Stop Blaming Your Lack of Worship on Your Worship Leader
- Stephen Altrogge Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA
- 2015 19 Feb
About once a year, someone will write a lengthy, semi-disgusted post about the awful state of modern worship. Like a prosecuting attorney making closing arguments, they will systematically list why they can’t sing at church anymore. These posts inevitably get passed around, and the author receives a bunch of virtual high-fives from other disgruntled worshipers (that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one).
But is the worship itself really the problem? Unless your worship leader is leading in you hymns and praise-choruses to the goddess Mother Earth, I don’t think the worship is the problem. The complaints against modern worship usually go something like this:
IT’S TOO LOUD
“The band is so loud I can barely hear myself think, let alone sing!” It is true that the primary instrument heard in worship should be our voices. But the reality is, there is a lot of really, really loud worship in the Bible. Revelation 5:11–12 gives us a glimpse into the worship that is currently taking place in heaven:
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
When myriads and myriads join with thousands and thousands, it is loud, raucous, joyful, celebratory worship. The worship in heaven makes the Seattle Seahawks “12th Man” look like a Lutheran worship service (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Our worship services should include soft, reverential music AND loud, celebratory music. God doesn’t oppose loudness when the decibels are directed at him.
IT’S TOO SIMPLE/REPETITIVE
“These modern praise choruses are so boring and repetitive! It’s the same thing over and over and over. Whatever happened to the good old days of five verses and descending antiphonal harmonies?”
It’s true, some modern worship songs could use a little more substance (“I could sing of this song forever…”). But the Bible contains plenty of simple, repetitive worship songs. Psalm 136 contains the refrain, “… for his steadfast love endures forever,” 26 times! Psalm 117 is a grand total of two lines.
As John Frame says:
This variety [in the Psalms] should make us less critical of hymns that we may think are too simple, too long, too short, and so on. There is room in God’s worship for hymns of many kinds—for many purposes, many different kinds of people, and many learning styles. (Worship In Spirit and Truth, pg. 136)
In 2 Peter 1:13, Peter writes, “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder….”
One of the values of repetition and simplicity is that it allows us to grapple with truths in ways we can’t when we are moving quickly through multiple verses of substantial depth. We so easily forget eternal truths, and repetition and reminder drill God’s truth deeply into our hearts.
Our worship services should include songs with words like “bulwark” and “Ebenezer,” but they should also include simple, easily understandable songs.
NOBODY KNOWS THE SONGS
“These young punk worship leaders are always introducing new songs. What’s wrong with the hundreds of songs that have already been written?”
To again quote John Frame (can you tell I’m on a Frame kick?):
When there is another revival, bringing another large group of people into the church, the music of that generation will also be brought in, once again offending older generations. (Worship In Spirit and Truth, pg 116)
In other words, when God moves in powerful, salvific ways on a group of people, those people bring their musical styles into the church. They write new songs that express their gratefulness to God for all he has done for them. The work of God in Christ is so great that no one body of songs can sufficiently express it. There must always be new songs written to express the truth of what God has accomplished in Christ.
God is constantly on the move, saving people, changing people, renewing people. The songs that have come from Passion, Hillsong, Sovereign Grace Music, Sojourn, and many other movements were written in response to God’s work.
We should treasure the old songs that have been written while simultaneously welcoming new songs that express praise to God.
SO WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
If we have a problem with worship, most likely the problem resides within us. It’s not that complicated. If we’re not responding in worship, something has gone awry in our souls. The simple solution is to repent, receive the free forgiveness of God, and then dive headlong back into worship.
Stephen Altrogge is a writer, pastor, and knows a lot about Star Wars. Find out more at The Blazing Center.