Fatally Flawed or Redeemable?

Contemporary Praise and Worship has generally produced feel-good Christians who find God to be very predictable. They come to church expecting to receive from God the blessings of His presence. If they don’t get what they want, they begin to criticize the presentation or style, and will eventually move on to bigger and better things. Basically, they come to approach worship in the same way they approach everything else in life, whether it’s shopping, going to the movies, or spending time with family and friends. They come to consume.

The Contemporary Church has become much too dependent on good music. Although it is not their primary goal, musical excellence and performance shine far brighter than the glory of God and the gospel message. The way it works in this church is the better the music, the bigger the church; the bigger the church, the lesser the gospel content, because the gospel is not what keeps people.(15) The show keeps people. The gospel is the very thing that repels consumers, because the gospel is inherently anti-consumeristic. Instead, the gospel crushes our selfish desires and frees us to give and serve rather than consume.

There is nothing wrong with good worship music, but the moment it begins being used as a manipulative tool to captivate and keep an audience its message is lost. After all, as soon as a product loses its flavor the consumer will go back to market. And who is to say that the product of Contemporary Praise and Worship truly is the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God? Comparing the experience this movement sells with the emotional stimulants of popular culture, one does not see much of a difference between the two. In fact, the influence pop culture has recently had on Contemporary Praise and Worship makes the two nearly indistinguishable. Apart from the present of the church being wrapped in Jesus paper, they both offer consumers the same gift, an emotional experience of self-pleasure.

There is a big difference, however, between cultural accommodation and cultural engagement. Culturally accommodated Praise and Worship is self-seeking and experience-based. It is an end in itself. The medium is the message. Out of the imagination the worshiper creates relative meaning based on the level of emotional intensity. The church selfishly gains, like any other corporation with a good product. The Word of God is quickly left behind, as fresh new revelations pave the way for future cultural interaction. Culturally informed Praise and Worship, on the other hand, is merely stylistically relevant. It is a tool meant to lead people into a true expression of worship, which is just as valid an expression as the hymns of old, but with stylistic relevance to a new generation of worshipers. There is obviously much cleaning up to be done, but like me, a filthy sinner in need of redemption, Contemporary Praise and Worship can be, is being, and will be redeemed. (next post)

(15) Here I do not speak of those large churches that have grown through the faithful preaching of the gospel with the aid of popular music. Rather I am speaking of those mega churches that have exploded by means of clever marketing and presentation styles, especially and primarily via popular music and entertainment. These churches sacrifice sound doctrine for what is more culturally accommodating. The main difference is the music and worship of Church A is a means to exalting the truth of the Word, while the music and worship of Church B is a means to church growth.

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