Church Music - Enjoyment Is Worship?
I have a personal problem with the "worship" industry: the machine that produces pop hits with Christian lyrics and passes it off as a magical formula that allows people to "enter into the spirit." There is no doubt that people are entering into a spirit. Whether it is the Holy one or not is up for debate. When worship has been reduced to a genre it ceases to be worship. That is why I tend to call it church music and not "worship music."
Admittedly, much of my angst comes from my marketing background and studies that show that the industry uses Christians as pilot programs to see if a marketing channel will be successful. But my angst against pop-Christianity worship stylistics is massively tempered by 2 two bookends, one theory and one practical.
The Theory Of Enjoyment As Worship
CS Lewis pens a line in his book "Reflections on the Psalms" that just stops my rantings in their tracks. He says, "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” Singing songs that we enjoy is a proper form of praise and worship because God is our ultimate enjoyment. By singing we recognize and proclaim where all of our joy comes from. When those songs happen to be personally enjoyable we have all the more reason to sing.
As Sam Storm writes, this idea can completely transform our thoughts about worship. We Christians stupidly fight over the type of music that is played in church. Sometimes this cuts along generational or geographical lines. In light of Lewis' suggestion I think I have a better understanding as to why the music becomes such a contentious point. If personal preference and enjoyment are tied to worship and worship is an expression and recognition of joy then the presence of new and un-enjoyed music will result in the expression of praise being diluted and possible discarded.
So, it is entirely understandable why people buck against the introduction of new musical styles being introduced into their church. It invades their personal expression of praise to the God of joy. Now, when contention rises up because of this issue then we commit a grievous sin because we choose to withhold honor from God and give it to our personal preferences. No good. No good.
To dismiss the personal enjoyment of a particular singing style is to dismiss that God has gifted us with the capacity to enjoy anything at all. When we sing out in expressions that we enjoy we are declaring praise to the God that granted us the ability to enjoy anything at all. This leads me to the practical bookend that curbs my "worship" angst.
What is worship? Click to hear us talk about it
The People Who Worship
I have attended church services where the singing was produced to the highest technical degree. I have been to church services where people yelled out which songs they would like to sing - and did I mention there was no instruments to accompany the musically challenged audience members? And both were absolutely, positively Spirit-filled atmospheres where the presence of God was evident.
And both were horribly pathetic, fake, disinterested, and flat and I couldn't wait to get out of there.
Do you know what that tells me? The music doesn't mean squat.
What matters is that the hearts - the intentions - of the gathered people is to express praise and worship to God. The focus is on His glory and the recognition of His position as Lord of all. When personal preference limits your ability to focus on God and your posture in relation to him than you have a problem. Not the song leader, not the pastor, not the young people, and not the old people. You have the problem because you choose to place your personal expression of worship as superior and elevated above the ultimate glory of God.
No good. No good.
How to respond to the church music you don't like.
So, how do you reconcile the thoughts of CS Lewis - where enjoyment is worship - and the practical reality that a diverse group of people will ultimately have diverse definitions of "enjoyment"? Here are three ideas:
- Fix your focus: When you are singing are you focused on Jesus or the downbeat?
- Find new friends: Maybe you'd do well to spend time with people who like different musical styles than you and have them explain why they enjoy it so much. Expose yourself to new ways of encountering the Father.
- Fascinate the Refrain: At any point, in any song, with any beat, you can always close yourself in and proclaim "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty!" If you can't find joy in that then you can't worship.
The discussion on church music will go on and on. My prayer is that it is done with a humble heart that points to Jesus and not to a poisoned heart that points to the god of self.