Calvin Harris sang recently,'I've got love for you if you were born in the 80's'. Thanks for that Calvin, I'm a bit old for you on that basis! However, I've got news for you, for Calvin & for anyone else interested in the development of corporate worship in our churches. If you were born in the 80's you would assume singer-songwriter worship leaders with guitars & bands backing them had always been integral to church life. For todays generation, this is worship – therefore, the best kind of worship is the biggest kind, the conference, the Soul Survivor, New day, the Worship Event.This style has become the definition of worship when in fact it is only one model, & one which probably reflects our pop culture more than the scriptures.
Us charismatics, we’re probably to blame. I remember the 80's. Harris is right. His song develops....'I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's'. Was he in some of our early charismatic meetings? As a young boy, fresh out of the Salvation Army, I clearly recall the sheer terror of bulky middle aged women in flowing patterned dresses trying to envelop me in a full frontal hug - that kind of body ministry can lead to years of issues!
More positively, I also recall watching a band play & sing to Jesus rather than the congregation singing about Him to a set piano accompaniment. It was staggering, the intimacy, the freedom, the simple scripture songs, the feeling of loving & being loved......the tambourines, the meetings that went on all day....we didn't get it all right after all!
Maybe it was the culture of the 1970’s JesusPeople that struck a chord with our emerging churches as we left the strait jacket of denominationalism behind & discovered the wonder of New Testament worship & church life. The cultural style of that generation just fitted so well with our own breakaway & it came to define us. Perhaps if we're honest now, these new freedoms were stimulated as much by culture as they were by a return to the scriptures. With the passing of time, it becomes increasingly hard to say which came first. It really doesn't matter, this cultural shift was one which helped the church, a bridge into something richer, deeper, more authentic.
The 40 years which have followed have spawned a worship industry which we could never have conceived in those raw early days. We’ve somehow lost our wonder in Jesus & created pop stars.
This Pop culture worship leader style has brought us full circle & unthinkingly brings shallow unbiblical ideas into the church of Jesus. For many now, it is the main reason for joining or not joining a church, even more important than bible teaching which helps me to grow as a follower of Jesus!
We think we’re just exercising personal choice & style preference in the way we view worship. What we discover to our horror is that we have absorbed strongholds from our sinful culture which prevent us from being released into a truly worshipping people.
Al Mohler in 'He is not Silent' puts it this way -‘The unspoken, but increasingly common assumption of today’s Christian is that worship is primarily for us – to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment focussed, the worshippers are uncommitted spectators who are silently grading the performance.........taken to the n’th degree, this philosophy instills a tragic self centredness. That is, everything is judged by how it affects man. This terribly corrupts our theology.’
Mohler is right, we are the X-Factor generation of post-moderns after all. I’m blogging & preaching this because of the danger that our worship of God, our submission to Him, our expression of love & thanks to Him, has somehow become self centred, more about us than Him.
'It was acceptable in the 80's' croons Harris. Our worship style of the 80's would look hopelessly dated now, like your Nan's wallpaper. I'm not arguing that we put on our rose tints & adopt old models - the church has done that long enough over the centuries.I guess I'm suggesting that we are wise about our culture, we take what helps us, we spit out that which chokes. More than this, that we get to know the one we're worshipping afresh through the scriptures - this alone would transform us.
It all comes down to theology in the end, to what we believe. Our worship has corrupted our theology & our weak theology has corrupted our worship - the only way to avoid the need for a new break out from dry churches is to once again believe what we sing, & to sing what we believe. That was as true in the 80's as it is today.