Thursday, June 11, 2009

Degrees of Worship

A good friend posted this on his Twitter/Facebook this morning:
___________ wants to know why every Sunday can't be a worship experience like Hillsong United created last night.

Take a shot at answering (but not at my friend) in the comments.

I have a few thoughts:

I do think there is a marked difference between music leaders who know how to lead a congregation into worship and those who do not. In the same way there are preachers who are better than others at leading people to focus on Christ. So I don't think we can necessarily discount the importance of the quality of pastoring involved in such "worship experiences."

On the other hand, it ain't like God is a genie in a bottle and you gotta rub him the right way (bay-bay). Unless your congregation is a bunch of heretics, God is there among you every Sunday, and every day he is ready to be worshiped. If the majesty of God were truly in our hearts and minds, if our selves were alive to the wonder of the gospel, I doubt it would really matter if Hillsong United were on stage or if it were Brother Bob with his ukelele.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that most times the real difference in worship experience between Hillsong United's set list and a choir and a pipe organ leading you in hymns is not what's on stage, but what's in our hearts.

Your thoughts?


Spike said...

It really is what's in our hearts, cause that's where He lives. Our busy lives can be an act of worship as we depend upon Him for our very steps through the day. But at church, we need to realize that Jesus wants to minister to US. Yes, we worship Him when we praise and thank Him, but we need to do those things with the thought in mind that we want to receive from Him, too. A part of the service has to be for that... We can open our hearts and receive Him in the preached word, in the quiet of the songs, the grace of the Lord's supper. Hopefully our conscience is tweeked by the Spirit, and we can see where we need to grow, repent, and try again.

I have a problem with people expecting the worship team to be like "Hillsong's". If the team is creating an experience then it is man-made and powerless, no matter how fun it is. God can and does create the experience when we are open to receiving what He has to offer. Sometimes we don't like what He is saying, but there's power to change and grow when He is the worship leader. That's a "real experience", and I suspect that most awesome worship teams are aware of it, and we are giving them the credit for what God is doing.

Daniel said...

Having led music worship this for awhile now ...

What you say is very true. There is also the "experience" that is created by lighting, staging and the like. There's also the awesome "experience" of singing together with thousands of people (something that doesn't happen in most churches - since most churches aren't mega-churches filled with people who like it so much they were willing to pay $30 - or more - plus Ticketmaster charges to get in the door that Sunday morning). All of those things help elevate emotions.

While emotions aren't all bad, too often people confuse emotions with worship and start to "rank" worship experiences. Emotions can be a part of worship but me loving my wife today like Christ loved the church can be a "worship experience" too. Only when I love my wife today, there's not crowd singing along at the top of their lungs and no light show to accompany me at just the right moment. :-)

Jared said...

Good thoughts, guys.

I want to go on the record saying that I'm not anti-emotions either, Daniel. Just anti-emotionalism.

But I just can't get with some people's knocking of wanting to feel something in worship. We should want to feel something (of course not to the extent that a lack of feeling means a lack of God or a failure to worship). Worship is for God, not us.
But I do think there's something to be said for the fact that we so easily respond emotionally to music, art, sports, food, friends, etc., but find it so hard, need ever increasing theatrics, to feel something in worship.

C. Holland said...

"why every Sunday can't Hillsong" gives me two red flags.

1) Comparing/wanting to be like others in this situation smacks of "body" envy in 1 Cor. 12. I am me, you are you, and Hillsong is Hillsong. Not everyone can be like Hillsong. Why is that a problem?

2) Mountain-top experiences are great every once in a while, but every day/week will eventually not be as thrilling. What then?

Of course, let's strive to do our best with how God's gifted and created us, and let's engage in worship. But don't hold up one particular group as a standard when it's a heart issue. Empty worship can happen in any worship format.

Vitamin Z said...

1. It can't be like that every Sunday because most churches don't have million dollar production budgets

2. We need to define the "this" that this person is shooting for. I would encourage that person to reflect on why "this" is attractive to them. Not saying it is necessarily sinful or consumeristic, but those questions should be asked.

3. We do need to strive for excellence in presentation and song selection that is for sure, but our response to these things certainly will vary from person to person and probably has much more to do with our view of God and what he has done than the details of what is going on up front.

Enough for now...


Jared said...

Zach, I was hoping you'd weigh in. Thanks, man.

Greg Mazunik said...

I think every Sunday COULD be like a Hillsong United worship experience, but probably not for the reasons your friend is desiring. Z, I agree that what this brother in Christ is most affected by is the "million dollar" production value...great songwriting, incredible musicianship, the energy of thousands of people singing at the top of their lungs, expensive light shows, etc...all of which requires massive amounts of cash and talent.

What every church can do, no matter what kind of money and resources they have, is do everything to the best of their abilities with unbridled passion for God and others.

One small example of that...As a music minister, one of my goals is to write music for the church so that the congregation knows that what they're singing in this gathering, no one else is in the world. This music was created for this community and by its members. That's only successful if it's A) good music (subjective, I know, yet still quantifiable) and B) taught well to the body and embraced as an integral part to the community. Churches like Sojourn in Louisville and Covenant Life in Maryland are doing a great job at that.

Not every music minister is gifted for songwriting, but every one is gifted at loving their congregation passionately and growing their skills. Whatever musical gift God's given to the leader, he/she must exploit it and plumb the depths of it, for his congregation's good and God's glory in His church.


Elle Pyke said...

I will Skye Jenthani's book "The Divine Commodity" do the talking here...

Quote from page 75.

"These pastors [who encourage church leaders to "embrace entertainment"], representative of so many contemporary Christians, believe that God changes lives through the commodification and consumption of experiences. If our worship gatherings are energetic, stimulating, and exciting enough then people will attend, receive what’s being communicated, and be spiritually transformed.

The justification for this approach is simple - people won’t come to a church that’s boring. And what qualifies as boring is defined by our consumer/experience economy. But the moment we believe transformation occurs via external experiences, the emphasis of the ministry must adjust accordingly. Manufacturing experiences and meticulously controlling staged environments become the means for advancing Christ’s mission. And the role of the pastor, once imagined as a shepherd tending a flock, now conjures images of a circus ringmaster shouting, “Come one, come all, to the greatest show on earth!” In Consumer Christianity, the shepherd becomes a showman."

David said...

Can Hillsong United actually create a worship experience? Wow.