The Evil Worship Empire

Greg Gilbert at 9Marks has posted recently Against Music used for worship in church. He began with this nifty quip:

“I think the entire evangelical world ought to put a moratorium on any kind of instrumental music, and just chant psalms in their worship services—for the next ten years.*

He’s joking, of course. But then again, maybe not. He vader-guitar.jpgconcludes with this:

“*I’m being facetious with the title of this post and the call for a moratorium on music, of course. The Bible tells us to sing. God gave us music precisely because it affects our hearts and emotion, and that is a good thing. But every good thing can be and will be misused by sinful humans. My sense is that “excellent music” has become something of an idol. No, we don’t worship it. But alot [sic] of people need it to worship, and that may be just as bad. Music is a part of our lives as humans; in a certain way we’ll always depend on it. But as I see it, there’s ample anecdotal evidence out there to suggest that for many Christians, the dependence has become unhealthy.

Gilbert’s hyperbolic post is interesting because contemporary church worship has been targeted by 9marks recently in blog posts and Dever’s book The Deliberate Church. They have some valid complaints but solutions are counter-intuitive and, to be frank, somewhat nonsensical.

The pulpit has been abused by poor preaching in many cases. In the worst cases, the absence of biblical truth in preaching has destroyed the lives of those who follow those preachers. The health and wealth “gospel” is one of the most egregious offenders of this sort.

No one is calling for a moratorium on preaching for the next 10 years. Or banning the Lord’s Supper because of abuses. Or forbidding scripture use in the congregation because people mishandle them.

I recognize that Gilbert is being clever with this post. His complaints are valid and worship is certainly used more to tickle emotions than to expound truth.

But there is a pervasive attitude that I’ve observed in certain quarters that music is an expendable part of the service. Music is for the emotional artsy types who need to be coddled and don’t want real truth.

Is worship a necessary evil that we must endure? That seems to be the sentiment behind the rhetoric. Gilbert acknowledges the value of worship music, but almost as an apology. Is it merely the embarrassing precursor to the serious matter of preaching? No. Worship, indeed with music, is commanded and should thus be done well. It is no more idolatrous to seek excellence in worship music than to seek excellence in preaching.

Because of this, I’m devoting a series of posts over the next few weeks to worship leading (I am a worship leader in my own church).

I’ll start on the philosophical side but gradually offer some very practical advice for worship leaders.

  1. I personally have struggled with the ever-growing worship music industry as it verges on capitalism, but I have also since learned that some of it is good.

    I agree that like anything, worship can be misused; however, such as in giving sermons we integrate our own words given by inspiration of God to elaborate on the word. In the case of worship music, it is our Christian responsibility to have discernment when prayerfully selecting or creating our worship songs.

    God gives good tools, but as sinners we can use them for evil purposes. Should these tools be put away? No, but our evil purposes can be, and the tools can be once again used for good.

  2. In addition to my last post, I want to include that I am thankful that worship music is able to travel far and wide through commercialism.

    Musicians like Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham, and Sonicflood can share their music with worship leaders around the world.

  3. It’s interesting on how little emphasis is put on music in the book of Acts, Paul and Silas the lone exceptions.

    But how else are you going to pass your time in a dungeon while waiting for your wounds to heal and the kangaroo court to form? Now there’s some praise and worship whose sincerity cannot be doubted.

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