A Take on Modern Worship

Today’s modern worship could be described very simply: emotional frenzy. For the past twenty years, or more, Evangelicalism has been invaded with a new style of worship. The music is complete with distortion, techno noise, and lots of delay and reverb. Even if the music styles could get a passing grade, most contemporary songs are filled with repetitive lyrics that give no value to the mind, or the spirit for that matter.

All over the Psalms, we read how David and his fellow Levites tell all the people to rejoice and to praise the Lord. In Psalm 150:6 (ESV),  one Levite writes, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” The Bible is not against worship, or a joy in worship, but the Bible does call for true worship. In the gospel of John, Jesus spoke on the essence worship in John 4:23 (ESV), “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.” The Bible calls for us to dwell on the truths of God’s nature and to fill our spirits with an everlasting presence of the Holy Spirit, but we have traded worship for something that is based on temperamental stimulation.

There was no good reason to do so, but now it has become so associated with Evangelicalism that it’s too difficult to imagine a church without this type of music. We have become obsessed with thoughtless, repetitive, and shallow worship. The worship we see in most contemporary services today are simply to stimulate the emotions, so that the songs could forge excitement, but people still love it anyway and they don’t want to get rid of it. The three biggest reasons for keeping the modern worship style are as follows:

  • It appeals to the younger generation. 

I have been to different Charismatic churches with the most extreme forms of worship and most incredible displays of musical talent…in the techno world (which doesn’t say much). The most disinterested people in the crowds were the younger generation. The truth of the matter is that there millennial who indeed love worship music and are obsessed, but not new comers to Christianity. The younger generation obsessed with bands such as Bethel, Jesus Culture, and Hillsong are typically people who were born into the Christian faith. There were many people I’ve witnessed to that didn’t want to come to Christ because of the worship style that has plagued the modern churches. There were also moments when I saw that youths covered their ears because the music was too loud and noisy.

The fact that the style of worship we have today is believed to be a “favorite” among the youth is simply not the case, and sadly it is not keeping them in the faith either. Today, we will find more Christian youths listening to anything, but Christian music. The problem with lukewarm Christianity among Evangelical youth and dramatic numbers of the young leaving the faith is not because of the music. In Psalm 119:9 (ESV) it says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” The problem is the lack of deep and rich theology, the very thing we are bringing our youth away from. We wonder why people run from God when it is obviously because they don’t know God. The songs were too busy telling them to raise their hands and dance without giving any reason of why they are to be in such joyful adoration. The problem of the younger generation being disinterested with the church is not in spite of the modern worship style, but because of it.

  • It’s a new time. We can’t be old-fashioned.

It is true that worship has evolved over the course of Church history. There was a time when there were only male choirs allowed. Then over time worship became more inclusive with the addition of female singers, the organ, and orchestral accompaniment.  However, the words would always retain the same quality and important messages. The writers of hymns would always strive to reflect the beauty and nature of God. Hymns would contain essential doctrines and teaching such as the Trinity, perseverance of the saints, and the exclusiveness of salvation. They were written to be 3 minute musical sermons for everyone in the congregation, whether they knew Christ or not. Now, most worship songs are written like this:

Fill me up God
Fill me up God
Fill me up God
Fill me up
Fill me up God
Fill me up God
Fill me up God
Fill me up

Why did we feel the need to throw out theology and valid doctrine? Worship used to be about declaring things such as “how great Thou art”, “be Thou my vision”, and (one of my favorites) “on Christ, the solid Rock, I stand”. Now we have worship songs that say “dance, let the spirit move you“, “I could sing of Your love forever”, “we come alive in the river”, “He is jealous for me“, etc. There is a clearly noticeable change which is bigger than music: worship has become less about God and more about the individual. Quite frankly, maybe it’s time that we should actually try to become old-fashioned.

  • I connect to God through these songs.

Just so it’s clear, I know there are good songs. Some of my favorite songs are 10,000 Reasons, In Christ Alone, and This I Believe (The Creed). All of these are heavy on theology and remind me of why it is essential to worship God. There are plenty of gems that have even been written by Bethel (who would’ve thought) such as No Longer Slaves (as long as you don’t repeat the chorus and the bridge too much) which touches on predestination and God’s redeeming work through a symbolic view of the exodus of Israel. However, most of the time this is not the case with contemporary worship.

There are far too many worship songs that lack any connection to God. A music producer once said, “The surest way of selling an album, even if it’s a terrible one, is to put a Christian label on it…They’ll buy anything.” Could it be that we are so focused on trying to believe these songs are anointed, to the point where are convincing ourselves that we don’t have a problem in Christianity? How can we say that songs like Dance, In the River, Fire Fall Down, Wake, etc. are spiritually moving when they have no connection to the Holy Spirit’s work? We succumbed to denial and have allowed ourselves to create a new god in our mind, bearing God’s name, but is not the same as the God of the Bible. Rather than a God who is concerned for His own glory and the Church, we have a God who is concerned about erotica love and filling us with something described as “fire”. It’s impossible to connect to God through most of these songs because we actually connect to an idol that we associate with God’s name.

I am not entirely against changing the style of music and I am certainly not against reaching the millennial generation, but worship must be about God. It must reflect God’s attributes so that we may honor Him for who He is, rather than our own definition of His holiness, majesty, and power. May the songs we sing together in the congregation bring all glory to God and not to the worship leaders and musicians. God’s heart aches for His Church, so how can we not want to give Him the best we can offer for worship?

Soli Deo Gloria.

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