I have read a couple of decent blogs in the last couple days about worship music, so I thought I might try my hand at adding to that conversation.
The first of the two dealt with what may possibly be a pagan attitude toward praise music. The idea being that we have our interactions backwards. Are we using our songs to the Lord as a means to gain access to Him, or are our songs of praise a reaction to how God has been moving in our lives?
The second article looks at the evangelistic nature of modern worship music, and the trend toward an entertainment and concert format as the way that we express praise to God.
Both of these deal with a similar issue. They point out that when we sing worship music it is becoming increasingly likely that our aim is not chiefly to worship. The key to an attitude of worship is all about direction. There are any number of ways that we can worship God, but if we are not aiming those actions at God then it is not worship.
If we are using praise music as an evangelistic tool, then our actions are not aimed at God, but at the unbeliever. In a best case scenario it has stopped being worship, and has become a teaching tool. On the other hand, as debates increase on the style of the music being performed, and the production values associated with it, there is also a strong likelihood that it is not an appeal to scriptural truths through song, but an attempt at emotional manipulation. In either case, it has ceased to be worship aimed at God.
When we use music as a way to feel the presence of God, to experience a closeness to Him, we are really aiming the worship music back on ourselves. The appeal to the emotions, and the manipulation of the flesh, is not only aimed at the non-believer, but also to get all of those assembled “hooked on a feeling”. We are using music in a similar way that a fighter might to “pump themselves up” before a fight, we are using it to elicit an emotional response. That is where the problem arises, worship music should not be intended to evoke an emotional response, it is in itself an outpouring of emotion.
This is not to say that everything that goes on with the time of worship through song is fleshly or manipulative, but it has become enough of a part of the modern church culture that it would seem that we need to guard ourselves against it.
We can have an entire catalog of beautifully crafted songs that are theologically accurate and personally moving, but if they are not aimed at God they cease to be worship songs. The aiming of our hearts toward God in our corporate worship becomes an activity that we can engage in all throughout the week. Our praise of the Lord comes from a heart that has overflowed with the realization of how He has blessed us.
If we know that we are going to assemble with our brothers and sisters during a “worship” service one day a week, we should spend all of the rest of those days collecting the multitude of reasons that “our God is an awesome God”.
By analyzing our lives we can prepare our hearts to enter into worship, but what about those who are tasked with leading us in these times of worship through song? They have control over the culture that is being created when we gather to sing songs of praise to the Lord, how can they encourage a more healthy environment for worship?
We can start by getting specific. There are any number of songs that we could belt out just about every week about how generally awesome God is, but if we are to rejoice with those that rejoice, why not give those within the body who have some particular blessing or revelation to report a voice to proclaim that blessing, and we can join with them in response to this blessing with a song of praise. In doing this we are not praising some concept of God that may seem distant or theoretical, we are worshipping a God who has shown Himself powerfully in our lives.
This last point is either going to be so obvious that it probably doesn’t deserve to be mentioned, or it’s going to make me seem out of touch.
Our worship gatherings are not rock concerts.
There is really no place for smoke machines and flashy swirling light shows during our worship of the Lord. There is nothing written that says that our worship of God can’t be entertaining as well, but that is not the chief aim to you are shooting for… or it shouldn’t be.
There are countless opportunities for us to entertain ourselves thoughout the week. We can go about our business of spreading the gospel as we walk through the world. We can experience a closeness with God at any point in walking with Him. When we come together in worship we need to allow ourselves, our desires, even the whole world melt away and focus our praise on God. He is worthy of our praise.