praise and worship doesn’t actually please God. We think it does;
as ministers we exhort if not berate the congregation to praise. Music is the beating heart of the black church, but music ministry is also where most of the bacteria of ego resides. “Christian” worship music teaches us to literally, physically, turn our backs on people while we practice escapism through self-indulgent emotional fits and blather on about me, me, me, me. Our first priority is to seek and to save those who are lost. I’m not sure why that is in any way unclear. Our standing around chanting violates that mandate. I don’t want a single note sung in my church that does not offer hope to somebody, that does not offer Christ to somebody. Without that, it's just a ministry of foolishness.
There is a “sinner,” a non-believer, someone beyond the arc of
safety, standing about nine inches away from you. You, literally,
have your back to this person as you raise your arms, close your
eyes and completely ignore him. You don’t know him. You haven’t
tried to know him, haven’t greeted him. You certainly have not asked
him if he knows Jesus. And now you are indulging yourself in
personal worship; something completely appropriate for our quiet
time, for our closet time with God. But you’re worshipping at this
guy’s expense. I mean, he is clearly not worshipping. You get the
vibe; you feel it: this person is not of the faith. But you ignore
him anyway. Maybe you’re shy, maybe you’re not sure of what to do or
how to do it. Reaching out is the pastor's job. So, you ignore him. You literally turn your back on
him while you worship and adore God. And God is saying to you, “Stop
all that hollering and go see about the guy standing nine inches
away from you.” But you ignore God, even as you “worship”
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
—Luke 6:46 ESV
Beloved: we worship God not with our hands or even our voices but with our obedience [I Sam 15:22, John 14:14, 31, I John 5:3, James 1:22-25]. Our willingness to do as the Master commands honors God, blesses God. There is no biblical record of Jesus Christ standing around, ignoring the people around Him, while he indulges His emotion, babbling and crying and snot, in “worship” of the Father. Christ worshipped His Father on His own time--in the wilderness, in Gethsemane. The main lesson of the Gospel is not Christ’s worship of The Father but His unparalleled obedience to Him. I believe that, at any point, Christ could have simply walked away. “This thing is too much for me.” But He didn’t. Despite the misgivings of His own flesh, He submitted His will to that of His father and did what the Father commanded.
Obviously, worship is a good thing. I am, perhaps and as usual, going to facetious extremes to condemn any and all corporate (combined) worship. Worship has its place in the life of the Christian. But I would like to point out the trend sweeping most evangelical and Baptist denominations of this Hillsong/Planetshakers stand-around-crying-lost-in-emotion stuff tends to edify the worshipper more than it edifies God. It’s good to go have yourself a good cry, a good purge. Confession is good. Seeking God is really good. But, taken to extremes, it can also be obnoxiously narcissistic. Amid these massive ecclesiastical orgies are pockets of people wondering what the heck is going on. The songs are written in this code: Trading crowns to wear my shame / The Prince's throne for the cross that bore my thorns… (“When I Lost My Heart To You” —Hillsong United)
He’s dying, brother. She’s lost, sister. Don't you notice? Don't you even care? These people are standing nine inches away. Yes, church is indeed a place for worship. What church is not, beloved, is a place for self-deception, for navel-staring. Worship at the expense of the seeker does not please God. Sure, let’s worship, but let’s at least explain to the seeker what is going on. Let’s not speak in code:
I abandon, every distraction
My attention is set on You
My devotion, Jesus my portion
My affection is set on You
“Made For Worship” —Planetshakers
Jesus never asked us to strap on a blindfold and ignore everything going on around us. Most especially not on Sunday morning.
Most music I hear performed in churches today does not please God, does not bless God, and is in fact, in rebellion against God. Pick your favorite tune, the hottest “Christian” hit: most is borderline blasphemy.
My God is awesome
He can move mountains
Keep me in the valley
Hide me from the rain
My God is awesome
Heals me when I'm broken
Gives strength where I've been weakened
Forever He will reign
“Awesome” —Pastor Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago
This song does not bless God. It's not actually about God, it's about us: MY God is Awesome. Keep ME in the valley. Hide ME from the rain. Why are we hiding? God is awesome because He helps us cower from adversity? Is this even biblical? Heals ME when I'M broken... His grace is why I’M living.
“Awesome” follows the alarming trend of choruses masquerading as songs. An actual song has some reasonable composition and construction. A chorus is just something you kind of repeat over and over until you’re dizzy. This is the magic of “Awesome;” you just sing it until it hypnotizes you; a balm for the masses who don’t understand the actual purpose music should be serving in Christian ministry.
“Awesome” is a “song” written by Church Folk for Church Folk. It in no way blesses God or pleases God. It pleases us; it sends us into an emotional frenzy as we chant it over and over. But it’s all recycled clichés set over chord structures borrowed from much better songs.
This isn’t a knock against Pastor Jenkins, though his smug posture in the “Awesome” video just makes him look like a jackass so far as I am concerned. Yet, there is Jenkins with this… amazing look on his face. I’m The Joint. The smugness only further adds to the gross failure of the music itself—which is a big hit among Church Folk who don’t seem bothered either by the emptiness of the work or the apparent lack of humility on the part of the songwriter. Arrogance cannot please God. I’m The Joint cannot please God.
The truth is, Jesus Christ never commanded us to bless God, to praise God, to lift up the name of Jesus. Never. Look all you want, it’s not there. Seriously. Jesus never, anywhere, said, “praise me, bless me, gather together and sing nice things about me.” He said, “Go into all the world…” [Mark 16:15]