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Has "Modern Worship" Become Corrupt? (ThinkJump Journal #29 Kim Gentes)

Have We Lost The Heart of Modern Worship, Are Things as Pure as They Once Where? or  Has "Modern Worship" Become Corrupt?

In the early days of praise and worship growing up in the church, it was popular for "defenders of the faith" (those who preferred the established style of music at the time) to attack the new style because they said it lacked substance, and pandered to the culture. Over the years, this criticism actually helped make modern worship songs become better theological representations of Christian teaching. The arguments about style eventually waned and died when clear-headed adults realized that musical style has almost no relevance in a theological instrument. "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord", at least that is what David said. What was David's point?  Simply this- no matter the instrument, the sound, the form or even person, the call remains the same "praise the Lord".  Simply review Psalms 148-150 and you begin to see that God is calling us to praise Him regardless of our place in life (Psalm 148:11,12), regardless of the art form (dance or music - Psalm 149:3), regardless of the instrument (Psalm 149:3-5), even regardless of whether you are a human, angelic being or just a part of creation (Psalm 148:1-12). So while the "worship wars" may have happened in our churches for the last 30 years, it became obvious that David probably had won the argument about format a good 3000 years before we started discussing it in the 20th century- Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord!

But no sooner had the "old" vs "new" fight subsided, than we began to hear rumblings about the "corruption" of modern worship. After 30 years of infancy, its growth into adolescence was met by some amount of disdain by a good group of its progenitors. The original "guard" that was around when praise and worship burst on the church was now becoming vocal about the ongoing change that continued to propel the stylistic growth of the music. But more than just that, there was a "we told you so" attitude developing that began to expound the idea that the community of practitioners was now becoming enamored with the commercialization of the musical genre that had grown up around the music. In other words you could hear this said in a thousand different ways from some people- "this modern worship isn't as pure and humble as the original stuff". Also there is the idea that "worship leaders are just trying to become artists with record deals".

You could tack on a hundred variations to those two previous statements, but most often they boil down to those ideas.

So, let's talk about it. Is "modern worship" corrupt?

I'll answer that with another question. Is Christianity corrupt?

I think the truth is that you have to say both no and yes. For the most part, honest followers of Jesus are not bent on corruption of their faith or others. Also within the community of honest followers of Jesus, there are those who are (to varying degrees) corrupted by painful, sad choices and poor character. And finally, there are those who are actually apostates- people who willfully seek false doctrines for their own selfish motivations. Christians- the community of those who declare themselves to be honest followers of Jesus- I believe are not largely corrupt. They are instead, redeemed, and indeed, being more redeemed as they apply their lives to His guidance and instruction. Yet, they are still humans living on earth and are subject to brokenness. So there will always (until He returns) be a schismed vision of the Body of Christ- one which portrays a Bride to which Christ will return. And yet still, one that is in need of His continuing and ongoing work of purification, renewal and mercy. We are redeemed, but in daily need of a tethered existence to His faithful mercy for our lives.

So if this is the place we find ourselves with our existence as a Christian community, what can we say about "modern worship"?

Personally, I don't think "modern worship" is any more tragically perverted than anything else in "Christiandom". And the same arguments that I applied above apply to those involved in worship ministry today. On the whole, I believe we have a worship community within Christiandom that is sincerely devoted to Christ and seeks Godly goals in their work within the community of bringing forth praise and worship.

Often times I hear people getting negative as though they are hoping for some "good old days" of worship. It seems people love to jump on the bandwagon of bashing worship these days because they perceive its gone so commercial. Is there a misconception and excess now that has grown up with the creation of an "industry"? Sure there is! But frankly, that has existed in Christian preaching and leadership for years. The same is true of CCM (contemporary Christian music), television personalities, and healing/deliverance ministries. Did we throw them out as wholly "abhorrent"? No! Instead, we learned to weed out the good from bad.

To me, it comes down to each person, each church, each song and each worshiper. As we talk, look, listen and encounter them one at a time, we find a whole different story. When I look at each person and situation, and stop generalizing, and talk to individuals and churches (or investigate specific songs), I find something surprising. The devotion, the heart, the desire and the humility far outweigh the excess. And the devotional pulse of the local congregations is more, not less, participative in the gathered worship times than it has been in decades. Only 30 years ago the gathered church sang songs that almost NEVER spoke intimately with God, now its normative. Wow. That alone is a significant change.

Is it perfect? Is it the ultimate? By no means. Do we need more authenticity and more foundational return to cultivating Biblical consistency mixed with relevant language in our song vocabulary? Absolutely! Can we keep working on humbly following God in all this, without mixed agendas? No doubt.

Should we worry about our young leaders pursuing "music careers" because an industry has grown up around "worship" that has provided a few people with occupations? How sad if we fixate on that.

First, as far as an "industry", we don't have to worry there. The Christian (and worship) music "industry" is practically vaporised. Today, whether you have a real ministry from God in worship, or an imagined one from vanity, your chances of "making it" are about 0.000833%. Seriously. Because of the 120 million people who claim to be Christians in the US (and that is being very generous, since we know that many people don't actually go to church!), only a few hundred of those actually make their living as bonafide, full-time, Christian musicians and artists who work in the "music industry". The point is this- the industry is not just small, it is minuscule. Additionally, it is shrinking at an alarming rate in due no small part to the collapse of the commercial music model at the hands of the internet age. No one is making a living in music these days unless they are providing something real-- like the ability to actually perform live music, a gifting to truly minister in a local church, a heart to genuinely care for people. For all intents and purposes, selling "product" is dead. CDs don't sell, and only 1 in 20 downloads of music are legal. Illegal stealing of music (Christians included) has destroyed the music industry. What remains are simply people and God's gifts on them. If that is not a return to reality I don't know what is.

Should we teach young leaders to not fixate and seek a musical career of "glory" at the expense of a contrite devotional heart? Obviously we should teach them. But to judge "modern worship" as corrupt is as short sighted as the praise and worship naysayers 30 years ago because it lays on the heads of every Christian, musician and worshiper a judgement that really only applies to a very, very small minority of hurting people who are looking inappropriately to follow a misguided sense of ministry by relying on a worship industry to make them famous as they "serve God".

Is there a place for talented young musicians, writers and leaders? Yes there is! Because while there are a tiny number of "jobs" in the Christian music industry, there are literally tens of thousands of jobs for good musicians, leaders and songwriters. "Where?", you ask. We call them music ministers, worship leaders and choir directors. They are needed and employable in a place called the local church. Should their gifting and exceptional songwriting prove encouraging to their local church, other churches may benefit from it. Should other churches be built up by it and tell others, then eventually that gifting may open up invitation and opportunity for that person to minister in an ever widening scope of local churches. At some point that gifting will carry that person into an industry where they may, for a time, bless an entire nation through God's blessing on their lives in music. Do we look down on the ones who come and go through an "industry" because it suits our need to criticize? Or do we disdain them because it wasn't us? Are there some that have tainted motives? Do we have tainted motives? I think we all know that there will always be something of a mixture in anything we seek to do that is virtuous. But as we surrender to God, He is faithful and just to work on our hearts in it all.

And while we will do well to surrender our hearts to his cleansing, purifying work of the Holy Spirit, why don't we also trust that He will do His work in the hearts of those others we are concerned about, who happen to be the current artists, worship leaders and songwriters of "modern worship"?

Perhaps the challenge is all of ours then, to be open hearts instead of pointing fingers.

In Christ,

Kim Anthony Gentes

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Reader Comments (25)

There's a lot to digest here, Kim...and, in my opinion, it comes down to what I've been saying for years: Local solutions for local situations. The longer I have served in local church ministry, the more I'm convinced that each church has their "own song"...but many, if not most, decide to take an easier road by buying "product" that crosses their path. From worship music to congregational vision, leadership can be seduced by "success" "over there" and think that it is exactly reproducible "over here." I believe that the way that those "over there" got to that "success" is by serving their congregation where the congregation's and community's needs were.
It is a little like much theory. The "style rules" are only apparent after the fact, and...in my opinion, by the time the rules are codified, the culture has moved on in any event.
Thanks for your writing. I hope it helps others to think as much as it did for me.

May 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVern Sanders

Very good point Vern. You brought out the exact part that needs to be highlighted more- local service in local churches. thanks for pointing that out more clearly.

Kim

May 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Kim,

I've think you've got some great things to say here.

In my own quest of worship - in my personal, one on one time - I have noticed that the newer music has left me a little "wanting." I have been trying to find out why that is (am I becoming an old man who has become too old for the modern contemporary worship of this day and age?).

I have noticed that in the early years of the Vineyard, there was a tendency more toward intimacy in the songs. In many ways they were simpler in structure - both in words and in melody - to draw a person's heart more in prayer and intimacy with our Heavenly Father in this moment.

That is why I think some of the Chris Tomlin stuff rocketed like it did (and why I also find it "easier" to enter into a place of worship and prayer in my heart, as I participate with it). Of course, there are several other artists today, who do this for me as well ... but in the general whole of Christian recorded music on the air, I find there is this place of disconnect in intimacy.

I've been praying God for new songs that can capture this heart again for me. For I remember - and I realize I am dating myself here - during those early Vineyard years we saw the Holy Spirit move so powerfully as we allowed these songs to not be at the forefront, but bring our Heavenly Father in the forefront of our intimacy moments in the service.

Of course, I am also trying to make sure that I am not trying to re-live "the good old days" ... but I'm trying to honestly evaluate what it was that brought our services to such a place of swimming in God's presence and seeing God do wonders in our midst.

It's not that the other songs of today aren't good. But personally, I would categorize them more as praise - and the high praises of our lips. Praise is wonderful ... but my goal as I'm ministering His Word or in worship, is to draw more to this place of intimacy with the Father. (Entering His courts with praise ... but ultimately going to the Holy of Holies place of intimacy before the Father.) And I don't know if we (maybe I should say "I" here, if no one else is sensing this ... which, is why I began this by calling it "my quest") are doing that as well today.

Then again, maybe what I'm feeling is the normal spiritual hunger for wanting even more of Him and more of His Kingdom presence and work in my life.

My two cents.

May 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTom Schermitzler

Tom,

very well articulated. I agree with what you have said. We definitely have seen a "drawing away" from songs that just intend on intimate communication between us and the Father. I think there is generally more of it than before that broke open in the 80's, but it has waned in content of new material. I think partly it is not as clear since many churches hold on to songs that were brought forward in the 80s and 90's that contained more of that.. but as new music pervades, the percentage continues to decline..

again, good points.. thanks for making them..

Kim

May 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Thanks for your article Kim and to all that have posted comments in response. I would like to share some of my testimony and appologise if this is not the forum for doing so, but it does directly relate to your article and the follow up replies.

At 50 I'm getting a bit long in the tooth now, but throughout my Christian journey music/worship/praise have had different effects on me. As a child I found traditional hymns could rouse and excite me, anthemic hymns like 'Onward Christian Soldiers' and 'Stand up, Stand Up For Jesus' would engage me, and others like 'Dear Lord And father Of Mankind' would reach/touch me in a different way. As a teen I fell away from the church being more in tune with 'pop' culture and rock music, of which there was nothing even remotely similar in any of the churches I attended.

That was an age when 'Holy Ghost' was used almost exclusively. Ghost has negative connotations, whereas Spirit has eternal, living implications. I never heard it preached that Jesus is alive, and certainly never that we could come into God's presence and have a personal relationship with our Saviour. This resulted in me seeking true meaning in life elsewhere, I knew I was an incomplete being in need of God in my life. I had no problems believing in God the creator and in Jesus our Saviour, the virgin birth or the resurection. But it seemd to me that the established church had lost it's way and was only of historical relevance. I needed something to be 'in tune' with and the 'Church' didn't seem to fit the bill.

I researched other world religions, even the occult, eventually I became a 'Mormon', but that's a whole diffent chapter in my testimony that's not really relevant to this thread so I'll leave most of it out and only mention the reason why I fell for their lies. They were essentially good people, their churches were warm and welcoming, they talked about angels and personal revelations 'today'. I guess I was 'low level brainwashed' by months of study, and fellowship with them. A process of encouragement, suggestion, and reinforcement leading to heightened anticipation and expectation, when the time comes to ask of God if this is the truth, your mind creates some kind of emotional experience that you take to be your own personal revelation. From then on you can only believe and be obedient.

I broke free from them within a year but remained in spiritual and emotional bondage to the lies for about 10 years, believing that I had no future after this life because I was condemned to eternal hell for turning my back on the 'truth' and therefore had committed the 'unforgiveable sin' of 'blasphemy of the spirit'.

Through an encounter with a street evangelist, my eyes were opened to the real truth and soon after I was delivered from the bondage 'Mormonism' and gave my life to Christ. The church I attended was a modern structure, not like a traditional church and there were a lot of younger people in the congretation. For the first time I heard and experienced what was then modern and charismatic worship. These songs and choruses of 30 or so years ago were a revelation in themselves and for the first time I was open to the Spirit and could experience some kind of 'rapture' that was communion with the Holy Spirit. Worship took on a whole new dimension, and whilst the occasional hymn that was a childhood favourite could still touch me, it was the modern songs and choruses that would uplift me and minister to me. I got used to the songs of the day, developing almost a resentment of the old hymns as they seemed only to interrupt worship and would not lift me to a higher level like the new songs would.

Working within youth ministry only confirmed for me the need for church music to move with the times and continually update, otherwise outreach to younger generations was severely hampered. In my experience that still stands true today.

When the next wave of contemporary worship started to appear I didn't immediately warm to it, preferring the familliarity of the first wave songs. I found them lacking in scriptural content but worse was that they didn't seem very sacred, there seemed no sense of holiness or reverence to them. However after experiencing them in a different worship format to the traditional 'hymn sandwich' i.e. in periods of sustained worship, they opened up a new dimension in worship for me.

On to the present, I'm now a member of 2 churches, my local eccumenical (multi denominational community church) and a new non denominational church, which meet in the afternoon. I am part of the worship team for both, and each is very different. My local church maintains a more traditional 'hymn sandwich' approach and are moving away from lively worship towards more traditional styles. That's not to say that they're ditching their song books in favour of a return to hymn books, rather that they carefully select from the new material that which is simmilar to older styles of praise. There is a variety which incorporates styles such as Taize, Iona, vocal (choir like arrangements) Wesley, Getty, and Townend. Whilst I admit that I enjoy some singing in all these styles (I play guitar too but not to all and find that playing guitar can compromise my singing), they do not really hit the spot when it comes to becoming emotionally and spiritually charged in worship, but for many, it's just the ticket.

My second church open in prayer and follow with a prolonged period of Hillsongs style worship which leads naturally into prayer, by which time we are all uplifted and open to the Spirit, ready for the word and the message. In this group I concentrate on guitar and find my singing compromises my guitar playing. I find this style much more to my liking despite being 50.

Interestingly, whilst I love the worship experience in the second church, it has a very definite feel good factor, in the first church whilst the worship doesn't connect in the same way it is here that I am more often moved to tears.

In summary I guess, as we say in England, 'it's horses for courses'. Meaning each to their own. We are blessed with a rich diversity of music in Christian worship, all styles are capable of ministering to the needs of different people, and each Christian will probably gravitate towards a fellowship whose style and choice of music hit's the spot for them.

Our children are the church of tomorrow and we need encompass and embrace the music that speaks to them or risk losing them. There will always be detractors, but argument does not change relevance and we need to be relevant to the young or risk becoming irrelevant.

May God continue to bless you as you keep up the good work

June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob Morley

Rob,

thanks for your sharing your story. Your summary was very apt- "each to their own".. that is a great point that I think your personal testimony attests to.

thanks again
Kim

June 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

In our own setting, churches around our place tend to compete in using the latest music much like people wearing the latest fashion apparels, or owning a unit of the most sophisticated electronic hand gadgets (cellphones, MP’s, i-pods, etc.) there is in the market today. Music teams in most churches I have observed have compromised their roles as ushers of God’s presence for the sake of not being identified as outdated in their music style yet to the detriment of the local church, in general.

I agree one hundred percent with all your conclusions that the local need of the congregation must be placed over and above the tempting short-sighted and selfish objective of the worship team to be in line with the fad. There is nothing wrong against these new songs being introduced in the local church although careful selection and spiritual discernment must still be upheld especially for their theological soundness. I, for one, find from time to time some latest songs that I feel can effectively draw people to worship the Lord. What I really find wrong is the one that I just mentioned, the tendency of the music team to use the latest music for improper motivations. Whenever I discern this negative attitude in a music team, I knew that that is the reason why the presence of God did not manifest after a song service and people (not only me as one sounding so critical) did not really get a taste of genuine worship experience but rather a kind of shallow worldly entertainment that never witnessed blessing to the heart.
In summary, I must infer that if the team finds a new song, not for its modernity and popularity among the circles of other local churches, but for its being fitted to meet the need and drive the revelations of God for the local assembly, then I think the motivation would be just right. In the same way, it would be as wrong as to use older songs if the motivation is based only on judgmental notions and biases against newer forms of music genre’ and if it is a total disregard to the present and most fitting need of the local church more so if it evades the terms of worship expression of the younger generation.

June 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMat del Rosario

Matt,

I very much appreciate that you would comment and leave your thoughts. The idea of "gadgetry" and musical modernism being a problematic focus is a good honest critique that must be considered, as well as the reverse element (which you also mentioned). Thanks for joining in with your voice.

Kim

June 26, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

This is a great post & comment string. Thanks for the effort in writing and responding.

My thought on this today is probably a bit simplistic. I'm thinking that in almost any era of the church there have been expressions of worship that were sincere at their core, but had a corrupt 'slippery slope' on their backside. The path to idolatry is -- and has always been -- just a few tiny steps away from sincere, God-centered worship. That's why the second commandment is what it is. I'm not quick to cast judgement on what's happening around the newest expressions of worship coming out of the church; if there IS a core of sincere, God- honoring worship, the danger of corruption is going to be shoulder-to-shoulder with it. We are humans and this is our greatest struggle: keeping God at the center of our adoration, and everything else NOT there.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim Bontrager

Very, very well said Kim! Thanks for your note.

kg

September 19, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Good insights! Worship must come from who and what we are on the inside! Music is always and expression of the true heart of the man from whom it issues. When the writer is in intimate dynamic fellowship with our glorious Lord, his heart will be filled with praise and worship which will come out in his music. The form or style, the traditional or contemporary nature is of little import. When the corporate body is responsive to the Holy Spirit and in fellowship with the Lord of Glory, the worship will be glorious because of His presence. The individual as well as the local assembly will sense music that was an immitation of the real and which did not come from a heart of worship...no matter what else may have been the motive. That music will soon die and will not stand the test of time.

We should guard against our own tendancies to regard the music stype that we prefer to be superior. We should give each other grace by encouraging the sharing of godly music of all styles...music that we all sense comes from the heart of God and of the true worshippers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. God is still seeking true worshippers. Those who worshipped the Lord with the hymns of Charles Wesley were not inferior or superior to Chris Tomlin's works. I think that we need to guard against any spirit like the Corinthian attitude of "our group" or "movement" that separates us from other sincere worshippers of Christ who may employ a flavor of music that differs from that which we employ. Let's keep our focus on loving Him and all that belong to Him.

Thanks for keeping us thinking!

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLes Young

Very well said Les... thank you for that !

April 6, 2010 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

I am glad I found this article as it has articulated and put into perspective what has been happening over the years and how the subject of music in Church is still a hot topic for debate.
Christian music is very much alive, it involves the senses and the mind and constantly challenges every individuals beliefs and emotions, at best it helps us to tell God just exactly what we know of Him and where we are in relation to Him. Music can have just as much impact as a sermon and needs to be treated as if it was a live conversation with God, with us seeking to find the most articulate, honest and enjoyable way to express ourselves and what we believe, in song.

One subject I would like to hear your opinion on, that I think has a huge impact on Church music and the congregation, is the subject of presenting a song in a Key most suited for the majority of the congregation.

I have a large range in my voice and I love to sing but I have continually note how disconnected the music leaders become with the congregation when they consistenly sing songs with notes an octave above middle C. If the music leaders want the majority of their congregation to sing with them, why don't they recognise that people want to be able to sing a song all the way through. Have you ever had to stop singing because it the song was out of your range and how did that make you feel?

I have heard that the trend these days is for more band solo music is because congregations prefer to sit back and listen to great singers and keep silent themselves while they are entertained. However I have had a great response in the number of people participating in song by bringing most Hymns and songs down a few Keys. If I stop singing, the singing doesn't stop and the sound is bigger and the whole group connects because it is comfortable with the music and comfortable enough to join in because it suits the majorities range. The music is inclusive and the congregation join in. How do you feel when you look out into the isles and see everyone singing?

I will say however there are times and places for your most gifted singers to shine in their range as they should, but at the moment everything seems to be played to support the only the best of singers.

I would love to see more inclusive sheet music as the next revolution in Christian music; Music for the majority not the minority. There is no excuses as websites and programs such as Sibelius can help to change Keys with little effort now. Imagine everyone discovering they love singing!!!!

Would love to hear your constructive thoughts.

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTanya Bergmeier

What a fabulous and thought-provoking thread. I have thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating conversation, and thought I'd pitch in my two-cents worth as well, but maybe from a slightly different angle.

I've been a musician all my life, and have spent the last 25 years studying the Scriptures - especially the topic of worship and how music fits into the expression of our passion and love for our King of Kings. Over the last 20 years as pastors/worship leader/missionaries, my wife and I have seen "all sorts", as we've experienced British, American, and Mexican church culture. It's been fascinating to encounter the broad cultural (and musical) differences - and we enjoy them all - , while observing that spiritually, we all seem to face the same spiritual issues - the battle with the eternal conflict between self-centeredness and total surrender to the will of God.

Nowhere is this battle more evident than in our worship. I've come to the conclusion that real "spiritual warfare" is the fight to enter the manifest presence of God - the Shekinah glory of God that dwells between the wings of the cherubim on the mercy seat over the Ark of the Covenant that was first housed in the Holy of Holies of Moses' Tabernacle (That place is now within each of us as New Testament believers, as *we* are the temple of the Holy Spirit). The Old Testament lays out how to enter this place as a pattern of worship for the priests of Jehovah. As a kingdom of royal priests, the principles remain the same in our modern worship, as we purpose to offer ourselves living sacrifices to God, holy and acceptable to Him, which Paul said was our "spiritual worship" in Romans 12 (in several translations). Through our musical expression, we still enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. We can still offer the desires of our flesh on the altar of burnt offering, stop at the brazen laver and wash ourselves in the water of His Word, enter the Holy place to eat from the Bread of Life, trim the "wicks" of our carnal nature, refill ourselves with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and offer the incense of prayer and worship at the golden altar. That done, through our great High Priest, we can enter boldly before the throne of grace and there encounter His mercy and His grace in our time of need.

But - as has always been the case - because of the tremendous victory, love, healing, forgiveness, peace, authority and power that we find in His manifest presence, there will be an all out war over our worship. We face a very real enemy that is totally defeated in our lives when we encounter the presence of Jesus. All of us - musicians or not - will battle against spiritual forces that want to see us remain in the "outer court" (2 Cor. 10:5). Our own Adamic nature that wants to have its own way, take the easy road, and exalt itself, must die before we can really experience the resurrection life of our Savior.

Worship "in spirit and in truth" is really not about making good music. Perhaps one of the greatest quotes I've ever heard was, "If God wanted good music, He'd turn on the radio and get a lot better than I could ever offer Him." Having said that, He *does* want the very best I have to offer, and if He's graced me with musical talent, my offering to Him will be the most excellent I can give. What He's after is our heart, and corporately, the entire congregation is the "worship team". One of the distractions that I see hindering many congregations from experiencing the full presence of God is the expectation on the part of the congregation that the worship team must provide the atmosphere they need to worship. Just as the people in Moses' day turned to Aaron (later to become the priesthood!) to build them an idol while Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to hear from God, we too can begin to idolize our worship teams and rely on them to "climb the mountain" for us. The flip side of that is that we, as worship leaders, can be willing to provide that for the people, actually believing that it is our ordained role to do so. In other words, we can develop an "us and them" mentality concerning the "leaders" and the "followers", when - as I understand it - we are *all* a royal priesthood. Our combined worship experience will only be as high as our congregational offering. While God certainly uses the musicians and their skill as a means to open us to His presence, it's not the music that opens the heavens and brings His blessing, but the unity of purpose. In that regard, it's critical that the music we use is music that everyone can participate in. Thanks Tanya for commenting on the need to transpose our music into reasonable ranges. Other things we might consider along the way is volume and musical simplicity. In some of the more charismatic circles we've encountered, we've heard stuff so loud or technically challenging that it's very hard for the congregant to "enter in". My personal goal as a worship leader is to facilitate the gathering of the congregation so that both individually and corporately, we are all standing as priests before Him, offering ourselves as living sacrifices with one voice.

But, as I mentioned earlier, there will be snares to avoid along the way.

One of the traps we can easily fall into is the same trap that snared the priesthood of Ezekiel's day. This is the one that's been addressed throughout this thread, and it involves the compromise of true worship to please the people. The mistake the priests made in Ezekiel 44:10 was to "stray from Me after their idols". The result was that God still allowed them to minister at the gates of the temple and offer the burnt offering (vs. 11), but they were not allowed to draw near to the sacred and holy things of God (vs. 13). We've experienced churches and worship teams that have adopted an attitude that seems to say, "we must provide a contemporary musical style that people will like so we can attract more people to the church." This is not an indictment against any musical style. As Vern, Rob, Les and others have pointed out, the style of music is irrelevant and any style can be used as heartfelt worship. But when the focus is on pleasing people to stimulate church growth or to provide a marketable product, we may find ourselves separated from the most holy things of God. Maybe this is the same kind of thing Mat was referring to when he spoke of the worship team trying to line up "with the fad".

I was also particularly impacted by Kim's comment that to judge modern worship as corrupt "lays on the heads of every Christian, musician and worshiper a judgement that really only applies to a very, very small minority of hurting people who are looking inappropriately to follow a misguided sense of ministry by relying on a worship industry to make them famous as they "serve God"." This illustrates another of the stumbling blocks we might encounter.

While it's certainly true that only a small minority are relying on the commercial worship industry and the "I want to be a star for Jesus" mentality is misguided, I'm not sure that I agree that this applies to only a very small minority in the church. In our 20+ years of full time ministry, we've discovered that it is a fundamental human need to feel valuable. While the price that Jesus paid for us at Calvary is the thing that establishes our true worth, we find that - though we agree in our heads - in our hearts, most of us still tend to rely fairly heavily on the affirmation of others for our sense of value. Even when we've come to the place that we no longer rely on the affirmation of people, we still tend to believe that we are valuable to God for what we are doing for Him (By the way, honestly considering the question, "If I was paralyzed in an accident and could suddenly do nothing more for God, how valuable would I be?" is enough to reveal how much of that is still there). Among musicians (and speaking as one), our ability to play well and to use our talent to help others enter into God's presence can provide us with a sense of value that might be just as misguided as those who are seeking it through commercial enterprises. And, if we're gut-level honest, it can easily become an internal source of pride, even if we can mask it outwardly. And God Himself resists the proud (Job 22:29; Ps. 138:6; Prov. 3:34; Matt. 23:12; 1 Pet. 5:5). How will we experience the manifest presence of God if He is resisting us?

And seeking our value in our abilities rather than in the grace of Christ alone doesn't just affect worship leaders, but pastors, counselors, teachers, evangelists, and in reality, all of us. Is it really a bad thing to question our own motives periodically? The question "Has "Modern Worship" Become Corrupt?" is really a question of "Has *My* Worship Become Corrupt?" Am I worshiping God for what I get out of it or for who He is? Have I been giving God my very best, or have I been satisfied with offering Him someone else's offering? Or, as a leader, have I been seeking to profit from my position? (I'm not talking about receiving an income here, because I believe in salaried musicians in the church, but what I'm talking about is whether I'm doing this because it's a way to make a living playing music.)

One of the other things we might be falling victim to in the modern Christian "worship industry" is the same thing that was happening in Jesus' time when He turned over the table of the money changers. The priesthood of His day was selling sacrificial animals to the "common people". The people bought their sacrifices at the temple because it was easier for them than it would have been for them to bring their animals with them on their journey into Jerusalem. Thus, they weren't really making the sacrifice of bringing their own personal best. The priesthood profited because they were making money and selling inferior sacrifices at exorbitant prices. Could we, as New Testament believers unwittingly be doing the same with our modern worship music (or banners and flags, or teaching series', or WWJD bracelets, or other Christian paraphenalia)? Could some of us be buying someone else's sacrifice and offering it because it's easier to offer than it would be to bring our own personal sacrifice of praise (though it be only a "joyful noise")? Or, could those who are offering their own musical sacrifices also be commercializing them (thus making them inferior) and marketing them to others at a profit?

Some of these are hard questions, but I think we'll need to ask them at some point if we want to really be a church without spot or wrinkle. They are questions I have continued to ask myself over the years, and I must say that my own internal responses to those questions have seldom been comfortable. None of this is meant to criticize or condemn, we're all at different levels and have differing revelation. That's as it should be. I only hope to develop in my own life the heart of a worshiper in Spirit and in truth, and to exhort others to seek the same.

Enough rambling. If this wasn't the place to post this, please forgive me, but it was very inspirational and thought provoking to read what others have to say on this most important of topics. Thank you all for your input and devotion.

May the richest blessing of our Matchless Lord be your double portion.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave Alei

Thanks Dave for your wonderful contribution. This was certainly the place to post! Thanks for that. I think you not only articulated your points well, they also resonate with many of us. You also went sharply to the point of the matter on a personal level -- "is my worship corrupt". This is where we all need to make sure our hearts are right before God. Great point. Again, thanks for the valuable added thoughts.

Kim

April 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Thanks for the stirring aritcle that seems to have open the hearts to many good worship leaders. I have a rule about worship music that I listen to; If I can't understand the words that are being sung, I don't listen. If the production process or mixing cuts out the message then what good have they done,
after all the message is what you're wanting to get out. If a writer inspired by the love of God, writes the message down, it should be heard. All of our goals should be to increase the kingdom of God. Having been on the road traveling for several years and then settling into a music ministy, the ministry should not change. It's not our function to put a tune in someone's head but to present the word and
the worship to their hearts. That comes with good music, good song but mostly from individuals who have spent time getting close to God themselves. One can only lead if he know the direction himself
and knows, if he's not sure which way to go, to yeild to God's spirit for the rest, for He always knows.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDon Greene

Great site great articles. Let me point out something that I continue to read (not from Kim) but from others and other people that I hear from. The spirit of God, does not manifest itself in a perceived building or room. God is not easier found in a church than a McDonalds. We have to remember that we are now the temple of God, the Holy Spirit resides in us, not a building. If people do not connect with God during a worship service, it's not the music, it's the person. As worship leaders we like to use cliche phrases such and "come into our presence", "we invite your presence here" as if God is vampire and can't come into our worship service unless invited. We almost act as if the Holy Spirit for some reason leaves us as soon as we walk into a "Church" and can only be welcomed back into the church if we sing the write song, say the write words and then get goosebumps.

Bologne. We are the temple of God. God requires no building, no paticular style, no paticular esoteric chant to be welcomed into our lives. He is in our lives if we claim he is lord and savior or our lives.

If YOU can not connect to God during a worship service, the first person I would be looking at is yourself and what you expect out of a worship service. Maybe your personal theology of worship needs some recalculations. I gave up trying to evoke "Worship" in people. When I did, there was freedom, if people want to join me they can, if they don't. Sorry.

I don't mean to take a hard nose approach to it, but God has given us talents, and abilities. I'm going to use what God gave me. If you don't like it, find another church that suits your needs or seriously consider what you think Worship truly is.

Kim, love the articles. many truths being spoken.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Don- great point to us--l "One can only lead if he know the direction himself ". It's a powerful truth, but one we need reminding of. thanks!

Tim- thanks for speaking the truth in love. I love this part - "If YOU can not connect to God during a worship service, the first person I would be looking at is yourself". So much of our consumer culture has us looking to get our "fix" from what others can do for us. Yet, the gospel message calls us to examine our hearts, not accuse our brothers and sisters when we aren't at the place we should be. Thanks for your reminder!

March 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Wow, there are a lot of long comments on here! I didn't have time to read them.
I guess my contribution is to say this: we all have to stand before God to give an account for our stewardship of the giftings and callings He entrusted to us. We should all examine ourselves daily...and the result of that examination is what I think Paul meant when he said, "I die daily." I am certainly not called to judge people's motives and their heart. Jesus said to let the wheat and tares grow up together, and it will be sorted out in the end. It is said that at the time of harvest that wheat can be distinguished from tares because the weightiness of the fruit cause it to "bow down", while the tares remain upright. I pray for the Western church, that we would willingly humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that when the moment comes when we stand before Him to give an account for the deeds done in the flesh, we will hear "Well done, my good and faithful servant." That's what my heart longs to hear.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeg

I have one question regarding worship leaders of today's age and those in the day's of Wesley/Keith Green/Fanny Crosby.I have read their songs/hyms and listened to few of Keith.What i found in them a tremendous devotion to Jesus Christ which has blessed people and send people to mission field.In their song what i found the power of Holy spirit to be moving and moreover i know Keith has offered all his songs and allowed people to participate for free in their concerts , All givings by the people were voluntarily. He openly said whoever can afford can pay for the Cassetes accordinly to their capability and whosoever cannot its free.Welsey ,Crosby and other never asked money for their song.But today's song what i found i have to pay for it and then i can listen.I have one question did Jesus Christ asked us money to save us.If we really know what hell is and what Jesus did for us then we will never try to make money from selling CD's and this is compulsion that one need to pay else don't listen.One thing we have to remember that God work's cannot be done by money but it needs the power of Holy Spirit.Today's modern song have so much music that one cannot concentrate on God but the music takes away our mind and we start shaking our head and legs and other body parts too move and at the end of the song one does not what he has sang.One thing we should remember music was originally from Lucifer and he can appear as the angel of Light and deceive people through music.However my comments dosen't apply to all musics but to certain music of these days which are not inspired by Holy Spirit.
On the other hand asking money for music/song is not biblical.Today's music is not greater than Jesus or any of the apostles teaching.Look at Paul and Silas when they were praising God in jail there was no music played.God is never impressed with music what he requires is One who is willing to worship in Spirit and truth and true worship is Living like Jesus lived.Many artists defend themselves by quoting some Bible verses like Jesus said a worker is worthy of His wage and one who preaches gospel they should live by it and en elder should be paid well for His teaching/preaching.
What i want to say here is yes Jesus and Paul said but they didn't said we should ask money.
Paul himself never asked money rather he was working as a tent maker.What about Jesus did anyone found Jesus asking money for His sermon.No they never asked a single cents from any one.Whoever gave voluntarily they received. but they never asked money from anyone for themselves.However Paul asked to make collections of money but those money were used to help poor people and not themselves.
If God has called one to preach or teach or worship He will move people to provide one's need.I am personal witness to people who has served God whole heartely but they ask nothing from anyone.But God has met all their needs.What they wanted was to be Like Jesus and serve people just as Jesus said "The son of man has come not be served but to serve".
Last thing i want to say today's christian music has become business.Imagine what if God took away the voice of singer or talent of the mucisian. They are no where.

Please go through this site and let modern singers learn from them

www.scripturesongs.net
http://www.cfcindia.com
http://www.sermonindex.net/

May God open our eyes and let us not deceive ourselves.
May God bless

November 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAjay

My basic problem with modern worship is more about substance or the lack of it. The emphasis on performance and image is predominant. My own experiences with modern worship era is a fixation with hairstyles, clothing and external image projection. Satan who is the embodiment of worship that becomes distorted, who has been around for more centuries and parades as a roaring lion is more wise then we are in terms of deceit. The danger in modern worship is Satan removing the worship of the Lord to the glory of man. We are getting away from worship from the heart in humility to a holy and loving God who will not share his glory with anyone or anything. Praise and worship now is a career rather than a lfestyle. My latest observation has been of "When I survey the wondrous Cross" and seeing the credits below the lyrics. I was horrified to see that there are now 2 authors of this hymn. The original hymn writer now has a new co-writer because he has added a simple chorus at the end of the hymn. No offence to that individual but the song was written solely by Isaac Watts irrespective of music publishing rights realised. When we worship the emphasis is about Jesus and we must become almost invisible. That is where the power is realised despite our humanity. When we view our musicianship and excellent vocals as worship we are entering strange fire territory. God is a holy God and although we enter his presence with boldness but the only thing that facilitates that is the blood of Jesus who denied himself the position that was rightfully his. The modern worship is in danger of creating that strange fire such as the sons of Aaron. Music and musicianship is a mere tool to enter the presence of God.
I do however offer a caveat and realise that God is the creator therefore he cherishes our creativity and I believe that when he receives the ultimate glory with no glory coming to us and all the glory going to Jesus, he will raise us and bless our worship. Worship is short for Worth Ship. It is all about who we place our Worth in. Judgement starts at the house of God and when we have our hearts truly directing our hearts to God then we tap into the reality of God.
I actually look forward to the day when maybe once in a while I see the band playing at the church and the whole congregation directing our worship completely to Jesus. That is my challenge to the church. We are supposed to be counter cultural and I look forward to the day when our worship is counter cultural where we become small and he becomes bigger.

April 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

I also meant to say I would like to see the band once in a while playing at the 'back' of the church.

April 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

During worship, I frequently look around to see who is singing. We have a home church, but we like to visit other churches in our area to see what's happening and to visit friends' churches. It provides a rich cross-section of messages and worship. But one thing, with rare exceptions, is obvious:

The worship in almost all cases is only being sung by about a third of the congregation, few of the worshippers being men. Why is that? My own feeling is that it's due to the character of the music itself, not to its lack of spirituality. I think that modern worship songs, with their length and complexity, are not written for worshipping by non-musicians. They are created for musicians. They are often written in keys that non-singers cannot reach (as mentioned by another commenter), which means the men are hard put to sing them. They are very long, and their melodies, with multiple choruses, etc., are not easy to learn by worshippers who don't listen to these songs on their car radios, iPods, or phones. Often, the worship leaders drone on, much longer than the audience wants to. Lastly, the volume of the modern polished rock-band type of worship, amplified to sometimes painful, but always too-loud levels, makes it impossible for a worshipper in the audience to even hear himself; this keeps many of the non-singers, who are not confident of their voices, from singing. (On the subject of sound, I've also noted that the guys in the sound booth(s) like their music LOUD, which adds to the problem. Maybe their hearing has been damaged?)

And, when a song is sung such as an old hymn, or especially one of the non-complicated songs (which some folks call "choruses") from the 70's and the 80's, I've noticed that the volume from the audience increases. It indicates that people will sing songs they can remember, songs they've heard often enough to learn, and songs with predictable melodies and lyrics that actually fit the cadence and musical phrasing.

This is not as spiritual a comment as most others, but difficulty in singing worship songs can easily get in the way of our freeing ourselves to worship, especially when the music and its volume is irritating.

I was a worship leader in four churches, before the songs became long, complex, and commercial. I wasn't that great a musician, but we never had a problem with audiences singing, including the men.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBill

Current in our leading, (following the Holy Spirit prayerfully).
Current in our calling, (getting close to God in a personal walk and keeping that fresh, understanding daily ministry needs).
current in our following,(God will then help in act growth, numbers will increase)
we remain current in our growing, (Don't manipulate or try to attract culturally without God's direction, Don't be an ear tickler, trying to confirm to the world, but provide truth in Worship emphasis on loving God, and our neighbors parishners as ourselves.

March 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve harrison

Very well said Kim! Thanks!

March 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTim Smith

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