A couple of weeks ago my friend Laura Mick posted a “Ponder Anew” blog by Jonathan Aigner criticizing modern church worship (sometimes called faith) music and bands. I found it, as I commented then, a bit snarky. But I ignored my feelings and moved on. Or so I thought. It’s been eating at me ever since. I should have known better. I should’ve written about it and gotten it out of my system. So here goes:
You’re entitled to your opinion about church worship music. I’m entitled to disagree. I took umbrage to your comments on behalf of my church’s praise band. They are not a cover band performing commercial worship songs for the listening pleasure of our congregation. Their music is their ministry. We join them in worship every Sunday. They stand on sacred ground and sing praises to our heavenly Father. We join them with enthusiasm, clapping, and an occasional “wahoo!”
Yes, it’s emotional and Jesusy. Should our worship and praise of our Holy Father not be emotional? I’m reminded of The Bookshop Around the Corner’s Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail” when she tells Big Box Bookstore’s Joe Fox: “Whatever else anything is, it ought to be personal.” Worship should be personal. This modern, non-traditional form of worship has allowed me to form a closer relationship with my Father. Much closer than I experienced during traditional services with traditional hymns as a child.
It works for me. That’s the critical issue. It works for me. It’s not working for you, Jonathan. I understand that. But don’t rain on my parade or the parade of all those other Christians who find their way to a church on Sunday morning, rise to their feet to the sound of the electric guitars, drums, trumpet, and piano, and sing their hearts out.
You sound an awful lot like David’s wife Michal in 2 Samuel 6:14-22:
“David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul, watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.”
Skip to verse 20: “When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, ‘How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!’”
“David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me to rule over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.’”
We sing, we dance, we leap for joy, because that is how we choose to worship. I’m a terrible singer. I love the old hymns. That doesn’t keep me from opening my mouth and praising the Lord by singing songs written by faithful Christian singers/songwriters like Rich Mullins, the father of faith music, or Chris Tomlin or Todd Agnew, or David Crowder or Aaron Shust or Michael Smith.
I used to chuckle condescendingly when I came across the TV broadcasts of church services with people standing, swaying, their hands in the air, tears trickling down their faces. It seemed corny. Hokey. Not anymore. That’s me on Sunday morning. That’s the gift my church has given me. The ability to raise my hands to my Father through song and be brought to tears by the sheer joy of knowing His grace covers me, broken down, messed up, me. Our worship leader once described it as a child raising her hand to her daddy. It’s personal.
Lately it seems as if there are a slew of books and blogs telling us how we ought to do these things. I suppose it should come as no surprise that worship has followed in the way of health and exercise or health and diet or love and marriage. Do this and you’ll be healthy. Do this and you’ll lose weight. Do this and you and your husband will stop fighting.
Pray this way and you’ll have an authentic prayer relationship with God. Seriously? Isn’t it true that anytime you speak to God from your heart, it’s authentic? You don’t need a self-help book for prayer. As Nike says. Just do it.
Isn’t it true that any time you stand and sing from the heart—whether you use a hymnal or peek at a screen on the wall—you’re worshipping from the heart?
As long as the music and the message are scripturally sound, I accept different styles of worship. Build those people up. Build those faith bands up. Don’t tear them down. There’s enough non-Christians doing that. We don’t need Christians to critique each other in a ponderous one-up-man-ship on the best way to worship. The important thing is that people are worshiping and developing a closer walk with Christ. Find the worship service that works for you. Go. Worship. That’s what’s important.
Feel free to chime in about your favorite style of worship in the comments below. What’s your favorite worship song? Do you prefer hymns? Which ones?
Here’s a link to one of my favorites. Creed by Rich Mullins. It’s an old video. He passed away several years ago.
Ponder Anew blog by Jonathan Aigner
Well said Kelly, well said. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for years of leading the way in song and worship.
Well said dear friend. As usual, your heart and words are filled with grace, character, but most of all love!
Thank you Kelly.
Thanks, Laura. I do tend to have an opinion about things. LOL
Very well said! I love old hymns and sometimes I find myself listening to them on YouTube. My churches worship style is full out Jesus freak and I wouldn’t have it any other way! We dance like David danced, we sing, we bow at the alter and sometimes are on our faces before our Lord and Savior if our circumstances bring us there, It is personal, it is powerful and many are chains are broken during our extended worship time.
I love it, Tracie! I’m sure God does too!
Oh Kelly, I just love what you wrote! Worship is very personal even though we do it in a corporate worship setting. That’s the way it will be when we are in Heaven singing out in joy to our Almighty God and King! My church has its roots in the Mennonite church so we do a combination of hymns and praise and worship songs. To me, I get the best of both worlds because I love the old hymns and the new worship songs have strong Biblical bases (some have actual phrases from the Bible). My favorite hymn is tie between two (both make me teary when I sing them) It is Well With My Soul and Come Thou Font. My favorite praise and worship song is In Christ Alone…such unbelieveable joy I feel when singing it!
I love In Christ Alone. It is Well with My Soul is so beautiful. There are so many old hymns that I adore. I wish we would occasionally include them in the modern service. How Great Thou Art is one of them. I Surrender All is another. When I was a kid we sang Onward Christian Soldiers a lot. I still remember the words!
I have been a member of the Lutheran Church all of my life (60 years) and I love our liturgical service. However, I know everybody doesn’t. My favorite hymns (tie) are A Might Fortress and Lift High the Cross.
That’s wonderful. My favorite is How Great Thou Art.
Yes, whatever your style, worship needs to be from the heart.
I love freedom in worship to raise my hands and sing joyfully with all my heart. I owe Him so much and worship seems to be a heartfelt way of expressing my thanksgiving and adoration.
I believe the Lord is delighted when we sincerely worship Him, no matter what the music style.
I love Rich Mullins songs. He had such a poetic soul. I was sad for us when he died, but happy for him to be in the presence of the One he loves so dearly.
Wasn’t he wonderful? Poetic soul is a perfect way to describe him. We are blessed to be able to worship as we choose. No doubt about it!
As usual, you said it perfectly. I’m a fan of the newer style of music, but I do love the old hymns too. It would be cool to have an oldie in the lineup each week for those of us who like them, and to tie us to the past too.
Although I am not a religious person, I find I agree with your thoughts above. I just found your blog after reading your article on Cure Magazine on exercising after cancer. After breast cancer, among other ailments I was diagnosed with both rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. I read your thoughts on how ‘exercising’ is very different for some of us. And it inspired me for my blog. http://carolinemfr.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-combination-diagnosis.html
Thanks for reading, Caroline. I didn’t know my article had been printed in Cure Magazine (I guess they don’t notify you.) I’m glad it was fodder for thought and for your blog. Take care and blessings in your battle to stay active!
Hi there, Kelly from across the Atlantic.
Whilst not condemning quality praise band renderings (scripturally well-founded as you say), I do wonder about the emotional side. Is church worship then to be a sort of group therapy session when everybody lets it all out? Do you have Biblical references to support that?
The David example is interesting, but shows what a single person felt he needed to do in order to respond to God’s wish. In giving only one musical style to a congregation (whether it be plainsong or 19th century mushy) does not necessarily open our minds. It might even seem to be a sort of indoctrination tool. The Buddhists’ “om” or the multiple repetition of “I believe, I believe” has a hympnotic sway and influence, but does not necessarily lead to an increased awareness.
“I will sing with the spirit and the understanding”.
Wor-ship = worth-ship.
Do we show our worthiness by singing until tears stream down from our eyes?
Is it only during Sunday service that we may show worthiness? If God is in our lives, then he is in everything we do, or think, or speak – every day.
Emotional singing sounds deep, but is probably shallow in proportion to the latter statement.
I do realise that you are not dictating to others how to worhip, and that you have found something that works for you. Strangely, Christian religion spread most in the first 1500 years of its existence, without the help of organs or praise bands in church.
Greetings in Christ, our Lord and Saviour.