The world of the contemporary church scene today is often associated with hyped up set up of full stage band, emotionally charged lyrics that appeal to our emotions, and the worshippers are encouraged to express their faith through the unison of voices singing with the loud music. At the turn of the century where popular worship scene has put the forefront of Christian music into the church where at last the imagery of archaic and seemingly outdated practices are being replaced by hip and modern forms of expression. This is coined today as contemporary worship that the new generation of Christians that connect them to the spiritual activity in the new house of God.
I have never considered the extent of the church obsession with worship until I came across a local parachurch organization that is offering internship for the worship team, worship leaders and musicians. And in one of their posts on Facebook, it got me thinking about how such a powerful tool and channel that allow the body of Christ to lift up their praises to an awesome God, can be a tool of subversive purposes.
Coming back to the post, in context, it was about King Jehoshaphat, who came to God and asked Him to rescue the nation of Israel from the invaders. The Word of the Lord came and promises salvation, and they instead of equipping the army, the king prepared the men for worship. This group put up a really nice and colorful post about it.
It obviously sounded ‘Christian’ and very progressive in the idea, but it is definitely not biblical. My thought was, is the victory guaranteed by God comes from His Word to the king, or as the result of the grand worship setup of all the priests, musicians, and dancers? This group is not the only one that knowingly or unknowingly, perpetuated the teaching that has elevated worship to a position that is not intended within the Church. Nowhere in the scriptures, that every instrument in the hands of worshippers becomes a weapon of warfare. In Ephesians 6:10-20, God has given us the instruments of warfare, unfortunately, it has absolutely nothing to do with worship or the Gibsons or Fenders of our time. The Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), is the only offensive weapon in the suit of armor. The weapon of our warfare is not the electric guitar, nor the loud emotionally charged music and lyrics that the church is so caught up with like a drug.
With such obsessions, there are a few dangers. Any spiritual experience in such a charged atmosphere is not necessarily of God. Any authentic encounter with the spiritual realm is electrifying whether it is in the presence of an almighty God, or in the demonic encounter. While John MacArthur wrote about Strange Fires, the charismatic movement gave birth to the idea that any spiritual encounter must be of God and some, have unknowingly plugged into the demonic encounters.
5 And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. ” “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.Nehemiah 9:5-6
Second, the idea of worship is the response of God’s people to His awesome majesty, to His faithfulness. Many times, I have heard worship leaders including the group I mentioned above, that demands in their worship session the presence of God is there as if the Almighty God must in need of our worship and adoration? It exudes a certain arrogance thinking that our worship calls on the presence of God. The modern worship has lost its sense of awe and the fear of God with lyrics talking about Jesus as the darling of heaven, and God can’t stand heaven without us. We have put the “WE” in the center of the act of worship where that place rightly belongs to God alone. This is in fact, idolatry, not of any other wooden imagery but us. No wonder contemporary worship is so intoxicating because we are the little gods that through our electric guitar and drum beats, we call on the presence of God like the shaman of old.
What then is coming back to the heart of Worship?
1 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.Romans 12:1-2
2 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.
True worship is not the music, it could possibly be part of it, certainly it is more than the arrangement of harmonic tones that fires up our emotion. Yes, I do not discount that as a response to who our Almighty God is and His faithfulness, but let me propose two simple ideas.
Worship is how we lead our lives as the disciples of Christ. Are we still living a conflicted life, on one hand lifting our hands up in worship while on the other, enjoying porn in the secrets of our personal life? Are we still talking following God but on the altar of our heart lies the true god – Money? On Sunday we put on our best suits, entered the sanctuary with our family but from Monday to Saturday, we live as if there is no God.
Worship demands us to be God-centric. We cannot truly worship God with a world view that it is ‘we’ in the center of it. A true biblical approach to see worship or even the scriptures must be a God-centred one. From the pages of Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation, from the history of the Mosaic collection to the Psalms and Hymns, and the turn of the new church age of the Epistles, if we cannot examine the text and lay our foundation on the God-centered world view, we have not given worship its due and proper consideration.
In conclusion, worship is a powerful part of our Christian journey, and it is extremely transformative in our experience when it is in the right place and cradled by the unchanging Word of God. I shall leave with one of my favorite songs written by the late Keith Green.