Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What In God's Name Are We Doing?

The American Church has fallen into some dangerous waters in recent decades and much of what we is an attempt to blame what we do on God's will - as if God actually commends our weak efforts at spiritualizing (rationalizing) our own selfish ambitions and passions.

Of primary importance to this writer is what we call "worship music." What is that, exactly - "worship music"? Today, it means a wide variety of things and, depending upon who you talk to, certain forms are more acceptable to God than others; certain forms lend themsleves to worship while other forms do not - and it's based on the style of the music. Really? (uh huh)

Generally, we see two main categories, with several sub-categories beneath. The two main categories of "worship music" are described as "Traditoinal" and "Contemporary." Painting broadly, here, the Traditional side of the coin tends to utilize music that is more hymn-driven, more choral, lush, has been around for a while, that sort of thing. The Contemporary side of the coin utilizes songs written in the past couple of decades, is band-driven, relies heavily on technical support (sound, lights, media, etc.).

Thankfully, I believe most of "the church" has finally moved past the idiotic notion that only one of these forms is correct or proper or best - for "worship." I believe we actually do (finally) see that not only are these different forms acceptable - they are necessary - given today's culture.

Unfortunately - the same foundational aspect is missing from both of these general categories in most of today's Christian churches. That missing element - is the HEART of worship. Or, what I refer to as "the WHO of worship." We have done a nice job of focusing on, and enhancing, the HOW of worship - but in the process we seem to have missed the actual reason we gather together in the first place - TO ENCOUNTER THE LIFE TRANSFORMING POWER OF JESUS CHRIST in the midst of our worship gathering.

I can say this because having worked in this arena for nearly 30 years I have come to discover first hand just how selfish most congregations are when it comes to the music selected for use in their services. It is very rare to find someone sitting in a pew these days who has the unselfish ability to refrain from complaining about the music. Most people in most churches are prone to be critical of the music used in the services. The list of complaints varies and seems to be never-ending - but the list is almost always verbalized - either in person, or via a phone call or email or letter... and always - in every instance - the bottom line is that the person complaining "...doesn't like..." a particular song or song style or form, etc. In other words - DO WHAT I WANT!

Here is a blunt question. Why? Why should I, as the music director, or pastor, do what YOU want? What aspect of our worship is about bowing to your personal music wishes and making sure you are kept happy?

And, yet, that is exactly what we do, isn't it? We have arrived at a place in church history where leadership is doing all we can to make sure you are kept happy! The proof of this can be seen in the fact that we now have a menu of worship services you can attend designed to meet YOUR needs... you like classical music? Go to the Classic service. You like rock? Go to the Contemporary service. You like both? Visit our Blended service. Whatever you want - we will provide it for you - so that you stay happy.

But guess what - that isn't working! People are still not "happy" - they still find things to complain about.

Now - here is the reason why people are like that - and some will read this and get very, very angry...

Spirit-led, Spirit-filled worship services do not create an atmosphere of selfishness. Read that again - Spirit-led, Spirit-filled worship services do not create an atmosphere of selfishness. You know why - because these services are not focused on the HOW - they are focused on the WHO of worship - Jesus Christ, as led in the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are probably thinking - well, OUR services are led by the Holy Spirit. Really? So, in your church, where you have constant bickering over the music styles - that is a "Spirit-led" church? Sorry to burst your bubble - but the answer is "no." How can I say that? Because the Holy Spirit is NOT a spirit of confusion. End of story. No rebuttal. If your church is made up of people who, week in and week out, feel the need to complain about the music styles being used then guess what - you are NOT operating in the power of the Holy Spirit - no matter how loudly you say you are - the proof is in the pudding.

So, what's the answer? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Shut up. Quit complaining. Stop opening your mouth and creating angst. Be quiet. Learn how to keep your selfish opinion to yourself. Need more?

2) Worship GOD. Stop worshiping YOUR wants, needs and selfish desires. God is not there for you - you are there for HIM. Get used to it cuz that's what eternity has to offer. God is more important than you are and HOW you worship Him is far less important than WHO you worship.

3) Follow your leaders. Or get rid of them. One or the other. If you want to have things your way, go start your own church. Until then, follow the leaders God has placed over you. They know better than you what God wants for the flock - otherwise they should not be your leaders. Trust them. Have faith in them. Support them. Encourage them.

4) Follow The Holy Spirit. This seems so ridiculous to say because so many churches actually believe they already are following the Spirit's leading. But, as I said earlier, if you have a congregation that is constantly complaining and bickering you are NOT led by the Spirit. So, change that. Become a congregation that IS led by the Spirit. It will not be easy - but do it anyway.

We need to stop blaming God for our own selfish desires. God has not ordained choral music as the only vehicle for worship. Likewise, He has not decided that contemporary praise bands are His chosen method. God doesn't CARE HOW you worship - so long as you worship HIM.

1 comment:

bass-player said...

Hi, Dan -

Good to see 'Common Saints' back up and running. Definitely some things I can see in my own life that need addressing here.

Hope you're doing well!