Friday, August 31, 2007

Consumer Worship and Worship Music

[ A discussion dear to my heart, though nothing to do with business. Since in my first career I have been a practicing church musician, this post deals with issues of faith that I have worked on for decades. (Ouch!) Still no resolutions, but resolute determination to remain faithful and serve joyfully wherever worship of Jesus can be encouraged through my calling. ]

Over at In a mirror, dimly a good post about a Brent Helming worship article. For several years, the "emerging church" has been cutting the edge on Christian worship expression, music and "programming", so these issues have been tossed around within that part of the Body as well as in more traditional arenas.

Paul Hawke writes:

I was talking with a friend who described artists who paint during a worship service. They are inspired by the music, about the presence of God that they are feeling, and they paint as a way to express this. There are other churches where people wave flags and banners as a form of worship. Neither activity sits well with me and I think I have understood why.

Helming’s article talked about a “misdirected attention“, saying “in our brokenness and humanness, we can easily misplace the deep affections and emotions that music (even worship music) stirs in us. When this occurs during worship, we often end up focused on objects other than God

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Misdirected Attention: We're "not focused on God."

I do think in addition to music per se, there are other issues at work, that these guys are only slightly touching on.

These are:
  • expression is not= worship;
  • feelings is not= worship;
  • worship is a corporate act of the Body gathered in a "worship service";
  • the difference between passive and active participation.

I am amazed at the example of painting (however large or small) in a worship service. I am a composer, so this would be something like me working on writing an orchestra piece in notation, while watching a video of the Gospel of John, for instance. This is "using" God for inspiration and expression, it is not something that others can be active in together.

The act of creating is not Corporate worship; the finished art could be!

I can imagine verbal glossolalia spinning out-of-control into all
kinds of worship "acts". We could have painters, dancers, jugglers, rappers, cartoonists, godly sign-dancers, puppeteers and Gospel mimes all doing their thing(s) at once: so the rest of us can divert our attention to and fro, and enjoy their inspired expression before God -

>> if what's valuable is the believer's individual expression!

This confuses the expression idea with the individualism of our day.

And it confuses spiritual gifts, talents, and communication styles
with worship action! "Let all things be done for edification"

>> not for the benefit of my personal relationship with God. . .

The idea about the Flow of Emotions in worship has problems.

Worship is not about feelings. Worship is about an intentional
commitment to give ourselves to God and put our faith in him into
living practice. It's about rehearsing our life with him, so that all
of our lives become transformed through his Holy Spirit in us.

So we use forms of spiritual growth and worship practice in order to
nurture our faith and witness. And these can be "old forms" that have
shown proven spiritual benefit. If we only choose to use forms that
we can (easily) relate to, with immediate appeal, etc. - isn't that
expecting God to commune with us on our terms?

How small is your god
that he only reaches you through
"the deep affections and emotions
that music stirs in us" and
"the engaging melodies of our
favorite songs"?

We also confuse feelings and participation in our worship.
As Brent Helming also says: It is this type of misdirected attention that nurtures a “consumeristic worship” mindset by creating the impression that the time of worship is simply an enjoyable music event (the “show”) instead of a life giving interaction with Creator God.

True worship is a 2-way street, with times of listening, response, revelation and outward action. Some moments God speaks to us; sometimes we speak to God or to each other. This "speaking" is not always in verbal or physical expression. But if we aren't each actively involved, are we really worshiping?

If I don't pray when we are led in prayer, am I worshiping? If I don't sing when we are called to sing, am I worshiping? If however I do everything together with everyone else, just like they do, but my heart is not in it, am I worshiping? Of course not.

I would say that technically, when we listen to a teaching or a sermon,
during that we may not be worshiping either. (I'm thinking here of those "messages" that are really all about us and our needs, not so much what God has to say to us. You know you've heard a lot of these. . .) We are receiving the Word from God, so in a way we are passive, but supposedly openly receptive. We should be engaged at least spiritually, if not always emotionally or intellectually. [I get bored with talking just like the next guy. . .]

So the amount of our physical engagement can vary, but each "action" in
worship is an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and
each other. It's both/and when it comes to individual/group worship involvement.

- - - [ con't ] - - -

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