I was intrigued when I ran across two opposing articles on the subject of Worship in the Church. One article called for a boycott of the "Worship Industry", while the other was concerned about those who made their living from leading worship; even noting that "the singers in Nehemiah made their living from worshipping God." Actually, they received a portion of the tithes of grain, new wine, and oil that were brought to the storerooms of the Temple.
But back to the controversy over contemporary worship ... There are definitely two sides to this argument. The boycott subscribers point out that the focus of singing our reverence for God has turned from honoring Him with Biblically-based songs and hymns to satisfying our own cravings for entertainment. Worship services have become a marketing tool to attract potential congregants. A mega-church that I used to attend in a major Texas city actually advertises on its website's home page that the 2015 Grammy winner for Best Roots Gospel Album will be appearing soon.
In addition, they announce that they have three varieties of worship services: the "Contemporary, Choir & Professional Orchestra-led" version in their main auditorium; followed by the "Participatory, Modern, Band-led style of worship (also in the big sanctuary); and the "Traditional, Intimate, Hymn-based" version of worship service, which is relegated to the small chapel on the church campus. It is quite clear, as my husband says, who their "customer" is.
Then there is the fact that more emphasis is given to the "performance" of an individual or group, than the voices of the entire congregation lifted as one to praise the Holiness and Sovereignty of our God. Does God really want us to sit there passively watching a talented personality, or does He want us engaged in celebrating Him? Do we leave the service with our hearts full of God's instruction, or do we leave humming the words to the stellar performance of the day?
Those who are speaking out against the Entertainment industry invading the church service simply want music to return to its proper place in corporate worship. Their position can be summed up in the following statements: "It’s time to stop mimicking pop culture. It’s time for us to learn how to sing and make music again, instead of allowing others to do it for us."
Now, the other side will protest and say that a God-gifted and talented singer or group should be compensated if they decide to use their talent to honor God. After all, "we will pay top dollar for a doctor or an accountant, but we don't want to recognize or reward a gifted singer or musician who loves God." They suggest that the Body of Christ should celebrate the Christian music industry; celebrate that there is an alternative to the secular and unholy music industry that is represented in the pop culture. They suggest that rather than get angry about the music and worship leadership in churches today, people should "get upset about the lack of God's presence in your church, or the fact that the widows and orphans aren't being taken care of in your back yard. Get upset about the person with a disability who is being ignored or overlooked. Instead of wondering if light shows are from God, channel your anger by praying for an outpouring of the Spirit in the church."
They also say that emotion derived from spectacular performances in church are a good thing; that God desires His people to express their passion for Him, much like David did when he danced before the Lord. Here is their argument: "Kansas City Chief fans paint their faces, spend hundreds of dollars, get off work to sit in a parking lot for hours, jump up and down and scream in their own form of worship and adoration. We cry at secular concerts. We raise our hands when our favorite team wins the game. Why would we divorce the very gift of emotions given by God to express ourselves to Him in an act of worship?" They go on to say that "the fact worship has emerged as a commercially viable genre is a sign that people want God." They cite the thousands of kids that are drawn to stadiums to hear superstar Christian groups and to worship with kids their own age. That, they say, is a reason we should all celebrate and support the worship industry.
But here is my two cents, for what it is worth... and remember, this is just my opinion, and reflects my personal preferences. The latest trend of "contemplative" and repetitive verses, sung over and over is almost mind-numbing. I find myself waiting for the 20-minute portion of "worship" to be over with, so that I can garner what the Holy Spirit wants me to get during the 20-minute portion of hearing the Word. And, frankly, it bothers me a bit that hearing God's Word is treated, time-wise, as an equal to hearing/watching/singing contemporary "praise music".
Secondly, did you notice that the arguments for celebrating the worship industry all compared them to what we do "in the world"? Church performers should be compensated like a doctor or an attorney ... expressing emotions in church is no different than "worshipping or adoring" our favorite sports team. But here's my question ... can you not see that they are comparing the Church to the world? Doesn't it say in Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the patterns of this world? And does it not say in 1 John 2:15, Do not love the world nor the things in the world? Why would we want to model the Church's standards after those of the world?
And finally, I agree with this position's argument that we should be more concerned about the lack of assistance to the Church's widows, orphans, and disabled. And we should be lamenting that the presence of the Holy Spirit is absent in many of our churches. Yes, all that should be our priority! But why isn't it? And if all these things are missing, shouldn't we be asking ourselves, where is our attention being placed? What are our priorities?
In the end, shouldn't how God desires us to worship Him be our criterion? He says in Amos 5, “I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps."
It is not the artificial means of our worship that pleases God. It is the state of the heart that worships Him. And our church services should be focused on helping to create worshipful hearts, rather than on entertaining the masses to fill seats. In our Church worship, our emphasis should not be on the building, the rituals and the value of the performance, but on God’s Glory and the importance of encouraging His people to live righteous lives. That does not mean that song and celebration has no place in His House. I simply think that we must be careful to avoid following the world's model, and make sure that God is always the center of our worship. Remember, as Jesus traveled among the churches in Revelation, Chapter 2, He made it quite clear that He is judging the fruit produced by each church and their commitment to Him. How would He be evaluate your church?
John 4:23 "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him."