Contemporary Praise and Worship Today (Continued)

To remark further on the content of many Contemporary Praise and Worship songs, the doctrine of the Trinity is virtually absent. There is only one song in CCLI’s top twenty-five that mentions the three persons of the Trinity in the lyrics. Out of the top 100 songs, the Trinity is alluded to less than five times. This largely has to do with the emphasis on experiencing Jesus’ love and friendship exclusively in worship. Fifteen of the twenty-five on the list speak of love or intimacy. Christ’s role within the Trinity is reduced to His role as our “buddy” or “lover”, and the roles of the Father and Spirit have long fallen by the wayside. With Jesus as the ultimate object of affection, the worshipper tends to believe God can be accessed directly as long as worship is offered from the heart. According to James Torrance this is a Unitarian understanding of worship, like the worship of Judaism and Islam, where there is no mediator. Trinitarian worship means by the Spirit entering into the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.(11) It is communal by nature and requires the participation of the entire body of Christ. Even when we are expressing our most deeply personal longings to God, like the Psalmists, we are doing so by the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. Concerning communal worship, it is worth noting only eight of CCLI’s top twenty-five songs are partially in first-person plural (we/us/our). Contemporary Praise and Worship has become so individualized, like everything else in our culture, that we often completely miss the corporate expression that the church so desperately needs in order to hold one another up.

Also absent in most Contemporary Praise and Worship is gospel content; namely the reality of sin and our need for salvation. Referring again to the CCLI chart, only five songs make reference to the cross, and only four speak of sin. The absence of these themes signifies a deeper problem within the Contemporary Praise and Worship Movement, and that is “powerful, emotional encounters with God are never meant to be used as a retreat from reality.”(12) The reality is, no matter how climactic our experience of God in worship, we cannot live in that world of heightened emotion. We will always come down, and sin will always come knocking at our doors. Contemporary Praise and Worship takes the reality of sin too lightly. The gospel is not complete without the acknowledgment of sin.

One last note concerning Contemporary Praise and Worship is, when Unitarianism and narcissism shape a worshiper’s mind, worship is viewed as something good within us that we have tapped into and presented before God. It is subconsciously engraved in the minds of contemporary worshipers that we have something good to offer God. Songs like “You’re Worthy of My Praise” speak of giving God my worship and my praise(13), as if I have brought a pleasing offering to God for Him to receive. Joe Horness says, “It must be our passion, and our calling, to lay upon the altar the very best offering that we can bring to God each week.”(14)

In summary, experiencing the presence of God is central to Contemporary Praise and Worship, as it was in the Jesus Movement and throughout the last four decades. There is a goal to have an emotional encounter, especially in feeling the warmth of God’s embrace. Worship is viewed as relational interaction with God, so Contemporary Worship seeks to connect with God. For Contemporary Praise and Worship, acceptable worship is conditional upon the heart of the worshiper being fully surrendered and right with God. We’ve looked at how Contemporary Praise and Worship has come to be. We’ve briefly glanced at what it is. Now let’s see how it has affected individual worshipers and the Christian sub-culture for better or for worse. (next post)

(11) From: Torrance, James. Worship Community and the Triune God of Grace. Inter Varsity: Downers Grove. 1996.

(12) Peacock, 54.

(13) Ruis, David. “You’re Worthy of My Praise.” CCLI#: 487976. © 1991 Maranatha Praise. Used with permission.

(14) Horness, 115.

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