Church services. Even had a few myself. That was the norm back then in Spirit filled Churches. Some of you reading this still wish we had them (try serving in kid’s ministry!). Here’s the problem: Most of what happened in those services was “fluff”…Stuff that we could have done without to get to what God wanted to do in the first place. If we as leaders had only asked the Holy Spirit BEFORE the service what He wanted to do, we could have been in tune and had the same result in much less time. Did you know that you can read any of Jesus’ sermons in less than 15 minutes?
Again…newcomers and those interested in God are going to lose interest after 45 minutes. Can I be perfectly honest with you? It seemed to me that the only people getting anything out of those marathon services were the people on the platform. The rest of us stayed out of guilt. The Holy Spirit of course doesn’t do anything out of guilt, and I think I noticed Him slip out a few times.
3. Lack of preparation. Actually, terrible music and marathon services are a result of this…lack of preparation. “Just show up and see what God does”…and it was hard for God to do everything He wanted to do, because we weren’t prepared. Not prayed up, not practiced up, not giving attention to details to remove the distractions so that people could focus on the most important Person in our services.
So these are the experiences and the “lense” that I am looking at today’s Church services through. I happen to think that the Holy Spirit likes today’s Church worship culture. I think He likes the fog, the lighting, the preparedness, the excellence, the passion, AND the songs! In most Churches, what is being criticized as “slick presentation” is actually that we are coming into worship PREPARED. What is being criticized as “entertainment value” is that we actually enjoy our worship environment now as opposed to having to tolerate it. I don’t know what services most of these critics are going to, but I have to say that as I travel, and even in my own Church, I experience a powerful Presence Of The Holy Spirit! God is moving, God is speaking, and people are making decisions to follow Christ by the thousands across America every week!
Yes, in today’s Church worship culture, there are some things we need to pay attention to, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. In most of our contemporary worship settings, we don’t have to overcome boredom, lack of passion, or a lack of GREAT worship music. We DO, however, need to stay out of the following traps:.
1. “Our music needs to be better than the world’s music”. This shows a genuine misunderstanding of what worship music actually is. Church worship music is a totally different entity. How silly would it have been for the Beatles to think they were in competition with Miles Davis? Worship music should have these elements that other music doesn’t have: 1) Anointing 2)Spiritual purpose 3)supernatural response.
2. Music so complicated that we can’t sing with you. I mean, seriously. Some new worship songs are so musically and lyrically complicated that you have to be a linguist or have a degree in music theory to understand what’s going on. Worship leaders, OPEN YOUR EYES and notice if the congregation is worshipping with you! If not, you’re leaving them to foster your own worship experience. Remember, you’re a worship LEADER not a worship LEAVER.
3. Preparation without prayer. No matter how prepared the songs and agenda are, you’re not truly prepared until you pray! Each person on the team should be prayed up individually, then the team should spend serious time in prayer together. That doesn’t have to be right before the service, but the team should prepare their ONE heart together weekly before ever approaching the platform. Just like my message without His Anointing is just a seminar, your singing, without His Anointing is just a concert.