You may have read my wife’s blog about worship. I am going to throw out some of my frustrations out on the virtual table and ask you to help me make sense of it. My wife wrote that we have argued about the forms of worship, music and song vs. liturgy and so forth and we have. However lately, the conversations, arguments and our fighting, have shifted slightly and we are now talking more about the very heart of worship itself and what would be helpful for people in our context as far as how we inspire, how we instruct, how we challenge each other in the area worship. So what’s my beef with music and song as the primary vehicle of worship? Two things to begin with;

  • Pop-Culture
  • Emotions

 I, as my wife, spend lots of time in the Vineyard Movement, and both of us are very thankful for much of what we learned from that time. I was a worship leader, worship band member for years and it wasn’t all bad. I learned a lot about worship through my worship pastors both in Lancaster CA and in Boise ID. So I want to say upfront that I am not against music and song as a form or vehicle of worship, not at all but I am very skeptical as to how it is being used today and what that does to people not in the Vineyard movement specifically but just in general.. So let me start with the first “beef”. 


I turn to a certain Christian radio station from time to time and I shudder. There we can find “Top Ten Worship Song Lists”, “call in and vote your favorite worship song” and when I listen to most of the recorded feedback that people can call in to give, I shake my head. They talk about how special worship songs helped them; a special artist helped them through a rough time. My daughter who is 12 noticed one day and said “hey dad, these people are not thankful to God, they are just thankful to a song…” Now I told her I though most of them probably were thankful to God maybe just explaining that a little weird or maybe they just played a specific part of what was recorded but I had to agree a little. It sounds like it’s the music that it’s all about, not necessarily God.This became one of my biggest frustrations as a worship leader. People treated worship like it was just music. In all fairness, of course not everyone did, but quite a lot of people did. I heard things like, “I like this band better, or I didn’t like worship today, the song choice was bad, why don’t we do more up-beat songs or we do to many up beat songs, it’s too loud, it’s not loud enough, it became just too much. And, my estimation, a lot of people treated our time of worship together like a concert, not necessarily as a time of worship, and you wonder why, there is a stage at the front of the church, a very high quality band is on that stage, the light in dimmed, there are lighting, good music, that is a concert. Simply put. I couldn’t complain that people treated it like a concert because that is what we provided for them. I am also skeptical towards the “professionalism” of worship music. I am not sure that we understand what a strange message that sends when only the really good musicians and singers can be in the worship band; the less talented can lead worship for the kids or in home-group. It’s a cruel spot to try to compete with the Sunday band on a Wednesday night home-group. It creates a huge divide between people and also, again promotes the “Pop-culture” attitude among people. 


I like emotions. I think they are very helpful. I now, can’t stand the level of emotionalism involved in worship. I feel at times that if you don’t have a borderline orgasm, you didn’t have a valid worship experience. I have been to some worship concerts and I don’t like it. I am painting with a very broad brush at the moment and I know that. My wife reminds me all the time “not to throw the baby out with the bath water” and she is probably right it’s just that if I add up the whole pop-culture thing with the emotional thing, well then I’m worried. I feel like all of this is just all about us. We have to feel right; we have to sound right, look right, get out of it what we need and if I am right about that, then it’s not worship at all.   

Some rants at the end 

I am also worried about if we use “worship” to draw people to church then we may have to continue using “worship” for them to stay which probably means that it’s not worship at all just a church-growth tool. Does that make sense? If we  have to be careful about how worship is being done and how people are liking it, then again, it’s not worship at all, it’s just music.  Maybe I’m wrong, horrible un-fair, one sided. Let me know.  My wife may kill me after this post so if you don’t hear from me…:)


~ by Rickard on October 29, 2007.

6 Responses to “Worship”

  1. Hi Rickard and Lori. I read both your posts on worship, and I think I hear yuh. I have similar difficulties with the contemporary westernized concept of “worship-as-music.” Here are some thoughts and conclusions, and experiences they’ve come out of. (It’s perhaps a moderately angry rant in response to your not so angry rant.)

    It seems to me that worship-as-music is another form of how modernist “enlightenment” misses the mark, even though I would seek to grant people the benefit of the doubt and assume their forms of worship come from a sincere heart that wants to please God. Worship is something that God intended to be a whole-life thing (bringing Him honor and glory through stewarding every dimension of our being) has been reduced to just singing. My conclusion is that an overfocus on worship degrades the holistic biblical/Hebraic notion that 24/7 stewardship IS worship rather than the current notion that attending worship services 1/1-out-of-7 is enough.

    Related to this, worship-as-music tends to split the spiritual and the physical, which is why there is an emphasis on emotion – we participate (consume?) with the immaterial part of our being, usually without any other physical involvement other than sitting or standing (okay, you guessed it – I have both liturgical and Baptistic backgrounds). But the music does hit us in the gut. It moves us, and emotions ARE a good thing. (But being overemotional, like being overintellectual, overcreative, overmystical, and overvolitional can each be on the concentrated poison end of the spiritual homeopathic scale!)

    Movies are my favorite form of pop culture. I enjoy movie soundtracks and sometimes even study them. On the topic of music and emotions, a great soundtrack moves us musically to respond to what we’re seeing in ways that the writer/director intends. The soundtrack gives us clues to whether something funny or horrible or melancholy or whatever is about to happen. A bad soundtrack sends out mixed messages. [Somewhere in my ever-extensive watching of DVDs, I ran across one with a special feature on how the director experimented with soundtracks to the same scene, and the emotional results are incredibly different, depending on the music! If I can find which DVD documentary this is, I’ll post it later.]

    So, combine those thoughts with worship song lyrics that are sometimes not really about God directly, but all about ME (not even WE), and it’s not big leap to see how worship can be an emotional wrapping of arms around ourselves to give ourselves a huge hug!

    (Actually, on the pop culture side of things, what would find if we did a “content analysis” on the Top 10 Worship Songs, and looked at whether the main subject of the song was God, Jesus, the Father, the Spirit, me, or we, and whether it talked about more: God’s attributes, or what I/we get out of a relationship with Him?)

    If it’s true that a lot of “worship” song lyrics are actually super-hyper-narcissistic-ex-pe-al-i-docious, then what kinds of messages do the worship-through-music parts of contemporary services send to disciples and to those investigating discipleship? And what do we do about the reality that not all people are “wired” by God in their learning styles to engage well with music, or pictures, or words? Are we creating worship services that take into account the multiple ways God has providentially created His people to process information and respond to Him?

    In my opinion: Real and authentic is better than professional or slick. Good, locally-developed lyrics and songs by people we know in community carry more spiritual gusto than great imported songs by celebrities in some other community. A long string of worship songs (or an entire service of ’em!) is better than two songs, a station break for advertisements, a couple more songs, a station break for a info-mercial for God, and maybe a spiritual snacklette of juice and bread-bit to round out the time. (Okay, so I do get sarcastic on occasion … but when “worship” is evaluated on its production values instead of valued for its participatory opportunities, it sucks.)

    In the late ’90s and early oh-ohs, I was on the multigenerational, multicultural team that led a very alternative high school student ministry here in Marin County, California, which reportedly has the smallest percentage of Christians of any county in the U.S. (About the same percentage as Christians in Taiwan, if I remember right.) Anyway, many Marinites of all ages have NEVER been to church services EVER, so we could not assume that “worship” was in their cultural vocabulary, let alone “worship songs.” Also, we assumed that a third of the students were strong Christians, a third were not Christians, and a third were somewhere in between. A few were from moderately healthy home backgrounds, most had messy situations to cope with.

    So we focused on basic discipleship, whole-life stewardship, and “music-less worship.” We sought to create a shared spiritual experience through movie clips, personal stories, panel presentations, etc. Then team members listened to and talked with students in different kinds of groupings (triads, small groups, separate groups for guys and gals) to help them understand and interpret their experience through a more biblical framework. After the concept got established, then mid-week small groups were added where students who showed interest had the opportunity to apprentice in preparing material, and leading sections of the time together. Substantive stuff, not just assignments about who brings the chips and salsa or the soup for the shared meal.

    My sense of it was that this was far more satisfying to the students than the typical worship service is. We aimed to shape young adults (many of whom were already more holistically-minded than their parents) who could better process reality, think critically for themselves, and see the value in biblical frameworks for understanding life. I think the experience was far more gratifying to the leadership team than the usual hype-and-hop youth stuff or even the usual “adult” worship service. We became church, as leaders and students together, and it became very obvious over time that our preparation and interaction as leaders made a difference in the lives of students and each other. I think it folded in part because it was too far ahead of its time and it didn’t seem that the adult church leaders “got it” about the organic paradigm on which this all was based. Anyway, I miss that time … a lot …

    Bottom line: I suspect that contemporary music-as-worship, worship-service-equals-our-stewardship, and the attractional model (and perhaps even “worship evangelism”) all conspire together to reinforce a consumerist mentality. Ultimate result: We’re mainlining our spiritual umbilical cords right into the worship team, just as we do with the preacher, and sucking them dry while we feed our addiction to consumption instead of figuring out how to produce something ourselves that IS worshipful in community.

    Whew! Okay, end of rant …

    (P.S. Rickard, if you … ummm … disappear … for your views on music and worship, does that qualify as a new category – Blues Martyrdom?)

  2. Thanks Brad, that’s an awesome reply and if it’s ok with you I’ll use some of it when i continue this “Worship-thing”.

    Blues Martyrdom? Hmm, it does have a ring to it 🙂 . It’s funny, but I think sometimes, some old blues song feels more like the Psalms that much of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” stuff does.

  3. yah-shure, do it dood.

    (i was raised lutheran, and see – i DO know minnesotan lutefiskspeak…)

    hey, i had some poems i wanted to send you and lori, but i still don’t have a contact list from the summit. could you email me at the address on my comment? thanks -b

  4. Great thread…thanks for the heads up, Brad…I am right there with you.

    My sister is a choir director and worship leader and has ranted a bit herself on this very topic.

    Blues Martyrdom, eh? Would that fit in the category of “collateral casualties” or “friendly fire?”

  5. hey hows it going you probably dont remember me but i am from yli. i agree for the most part. but let me give you some back story my brother is at an addiction center type place in az and its primarily run by Asembly of God and they tend to say that all music out side the form of say acoustic old school southern gospel type music is worshiping the devil. now my question is this would you agree with this type of view. i personaly dont and i do agree with alot of the time these days worship gets distored and alot of it is tainted if you will with people tying to spiritualise it for there own gratification. some what random but i this is sorta went through my head as i read your blog. also if you remember Mr. Nathan Barnes he just did a good message on worship that i got of there podcast.

    God Bless

  6. No, I don’t believe music is from the devil. I am actually very open to listening to all kinds of music. The point that I am trying to make is that we have to ask some serious questions around the “music-as-worship” phenomena going on today. It seems like people are just buying this thing without any consideration of thinking through. I will try to continue the post on worship and bring this up more clearly. Thanx for stopping by, please stop by again and keep the conversation going. I do actually think I remember you.

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