Posts tagged Worship
A Dialogue on Music

OK so this thing here is like super old but I just had the chance to have a look at it and thought it was a pretty good dialogue on the issue of music. The dialogue begins with Eugene Prewitt sending David Asscherick and email regarding some comments on music David had made at a recent Adventist gathering. From there the conversation continues for a total of about 70 pages. Eugene presents thoughts and perspectives on the issue of music often held by those who have a more traditional/ conservative persuasion whereas David presents the moderate/ centrist angle on the issue. Over all, it is a good, healthy conversation that will prove a blessing to anyone digging into this issue.

You can download the PDF directly by clicking the link below:

Also, if you haven't read the latest installment of the "Raw Church Movement" series, check it out as I share some thoughts on the "Worship Wars" that connect well with this dialogue. You can check it out here.

You can also check out other articles I have written on the issue of music and worship here.

And check out the free ebook below written by a good friend of mine, Steve Ferguson.
The Raw Church Movement: Quiet VS Loud

It's been a while since I have written any thoughts on a recent study by Barna Group which collectively asked the question "What is your ideal church?" to a group of millennials. So here I am to finish the series out. Before we start lets take a look at the results of the survey:

In my last post in this series I shared some thoughts on "Sanctuary VS Auditorium". In today's post I would like to focus on "Quiet VS Loud" - a series of questions which sought to discover whether millennials are more interested in loud worship services or whether they prefer something quiet. Interestingly, 67% said quiet with only 33% voting for loud.

In one sense, I am surprised by these results. I have been living the worship wars for quite a while and the rhetoric has always been a divisive "young people who want loud worship vs old people who want quiet worship". Loud, in this debate, would mean something along the lines of alive, exciting, invigorating, and inspiring. Those who vote for loud worship often complain how the older generation prefers dead tradition to living expression resulting in boring, uneventful, irrelevant, and out of touch (with culture) worship experiences. Quiet, in this debate, would mean something along the lines of reverent, sacred, civil, mannered, and classy. Those who vote for quiet worship often complain how the younger generation prefers secular culture to sacred ways resulting in carnal, mundane, wordly, sensual and out of touch (with heaven) worship experiences. The line of division couldn't be any thicker.

However, something weird is happening with the millennial generation. Something that transcends the worship wars of old. I share this, not based on research papers but based on my own personal experience as a millennial doing life with other millennials. We no longer fit into the us VS them rhetoric. Instead, many millennials seem to reject the contemporary flashy worship performance as inauthentic and - quite frankly - fake. Instead, many seem to prefer the "quiet" form of worship which the authors of the worship wars (whoever they are) said we hated.

Now before I move on, allow me to clear something up here. By "quiet" I am not talking about worship that resembles something straight out of the 1800's. I am not referring to traditional worship styles. Rather I am referring to traditional worship values. As a result many millennials prefer a worship experience that is "quiet" in the sense that it inspires contemplation and depth of thought. This kind of worship can involve hymns but also involves a variety of other contemporary music styles. Again, the point is not the style but the value that is being celebrated. What most millennials seem to be rejecting is, 1) the love of tradition that keeps older generations chained to dead worship forms and, 2) the love of performance that keeps younger generations chained to shallow worship forms. Instead, what they seek is worship without agenda. Worship that is free, expressing the heart, and unhindered by cultural expectation. This kind of desire has given birth to a much more eclectic worship culture that appreciates all forms of worship from the ancients to the modern and is happy to celebrate them all.

This happens to be the mindset that I fall into. Any church that promotes a one-dimensional worship style is perceived as narrow and dogmatic regardless of whether it is a traditional or contemporary church.* The fact that you are suggesting that this worship style is the only acceptable one is enough to send me running the other way. Was God sitting in heaven longing for Hillsong to come along before he could finally sit back and say "phew, they finally got it. Now thats worship!" Or is he curled up in a corner somewhere reminiscing on the days of Charles Spurgeon - "Oh angels I gota tell ya, those were the days! If only I could hit 'pause' on humanities freedom of expression and evolution of culture so that I could be worshiped with organs and hymns for all eternity!" I think not.

So what kind of worship are millennials drawn to? According to the survey they are drawn to the quiet much more than the loud. This doesn't imply a return to "grandmas organ" but rather a rediscovery of what it means to be in the presence of God free from agendas and ulterior motives. That's some pretty neat stuff.

Check out the articles below which go into more depth.

Until the next one,

Further Reading:
What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials?
Millennials Do Not Want Flashy Worship, Study Shows
The Raw Church Movement

* Of course, this depends on the church's cultural context. Churches in multicultural and multi-generational communities are the ones that are perceived as narrow and dogmatic when they approach worship in a "this way and no other" fashion. Whereas churches in mono-cultural contexts do not fall under this kind of scrutiny for obvious reasons.
True Worship VS False Worship

photo credit: Will Foster via photopin cc

“He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” – Rev. 14:7

The angel in this passage is giving a message of warning to the people of the earth. The final events of earth’s history are about to unfold. The angel doesn’t have time to give his own message or talk about unimportant things. There’s no time for foolishness, no time for nonsense, no time for abstract theology. He’s got to get to the point and so every word of the angel is precisely what you and I need to hear in these last days and I find it fascinating that the angel brings up the issue of worship.

Now most of you probably had a mental picture when I said the word worship just now and it most likely involved music. But music is not worship. Music is an expression of worship. So it is a part of worship but it’s not worship in its truest sense. Worship goes much deeper than pianos and saxophones. It goes much deeper than hymnals and praise bands. So what is worship? What does it mean to worship? I am going to propose this morning that true worship is not a state of doing, but a state of being. In other words, worship is life. But what exactly do I mean by that and can we find that idea in scripture? One of the clearest definitions of worship in the Bible is found in Romans 12:1-2. It reads:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The first point that Paul makes in this text is that true worship is offering up your bodies as a living sacrifice. This is another way of saying true worship is the total surrender of your whole self to God. I have a friend that I grew up with in church. They used to call him “flower picker.” A flower picker is someone who goes out into the field and picks a flower, then another, and another etc. Well my friend was a flower picker but instead of picking flowers he picked girls. He always had a different girlfriend. One day he told me about a young lady that he liked. Now he was dating at the time and this young lady wasn’t his girlfriend. But he told me that if he ever broke up with his girlfriend he would go for this other girl. In other words, he had a backup! Now how in the world are you supposed to have a successful relationship with someone if you have a backup in case the relationship fails? You might as well end the relationship because unless you change that mindset the relationship will fail.  He wasn’t fully committed. And many of us aren’t fully committed to God. And if you are not fully committed your relationship with God is not going to succeed. True worship says Paul is a full commitment to Christ. Everything.

Understand: True worship is not singing for an hour Saturday morning at church. True worship is a total commitment. You can’t compartmentalize true worship. True worship is a 24/7 phenomenon. It is the moment by moment surrender to God. Some people get caught up with talking about where to worship and what music to use and how to dress for worship and they miss the point that worship is bigger than the church building and bigger than the song selection and bigger than what you wear, worship is how you ought to live every moment of the day. Worship God when you are driving to work, worship him when you are listening to music, worship him when you are talking to your friends and family, worship him in everything!

The second point that Paul brings up regarding true worship is: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” In other words, don’t be worldly. Now, what does it mean to be worldly? When I was a kid my father made my brother and I wear church clothes to public school. He wouldn’t allow us to wear jeans because he didn’t want us to be like the “world.” Is that what it means to be like the world? I have been studying what the Bible says about worldliness among Gods people, and the interesting thing is that when the Bible speaks of the world in the church, when it speaks about worldliness among Gods people it’s hardly ever talking about the stuff we talk about. Our definition of worldly is small compared to the Bibles definition. We say silly things like, “The new pastor doesn’t wear a tie! The world is creeping into the church!” Or “Our church puts the songs on a projector now. I’m telling you the world is coming into the church!” “Can you believe? The church doesn’t have pews anymore. Since when do we have chairs in a church. We are becoming like the world!” Any of you ever heard silly stuff like that before? It’s nonsense! Now let me clarify. I am not saying that we should just accept every new thing as though it didn’t matter. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is this, for many of us our definition of worldliness doesn’t go any further than external things. But when the Bible talks about the world in the church, more often than not it’s talking about character. Worldliness in the Bible isn’t “the youth are wearing Roman skirts instead of Jewish ones.” Worldliness in the Bible is Christians who act like the world. What do I mean by Christians who act like the world? Christians who gossip like the world. Christians who hate like the world. Christians who argue like the world. Back stab one another like the world, criticize each other like the world. Christians who are lazy, uncompassionate, merciless, unloving, indifferent and judgmental. That’s biblical worldliness. Not wearing jeans but talking about the elder behind his back, mistreating your spouse, ignoring your children, and avoiding people at church that you don’t get along with. That’s worldliness. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 Paul says,
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
With this in mind, it’s perfectly possible to be a good conservative, orthodox, traditional Adventist who does everything by the book and still be worldly. Really? Are you serious? I thought I was a godly person because I no longer listen to music with curse words. I thought I was godly because I no longer watch violent movies. I thought I was godly because I don’t have tattoos, or piercings, or a Mohawk on my head. Well, I’m not arguing against any of that, but let me ask you: Are you impatient? Are you constantly arguing with people in church. Do you mistreat your children? Do you envy others? Do you gossip or slander your pastor and your elders and deacons? Worldliness is not just culture guys, its character. Do you love only those who love you? Jesus said, 
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matt. 5:46-47).
Worldliness goes a lot further than external things which more often than not are a matter of opinion. This is one reason why some of the worldliest people in Jesus’ days were the Pharisees and likewise, I believe that some of the worldliest people in the church today are the people who are always arguing about religion and doctrine but show no love for their neighbor and no compassion for their brothers and sisters. And if worship is a state of being, if worship is a 24/7 phenomenon then you cannot be worldly and a worshiper at the same time. Let me make it clearer. You cannot talk to your wife and children any old kind of way, gossip, boast, and slander during the week and then show up here on Sabbath and think you are worshiping God. You’re not worshiping God! In Isaiah 29:13 God says, 
These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
So what solution is there to this problem? Paul mentions it. It’s the “renewing of the mind.” What does Paul mean by “renewal of the mind?” When Paul speaks of the mind he talking about two things in particular that takes place in our minds. Thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts and our feelings combined form who we are, they form our character. So when Paul says that we need a renewal of the mind what he is saying is that we need new thoughts and new feelings. We need a new character. We need the character of Christ. If you want to be a true worshiper today, a 24/7 worshiper, you can’t do it on your own. You need a new mind. New thoughts. New feelings. New character. Christ’s character.

In the last days of earth’s history there’s going to be a battle over worship. There’s going to be a battle over commitment. Those who are worldly, committed to this world, will side with this world. But those who have chosen to be true worshipers in everything they do will take their side with God. Whose side do you want to be on?

This post is originally a sermon manuscript for a sermon I preached titled "Worship is Life"

Further Reading: Worldliness in the Church (This post is an edited version of the mid-portion of this post which deals with Paul's definition of "worldliness" in the church.)
Thoughts on Modern Worship Music (A Response To An Article Rejecting CCM)
photo credit: dtcchc via photopin cc

There was a time when I would have resonated with everything Marcel mentioned in his article on worship. However, while the issue of worship music continues to evolve and shift in my own life I would like to share some reasons why I disagree with the views presented in his article.

Marcel indicates in the form of a question that no negative music should creep into our worship service. I couldn’t agree more. Any music that makes one feel depressed, anxious, angry etc. should not be used for worship or, to be frank, for anything. However, I have never experienced any of these emotions during a contemporary worship gathering.

Marcel then points out that we shouldn’t mix darkness with light. This too is true, but how far do you take it? The instruments used to worship God in the OT are also used to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue in Daniel. The concept of a Hymn is of pagan origin. The organ was created for theatrical purposes, not worship. And God has never sent an angel to reveal to us exactly what music is heavenly. All music is, therefore, cultural.

We cannot say exactly what style God envisioned for worship either. Any position one takes would be an argument from silence. The only thing the Bible gives us are principles. Principles should guide all of our musical selections (love, joy, peace, patience…) and I have discovered that much of modern worship music is perfectly in line with these principles.

Marcel then quotes the idea of rock being revolutionary. The idea is that rock music leads to rebellion. While I don’t disagree with that, I would like to point out that not all rock music does. Most who are against CCM often quote these strong “rock music is rebellious” statements without identifying their context. If I walked into a church playing ACDC for worship (the type of music behind many of these statements), I would be appalled. But Chris Tomlin? Mat Redman? I have never felt rebellious while listening to these groups lead in worship. To the contrary, I am drawn closer to God. So while certain forms of rock music may in fact make one rebellious, it is an error to assume that all do.

The Ellen White quote is also misused. It says nothing about the right style or instruments. Ellen White condemns the way the music was used (to manipulate and hypnotize) not the instruments. This statement concerns an event that took place during EGW’s day with a fanatical movement known as “Holy Flesh.” They used music in such a hypnotic and manipulative way that people lost themselves in it. A good comparison of this would be Rave music. However, you can have the same effect with slow music like the Gregorian Chant or Yoga music used while stretching.

Is all CCM good? Absolutely not. But any good Hymnologist would tell you that not all Hymns are good either. This is why committees meet to determine what Hymns to put into the Hymnal and which ones to leave out. When it comes to CCM I propose we do the same thing. Select that which is good, uplifting, and conducive toward authentic worship and reject all that is negative, self-exalting, and conducive toward carnality. There is lots of CCM that is good. So the argument should not be on rejecting CCM but on developing a criterion for evaluating it.

Note: This article was originally published in the Southern Accent, the official newspaper for Southern Adventist University.
Was Ellen White Against Contemporary Christian Music?
photo credit: Roger Smith via photopin cc

Did Ellen White denounce the use of drums and other musical instruments in the Indiana holy flesh experience? Did she mean that musical instruments were not to be played in worship services or was she only opposed to certain instruments?.... Was Ellen White speaking against the type of music played and sung in many Adventist churches in recent years, music that has a beat, that involves drums, that has people standing, lifting their arms in praise? Should drums be banned from Adventist worship services, at least drums that some associate more with the night club than the concert hall?  Read more.

Further Reading:

Joyful Noise - A Sensible Look at Christian Music, by Ed Christian.

The Christian & Rock Music: A Review Essay
Music for Contemporary Christians: What, Where, and When?