Glenn W. Harrell 4-17
The subject of worship is worthy of all the attention we can and will give to it. Everything we are and do flows from this inner sanctum potential. I say potential because I do not have to worship God. I have many options and a host of substitutes at my disposal.
The world advertises them so very effectively and I am tempted to buy regularly.
I have a relative who told me of an event he attended. It seems that there was a young “lady” present who needed the attention of the room as a support for her missing esteem. While revealing and flaunting her God-given assets, she stared angrily at one hypnotized young man and asked, “What are you staring at?” His response was classic. “Whatever it is you are advertising!”
Our modern worship podcasts tell a great deal about what we, the church, are advertising, how and why.
I read a Pod cast recently that bemoaned the loss of “inspiration” in “Contemporary Worship” and creative worship planning.
The answers provided by the esteemed writer (never a scripture mentioned) provided great wisdom for a TV producer, Beyonce, Carnally-minded Christians and or a Christian who writes music hoping to use a cross-marketing technique. (that is where you have a text that could be a love song to your cute neighbor, or God, whichever comes first or pays the most) Now, we may double or triple the profits. Oh yes, and the music must be schmoozy-romantic. What’s worship if it isn’t schmooze? Atmosphere baby, atmosphere.
For all of us who hope to lead other people in Worship, (with life, the word, and music) we have clear and present wisdom from God; wisdom that can prevent us from carnality and mimickery of the world— that is, if we allow our bible to be more than secular dribble. So, let’s go Pod casting and see what we can catch.
WHO WOULD I PODCAST FROM THE PAST if I wanted to know about inspiration in worship?
If you or I could do a Pod cast with JS Bach, he would say that both the floor and the ceiling of our inspiration is already within us as we do it “to the Glory of God”. Bach’s noble and humble response may no doubt be hailed on paper but when the lights, cameras, fog machines, holy tones from the Fender Strat guitar, and the roaring applause of the “audience” comes forth—all bets are off.
A podcast with the Apostle Paul would reveal, “Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of Him.” Colossians 3:17
What, where, when and how are not to be worshiped.
They merely inform us as to the WHO and WHY we worship. God and His glory.
Paul would admonish us not to make anything about worship to be style-over-content. Simply sing Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs for every age, with no hint of division and hyper-preference of one over the other. This will save us from idol worship within the church. We must also remain generational and do this intentionally. Think like a family that prefers one another in honor.
We are all adopted children, regardless of our age and interests.
“God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children.” Ephesians 1:5
A Pod cast with David the Psalmist yields this revelation of God’s character.
“The Lord doesn’t care about the strength of horses or powerful armies. The Lord is pleased only with those who worship Him and trust His love.” Psalm 147:10-11
The Lord doesn’t care about our stage performances and our love affair with the tools of our trade. Nor a pacified audience. He does care when we mock him and up-stage Him with the very same talents He gave us.
His Spirit is quenched when we presume to make an audience of spectators out of His would-be congregation of the Saints.
Why would a lost person want to go to a service of worship for “strange” people anyhow? The Evangelical community denied worship for years by turning their Sunday mornings into mini-Billy Graham crusades. (Billy never intended this) The result was generations of people whose discipleship was void of biblical worship. Today, much of the church has decided that we need to be like the world in order to attract them. We must be addicts ourselves so that the world of addiction will “feel comfortable” in our plush, modern and contemporary surroundings. We keep making disciples after our own miss-directed zeal.
THE REAL WORLD COULD CARE LESS ABOUT WHAT THE REAL CHURCH IS ADVERTISING. All the skirt-raising spectacle on our part will not change this fact. All we do is send contradictory signals. We dress one way and act another. We are not called to attract the world with sugar, all in a panic because they hate us. We are to be salt and light. These repel, not attract. They push away rot and decay, and they resist evil by exposing it. Witness to your friends in their world, THEN they have a reason to come to yours—your church. And hopefully, when they come, they will find that God is not like the world they need respite from – a world that has crushed them and beaten them down in sin and degradation. May they find a church that is “separate and called out”.
It was Arch Bishop William Temple (How about a pod cast with this individual?) who wrote:
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness—nourishment of mind by His truth–purification of imagination by His beauty–opening of the heart to His love—and submission of will to His purpose.”
Music is never mentioned or needed in this kind of worship, and without this depth of obeisance, music becomes the golden calf we see as of late. People will fight over golden calf’s, but never a grumbling word while worshipping in Spirit and in Truth. Only awe and reverence. The good Bishop also wrote, “Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all.”
…Which brings us to this Podcast title for the day. Solomon, in his sternly acquired wisdom, reminds us,
“Don’t eat too much honey or always want praise.” Proverbs 25:27 Always wanting the praise of man is a strong and bold inspiration killer. If I am not certain of myself and my purpose in serving before I get up in front of others to lead,
I will soon learn that it is not their role to supply my calling and security. It is not their job to make me feel about myself one way or another. No one can convince me of my value to God if I do not know and believe it for myself.
A PODCAST WITH JESUS GOES STRAITGH TO THE MATTER “The light has come into the world, and people who do evil things are judged guilty because they love the dark more than the light. People who do evil hate the light, because it clearly shows what they have done. But everyone who lives by truth will come to the light, because they want others to know that God is really the one doing what they do.” John 3:19-21
How dark are we the church supposed to become, bowing down in subservience and fear before the desires and demands of this world? The “Contemporary” church answer seems to be: Turn down the lights in the room—raise the lights on the performance stage—paste on the smiles—bask in the glory—show your stuff—watch an otherwise innocent crowd become an audience of spectators, groupies and wannabees. All of this, by design.
While we do the “contemporary” thing, here are a few Don’ts and Do’s to consider:
Don’t confuse a Concert with Public-Corporate-Local church worship. In fact, have more concerts, not less. Concerts are great! Perform until you can perform no more. Get the applause of man out of your system and in its rightful place. This takes a lot of applause and a lot of time for most of us. Pride and ego are stubborn twins. Remember Jesus telling us about public displays?
“When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)
Now then, when it is time for corporate worship or a concert—either one, God teaches us the difference between the two–how to avoid the confusion.
Don’t confuse an audience with a congregation of the Local church. One is a by-stander-factory for concert goers, and the other is a nursery for servants and disciples who are standers-by, people who are more-ready than not to become “doers and not hearers only”. A biblical congregation does worship as a verb and is excited about it. They will care less about being a spectator, and prefer active involvement through prayer, scripture, confession, song and witness.
Don’t confuse worship with a feeling. Worship, like love, is a decision. If it must be whipped up by external stimulus it probably isn’t worship or love. It is a counterfeit that makes big promises and rewards nothing in the way of truth. Its disciples must have more and more sensational hype, as a fix, to survive. Hence, the birth and health of our Contemporary Shopping Culture we call Praise and Worship Me Band. Eventually, reality strikes. We ditch the ruse and prefer Spirit and Truth. This is a glorious day of freedom!
Don’t equate “contemporary” or ancient history with an informed superiority. Lawyers still use traditional law books in old-school courtrooms. High school bands still use the same instruments and play many of the same songs from 50 years ago, and the band rooms still have 4 painted walls with sturdy chairs. (no one demanding that we “go contemporary”) We still sing the old National Anthem and a football field is still green and remains 100 yards in length.
Old is not bad and new is not good simply because we want it so. Study church history beyond your birthdate and be surprised at the depth and solid meanings found in our liturgical orthodoxy. This helps prejudice, belonging to all of us, to slip away in embarrassment. It also helps us to better recognize when we are lacking in our understanding and obedience to the scriptures concerning worship.
We stand on the shoulders of gifted and deeply Christian people whose lives and music have preceded us here. Let us not waste this golden treasure of music and wisdom.
Let me add here that attempting to worship our history and orthodoxy, as if reverting to AD 300 practices and methodologies somehow makes us more spiritual and “connected” with God than where I live and breathe today, is utter goofiness. Any perceived “superiority” here is contrived at best. Respect and learn from the past without being tethered to it. And don’t let the future sell you a bill of goods. Both contemporary and ancient worship can best be defined as,
“Good morning Lord. Thank you for life and breath. I worship you today because you are worthy and because You loved me first.
Use me this day as a blessing to others and make me a pleasure to yourself I pray.
May Jesus shine in and through me as I become more and more like Him each day. Amen
Don’t divide, dilute and disconnect the generations. We have fought segregation of ethnicities for years. Now, in our churches, we propagate age-directed segregation, music-style-segregation and segregation of mind, body and spirit in our services of worship. You can find every generation in the same old courtroom and at the same old sports arena. Even people of many ethnicities. We all get along just fine. It seems only the church has the idea that “Contemporary-Traditional and Blended” are clever labels, not self-imposed cliques of harmful division! And contemporary (whatever that is) is better for the youth. So much so, that we will get them out of our hair! As the Apostle James Podcasted, “Brethren, this ought not to be so!” James 3:10
Inclusive worship is this brand of Christlikeness:
“Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought:” Philippians 2:3-5
Do be indigenous–real. Stop looking to the world, and even other churches for how to be authentic and how to “do church”. Make-up, hair, latest clothing fads, pop music and special effects all work well for Hollywood, but are disastrous for the Bride of Christ. Cheap in fact. If the leader of a local church congregation is comfortable being himself, the congregation will soon follow. So too, if he starts acting like a teen-ager to appear hipster and cool enough to lead, then the congregation dittos. Such childish behavior is not becoming of the church of Christ. We need to accept this truth: “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13) That is a starting point that informs our finish-line.
Do remain up-to-date with all songs and music that stands the test of time, with texts and music that move more than the legs, arms and hips. Sing a new song to the Lord, and do it often. Sing balanced with “the mind and the spirit”. Doing so must never be about style and appearance, but always about that which promotes spiritual maturity in each generation of the church. What follows is theological depth and proof of genuineness in the lives of all the believers by obedience to the Word. Real worship produces works that demonstrate repentance from sin and this world. Vet your leaders/musicians, and demand musical and spiritual maturity that befits the ultimate priority of worship. Otherwise, our podcasts have no testimony and they lack “inspiration.”.
The search for truth and inspiration in worship is not so much the context, but the TEXT. And herein lies a difficulty. Which text? The one that connects me with corporate America, or the only text that can speak without returning void and empty. Void and empty like me when I go out on my own, hoping for eventual stardom and earthly fame. I avoid this bible, especially when it contradicts my ambitions and hidden motives. It simply contains too much light. This is why I run dry on inspiration. This is why I force a belief that stage performances and performers are anything more than supposititious to integrity and truth. This is when I must roam the streets of technology and unfair comparisons to find some small spark as a substitute that will allow me to continue the addiction. The Truth of scripture often restricts my will. That’s why I may so often avoid it.
Best advice for any leader interested in leading others in corporate worship…
Regularly get out and away from the market-driven industry that wants our adoration and money. Shut down the music factory.
Do this long enough to see and experience quiet in your personal realm. Worship without music. Feed an infectious quiet that allows God a chance to be more than a mere investor in the “enterprise”. Immerse in the scriptures until you can no longer see this world except through the clear lens of the Word. Your church and even some of your leaders probably won’t tell you this, (they are very often in a panic; trying to get finicky Millennials to come on your talent, and not Gods math-design) but God will tell us all if we will but listen. Can we hear and prefer Him over the applause of man or even the poor guidance of church leadership?
“The holy Lord God of Israel had told all of you, ‘I will keep you safe if you turn back to me and calm down. I will make you strong if you quietly trust me.” Isaiah 30:15
So, church—you know—the church that is finally being hated by the world today at a level approaching the early church;
The same church that struggles to get people to walk through your doors anymore. Are you tempted?
What are we advertising? What fly-paper are we tempted to use? How high are we willing to lift our skirt just to get the attention of a disinterested world? How much of the dark must we allow to absorb our precious witness in the name of “please attend my church, and like my Jesus? And while you are at it, please like me too. We will do most anything you want. Pretty please.”
On the rare occasion that outsiders (people of the world) (non-Christians) should come to our churches, what will they find?
God meant for them to discover the “Pearl of Great Price”—Oh that they would trade in their old life for a new. Instead, we offer more of their world as fly paper and manipulation. We give them Smashing Pumpkins, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift and D.R.A.M. with a few Jesus words as bait. These are our disciples after us and in our image. They have become our false inspiration, our podcast heroes. We need little more explanation for the state of the church in America today.
Who would be your podcast worship-inspiring hero from the past, and what is your message to the church in America?
Glenn W. Harrell www.openhandspublications.com 4-17