Passion Defined

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Worship Conference (Part Two)

This is the second post on my recent trip to Waco for the DCB Fantastical Church Music Conference. In my previous post, I talked about what I enjoyed about the conference and the good things that I took away from the conference. In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the things that I did not like and why I believe they were unbiblical.

One of the speakers that we heard was Rob Bell. He talked about words and the power of words and how we use them in worship. Rob certainly knows how to use words! He is very dynamic and I thoroughly enjoyed him as a speaker. However, he has some ideas that if followed to their logical conclusions leave us far from Scripture and the way the Lord has instructed us in worship.

The premise of Rob Bell’s session was that we learn to use words in such a way as to create a context to orient people in a similar physical direction so that we can then move to the spiritual. More simplified, here is a possible interpretation: We use words and external factors (specifically applied to worship, but also in evangelism) in order to get people’s attention, get them all on the same page, and then hopefully unite them spiritually. To break it down even further, Rob said that we can use elements like mood lighting, smoke machines, hyped-up worship times, and emotionally arousing verbal transitions to arouse a response that many people think is spiritual but is simply nothing more than an emotional high derived from the psychological influences of a well-done musical performance. Several times he said we use the physical nature of things to put people on the same page before moving to the spiritual. If the spiritual takes a backseat to external factors, where is the authority? It certainly isn’t in Scripture if the spiritual comes second to emotionally driven aspects of “doing church.”

Rob Bell in several instances also made fun of the idea of trying to “be Biblical.” He said that we can’t get all wrapped up in trying to be theologically correct. I think we have to be extremely careful here because some will use this to say that we don't necessarily have to be careful about what we preach and whether or not it is consistent with Scripture and sound doctrine. In 1st Timothy and Titus, Paul emphasizes that it’s not okay to abdicate the absolutism of the truths of Scripture, but that we teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine. In several instances, Mr. Bell came across as if he were promoting a Christianity that drew from what it felt was important whether it was Scriptural or not, as opposed to promoting a Berean body of believers who should continually examine the ideas of men to ensure their consistency with the ultimate source of truth, the Bible.

The last thing from Rob Bell that has the potential to be dangerously misleading was his thought concerning the analogies we use to describe the Gospel. Rob said we don’t necessarily have to stick to Scripture to find ways to describe the Gospel. Rather, we ought to find other analogies from the culture to tell people about the work of Jesus Christ, which is fine so long as the analogy does not in any way give a wrong or incomplete depiction of the Gospel. The challenge is actually finding one. Now granted, all analogies have limits and we need to recognize that, but what Bell was proposing was using the world’s ways to compare the principles of salvation and the Gospel. 1st Corinthians makes it clear that the difference between the natural and the spiritual is irreconcilable. The world and Christianity are not compatible, so there really isn’t a way to draw an analogy from the world’s culture and it be entirely in tune with the truth of the Gospel. I also believe that it’s futile to try and make an unbeliever understand the truth of the Gospel except for by the work of the Spirit. 1st Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” By saying that we ought to find new analogies outside of Scripture, Rob is implying that we can find ways to make people understand in our own strength apart from the work of Christ, and he’s placing an unnecessary burden on Christians to make people understand. Not one time did Rob even acknowledge the work of the Spirit in a man’s heart when He draws men to Himself. It seemed to be more about us and what we can do and our words that can bring a person to making a decision for Christ. Yes, we certainly are to proclaim the Gospel, but we can't take the responsibility of making people understand.  Only the Lord has that power.  I believe that we certainly can draw from our own testimonies experiences as believers in our evangelism, so long as what we say is consistent with the truth of the Gospel.

One session that I did not enjoy at all was by Josh Griffin, the high school minister at Saddleback Church in California. He talked about students leading worship and what churches ought to do or keep in mind when they incorporate youth as worship leaders. Before I jump into this one, I just want to give two principles so that you will know the frame of reference that I am drawing from when I analyze this man’s workshop.

I believe that as God’s church, and as a body commanded to be pure and undefiled from the world, that all of our music ought to glorify God in every way, all the time. The church cannot allow influences from the world to affect the way God designed it to function.

I also believe that what you win people with is what you win them to, meaning that what you use to draw people is what they accept, learn to desire and claim as their own. As the church, what are we told to use to win the world? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything less is subpar, unbiblical and out of the question. We win people with the Gospel of Christ because that is what has the power to change hearts and draw people to the Lord.

With that being said, let me share some of the things that I found disturbing, and yes even appalling, about Josh Griffin’s workshop. First of all, the bar of expectations for students in worship was set every low. Standards of dress, behavior, and lifestyle for students in worship were set at a level just high enough to set them apart from the average crowd, but not enough to challenge them to strive for excellence. Also, the general requirements for those involved made membership on the worship team seem more like a job in an organization as opposed to people coming together to lead in the worship of God. Yes, I believe that worship leaders ought to be committed and involved, but not where external stipulations usurp spiritual emphasis. The ideas that Josh presented in many ways elevated the physical requirements of worship over the spiritual reasons for worship, downplaying the importance given to those who lead the people into the presence of God. He never once mentioned making sure that the students involved understood what it meant to lead people in the worship the sovereign Ruler of creation.

Another thing that was very repulsive and the saddest thing in the whole workshop was the idea of using secular music in the worship service. Yes, secular music. Josh Griffin proposed that churches (specifically for youth groups) use secular pop, rock, rap and other genres of music in the time designated for music. I’m not exactly sure where in Scripture he found that idea… His argument is that we have to provide something unsaved people are familiar with so that they don’t feel awkward by coming to church. My argument is that we have to let Christianity be what it is: radically different and unlike anything of the world. Why stoop to the elements of culture when Christianity propounds a life opposite of what the world offers? Romans chapter 12 tells us not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. When churches use secular music, how is that living up to the command to not be transformed to the world? What you win people with is what you win them to. If we use secular music in the process of winning people to Christ we’re winning them to something that really isn’t different from the world. We’re called to win people to the Light. How can we expect to do that by providing dark? Why give people an inaccurate expectation of what Christianity is?

As a worship leader and someone who holds the principles of worship dear to my heart, I am very passionate about keeping the worship of our Lord pure and undefiled. When I hear teachings that promote ideas allowing for worldliness to enter our houses of praise, it pierces my heart! Markets and money-changers have entered the temple once more. When did the modern church begin to think that Christianity isn’t radically different from the world? When did it become okay not to require excellence in our standards? What makes it okay for us to sit by and allow the ways of the world to become an acceptable alternative to the commands of Christ for His church? What will it take for us as Christians to see that satan is being allowed to build strongholds in our churches when we passively watch the things of this world take from the truth of the Gospel. If Christ is jealous for His church, what must He feel when our churches are participating in idolatry by using songs in worship that don't please and glorify only Him? Maybe that’s too much to ask. Maybe we’re not holy enough. Perhaps God understands. But what if it’s not too much to ask? What if we’re not living up to the expectations God has for us, His church? What if God only understands that He has set apart for Himself a generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation called to sing forth the praises of Him?

It’s not up to us to decide how we worship God. The Lord has given us clear direction for how we ought to orient our lives, and that is in a direction that puts God at the center, with everything else revolving around the Son. Our ultimate purpose for being on this earth is to bring glory and honor to the matchless Name of Christ. Let’s not taint it by allowing the vain thoughts of men or the elements of the world to pervade our church, but let us hold fast to the immeasurable riches of the Word of God.

This conference has given me so much food for thought. Those of you who know me as a blogger can probably guess what's coming next…yep, I’m going to do another series! This is the second part of my thoughts from the conference, but as I have time I will be composing another series on worship, aside from the conference. But until then, sing praises to the Lord and bless His Name!

To an Audience of One,



Amber Noella said...

I also read your other post before this, and wow. I agree with you. But I have to admit that before reading this, I was "trapped" in the lie. See, I don't listen to rap or rock (the Christian kind, which I guess isn't so Christian after all?)
but at my youth group, that's what plays. The words are good, but not the sound ya know? I talked myself into accepting that you can win secular music listeners to Christ with Christian secular music. I totally get what you're saying.

Ash said...

Wow. . . that Rob Bell, he's something else. . . I know what you mean about his flawed ideals. It's really sad that some of these leaders of the church have portrayed such a flawed picture of the nature of worship! Very sad and such an eye-opener.

Daniel said...


Josh and I disagree a bit on this but I don't think over the basics on this. Whether music is secular or not has little to do with what style of music it is, it has to do with the words and the intention behind the song. There is some wonderful classical music out there, which I would say most people find fine, even in neo-conservative circles, that was written by people who were extremely far from God, and its far from being Christian music. However, I believe that you can have rock, even pretty hard rock, that is glorifying to God and is worshipful. Now rap I don't really consider music so it doesn't count lol. Josh's point, I think lol, is that using music that doesn't have a Christian intention is not only against God's word, but also gives an impression that Christianity isn't really that different from the world when it comes down to how you actually live your life.

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