I’m in one of those moods. So, forgive me if this is too much pessimism…and if this resonates with you…let’s move from beyond complaining to figuring out some real answers and some real ways to frame worship…enough disclaimer.
So, my brother-in-law and I were watching some worship stuff on tv by a really well known group of churches. I really like this groups music…I’ve lead worship playing some of the songs I was hearing…I want to be a worship rock star just like them! But there was something really weird about what I was seeing. It felt like I was watching a rock concert. People’s eyes were closed, packed up close to the stage, raising their hands, jumping around…It just looked like a middle class rock concert. The funny thing about ‘worship music’ and the worship phenomena in the Church today is that sometimes we come off as our own version of rock stars. We have our own celebrity worship leaders that charge royalties like in the real world. We have our own worship CD’s with trendy graphics and trendy recording (yes recording can be trendy…listen to how similar all ‘cutting edge’ worship albums sounded 5 years ago…and listen to how they have all ‘progressed’ the same today). Worship has become an industry. It has become another thing to consume. And we do a dang good job of it. And nobody seems to complain…our Jesus music gets better and better, the ‘worship experience’ becomes bigger, the fun factor for musicians goes up, and everybody wins…or do we? I want to be a worship rock star.
But I have to wonder, was Jesus’ vision of His Church’s worship rock and roll? For me, and many others, Church is no longer defined by gatherings on the weekend, music, teaching, and programs. Church for me is the people of God living out redeemed life together in this world. Talk of being in the presence of Jesus is still there, but it comes through clothing Him, “when we see him naked.” Or by giving Him food, “when we see him hungry.” Or talking with Him, “when we see Him lonely.” I want to be a worship rock star…but not when I’m holding a guitar.
I am a wanna be worship rock star. In all of my critique of this scene, the irony is that I am a worship leader for Church gatherings. I led worship at a church a few weeks ago. I played guitar in a band at a church in Portland for a while too. And I love good worship music…I connect with God when I sing along with music that I like and when I play guitar to music that is fun. Singing, playing instruments, and worshiping God through song are all found in the Bible as expression of praise…and it is a good thing. But it is not another thing for us to consume…worship in song is only true worship when we expect to get nothing out of it…only to bring focus to our hearts desire to give something back to God. I’ve expressed on my blog before that my fear with some of the trends in Christianity today are that we are just reproducing a young generation of consumer Christians whose palates are more refined than ever to critique every Church experience that we come across. I just get this gross feeling in my gut when I think about all of the times I’ve heard people say, “I didn’t get a lot out of worship today.” *pause while I run to bathroom and lose my dinner*
I just wonder…How would our world more accurately reflect the Kingdom of God if we spent as much effort, money, and time on missional expressions of worship as we do with music? I think that’s a fair question. Worship through music is generally for those of us who are already believers. Some people will experience God for the first time through our music, but honestly, worship can be polarizing as well. I wonder how the Church would be a more effective agent of global change if we were to serve as wholeheartedly as we sang. I know that if practiced serving as much as I do the guitar I would be changed! The one thing that went through my mind as I was watching this production was, “For all of the emotion, power, and experience that these people were having, how many left truly transformed by the presence of God?” If we really touch the living God in our times of singing, why do we still get caught up in the worries of the world week after week. I mean, if God is who we believe that He is and we spend 35 minutes a week in an atmosphere where His presence is that intense…why aren’t more of us being transformed? Why am I not more transformed when I am the one leading these songs?!? Is it me? God…help me to be changed when you are near.
I want to be a worship rock star…but I don’t care about experiences where I (and others) are left unchanged…I want to offer God worship that expects nothing in return. That simply desires to reveal God for who He is. That stretches my life…not just my vocal chords.