This is a post on worship music. Which is why I’ve misquoted a lyric from Steely Dan. (Which would totally tick off a certain Dr. Masters – no, not that one – as this Dr. Masters would never be culturally relevant – even if my culture is probably stuck in the 70’s and 80’s.)
I spent too many years as a worship leader in various churches. My much loved ’74 Guild acoustic slung from my shoulders, my mouth pressed warmly against an SM58. On rare occasions I’d bust out my ’65 Tele – but I never really had the chops to do that guitar justice. (Fortunately, Liam does.) Imbi was usually the MD, on piano and vocals. At different times we were joined by various bass players, drummers, guitarists, mandolin players, saxamaphonists, flautists – but never anyone on Tuba. (For the young calvinists who occasionally drop by, I’m not suggesting Imbi was the “mark driscoll” but that she was the Music Director.)
Most of the tunes we sang were rather like bad Eagles tunes; I’ve Got A Peaceful Easy Feeling about you Jesus, and I want to give You The Best of My Love so we can Take It Easy in eternity together. JIMBee* songs for the gathered masses. (*Jesus Is My Boyfriend).
Never did more I, IV, V chord patterns empower so many bad songs sung lustily by boomers and busters whilst their then young children looked on bemused. Heck, we even wrote some bad songs ourselves – although ours did ofttimes feature a Diminished Seventh.
We wrung ever drop of “anointing” out of songs from the Vineyard, Maranatha!, Integrity and (blech!) Hillsongs. We looked forward to the days when the pews would be filled with even more butts bopping to our groovy JIMBee tunes – those butts there for the “worship experience”.
The prompt for this post was one from Jared Wilson (my favourite young Calvinist – you other two, I consider rather old now). Jared quoted a tweet from a buddy,
___________ wants to know why every Sunday can’t be a worship experience like Hillsong United created last night.
I wrote a comment that got lost somewhere in the pushed pixel universe of blogdom. The gist of it was asking, ‘shouldn’t the “worship experience” be God’s?’
These pastors [who encourage church leaders to “embrace entertainment”], representative of so many contemporary Christians, believe that God changes lives through the commodification and consumption of experiences. If our worship gatherings are energetic, stimulating, and exciting enough then people will attend, receive what’s being communicated, and be spiritually transformed.
We’ve been confused into thinking that “putting on the best show” is somehow about “winning the lost to Christ”. “Worship Experiences” have little to do with actually worshipping the risen Lord. We judge those “experiences” based on our own feelings – as our own “needs are met.”
“God really showed up last night.” (Where had He been before He showed up? Shopping?)
“I was so blessed by the worship, man!” (Were people worshipping you?!)
“Oh man, the Holy Spirit really began to move during the worship.” (After a period of lethargy, the Holy Spirit finally began to do something based on us singing bad Eagles’s tunes. That makes complete sense.)
To paraphrase Matt Redman, “I’m comin’ back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about me, all about me, Jesus.”
Let’s be honest, shall we. Our corporate worship in the west is really about happy clappy people having a good time – in the hopes they’ll come back for more happy clappy times, begin to pay the price of admission (I think you call that “tithing”) and get signed up to serve in a “ministry” that benefits the corporation.
…it ain’t like God is a genie in a bottle and you gotta rub him the right way (bay-bay). Unless your congregation is a bunch of heretics, God is there among you every Sunday, and every day he is ready to be worshiped. If the majesty of God were truly in our hearts and minds, if our selves were alive to the wonder of the gospel, I doubt it would really matter if Hillsong United were on stage or if it were Brother Bob with his ukelele.
Now. I’d prefer that Brother Bob played his uke like this, but, “it ain’t about me” now is it.
Should worship on occasion be joyous? Of course.
But it also should be mournful. (Read the Psalms, people! David sang the blues. Shouldn’t we? Though we might consider whether to sing this particular verse of the Psalms.)
It should be contemplative. (That word will overly excite a few folk.)
It should lead us to confession.
The “experience of worship” should be God’s.
This post is already too long – and I have many more thoughts. I’ll come back to this in a later post.