We dare not approach the throne of an objectively great, timeless, unchanging, and holy God with a consumer mindset that says we can only worship him if our subjective preferential demands are met. That mindset only robs God of the glory he is due, robs the church of the encouragement it needs as it fights the true war of faith, and robs us of being encouraged and shaped by the truth of God’s word as we sing it.
Ours is a generation marked by war.
I’m not referring to a war with guns and tanks, though we have certainly seen our share of that as well. We are a generation that grew up witnessing the church fight over the very thing that was supposed to unite us: the worship of Jesus.
The Good Old Hymns vs. Modern Worship Choruses.
Organ & Piano vs. Those Demon Drums.
Few of us emerged from these consumerism driven worship wars of our younger years unscathed. Their impact has been profound, both personally and corporately.
Fast forward a decade or two and, at first glance, the worship wars that once plagued the church seem to have died down. So it might be easy to chalk it all up to a problem from a bygone era.
Until we walk out of a church service that didn’t meet our own standards.
We have become professional critics of corporate worship. We complain about everything.
The volume is either too loud, or not loud enough. The lighting is either too bright or not bright enough; too showy or too bland.
We grumble about song selection, saying things like, “They introduce too many new songs,” “Why do we keep doing the same songs over and over,” or “I hate that song.”
From key signatures to instrumentation; from the worship leader’s fashion sense to vocal tone – it’s all fair game for our consumer-driven critique.
We are the fast food slogan-slinging generation of “Have it your way.”We are American Idol’s panel of expert judges.
We don’t know how to shut up and we don’t have to because social media gives us constant platform to speak out about anything and everything we love and hate.
Everything about our world tells us that we are the king (or queen) of the castle.
So as humans, it is impossible to avoid having our own personal preferences. Our distinct opinions shape the way we approach every area of life, including how we connect in corporate worship. As such, we tend to assign spiritual value to our preferences.
For example, if we gravitate toward a more stripped back, rootsy corporate worship experience, we exalt that as the most spiritually helpful, while demonizing a corporate worship experience that is more produced. We employ abstract, vague descriptors like, “That felt like a show – it just didn’t seem authentic.” All the while the person on the platform may be a genuinely godly person who has put much thought, effort, and prayer into using his or her own stylistic musical talents to lead in corporate worship as excellently and effectively as possible.
The modern church has spearheaded all new creatively contextual expressions of corporate worship. We have everything from Traditional church to Seeker church to Cowboy church, Biker church, Surfer church and everywhere in between. We have Jazz, R&B, Funk, Gospel, Pop, Rock & Roll, Country, Rap, Hair Metal, Classical, and more.
We must see the beauty in that …and the danger.
The vast variety of expressions of worship to our ever-worthy Savior is an incredible opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and express praise in new and fresh ways. But these tools ought not become the deterrents from or objects of our exaltation.
When we gather as the church, we are not coming as critics.