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Worship Is "Not Art, but What's in the Heart," Boschman Says

  • Robert Wayne Crosswalk.com Correspondent
  • 2006 30 Jun
Worship Is "Not Art, but What's in the Heart," Boschman Says

LaMar Boschman sees far too many Christians praise the guitar hanging around the neck of their worship leader.

The mood of the music has become the master.

The trend alarms Boschman, who almost 30 years ago helped usher in the current style of contemporary Christian music. In the decades since, however, Boschman has watched worship lose much of its meaning as the worshiper works himself into a fabricated frenzy.

“One of the concerns I have is that we have a Western model of worship with its presentation of art,” said Boschman, who July 3 through July 7 will celebrate 20 years as founder of the International Worship Institute in Texas with a special Platinum IWI summit in Dallas. “But Jesus and Yahweh is Eastern, more organic, which means it’s timeless and has little to do with technology.

“I like to say it’s not art but what’s in the heart. If it’s in the heart you can let the guitar just hang there and it’s worship. For the dancer, it’s the devotion in the motion.”

In some ways, Boschman has come full circle. With a twist. He grew up a Mennonite in Canada thinking demonstrative worship was blasphemy, but a life-changing church service in 1973 changed his outlook. After the Lord led him to read Psalm 132:4 – “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord!” – he not only accepted “vertical” worship but began teaching and preaching it.

Now, while still promoting the positives of Spirit-filled worship, Boschman is trying to re-educate Christians to the true meaning of worship. His latest offering, “Exploring the Mysteries of Worship,” is a 12-weeks of worship study guide that seeks to reverse alarming statistics such as:

  • One out of every five churched adults has no idea what the goal of worship should be (glorifying God);
  • Only three of 10 church-going adults view worship as something focused on God.

Worship also is becoming something to be seen as well as heard, not a negative in itself – David danced in front of the people – but something to keep a close eye on, Boschman said, explaining that style over substance is becoming more common in the United States.

“It doesn’t matter if you wear khakis and sandals and play folk music or have a pink guitar and tights. Worship isn’t worship unless you mean it,” he said.

Ironically, perhaps, Boschman is trying to corral some elements of the contemporary Christian music movement that he helped get started in the late 1970s.

“Back in 1977, worship was innocent and we were finding our way,” he said. “Now it’s a billion-dollar industry that has been dumbed down in a sense. It’s been redefined by every movement and every business.”

Boschman sees the positive of that being that modern worship music is on everyone’s radar.

“I’m glad it’s popular. Now how do we keep it real,” he said.

The answer: “You teach it,” he said. “How do you worship on guitar? How do you worship in spirit with a guitar or with your voice? It’s not just karaoke, singing along to the words.”

When it comes to church worship services, competition is a nasty critter that can turn praise into performance, Boschman said. Worship leaders want to do their best, but too often pride creeps into the equation.

“Staying up with the coolest songs and having the latest speakers come in often gets us off the real deal of worship,” he said. “It’s time to step back and look at why we do what we do.”

That first step needs to come from the pulpit, Boschman said, explaining that the head pastor needs to have a revelation.

“People don’t know there’s anything more. People don’t know where to go,” he said.

Boschman goes slowly and keeps things positive when teaching church leaders about worship. He attempts to take them where they want to go.

“After 30 years of teaching, I can sense the road blocks and some of the (church) culture,” he said.

Maybe a church seems too stuffy or legalistic, or maybe too wild and experimental, he said.

“One is a pear and one is an apple, but they’re both fruit,’’ he said of the differing worship styles he runs into. “But of the two I would at least choose people who are open to change. What’s dangerous is when they’re not open to change. That pride and self-centeredness ... those groups like that are sad. They’re slowly dieing and don’t realize it.”

Boschman is careful not to come off sounding like there is only one way to worship.

“Whether your hands are up or not doesn’t matter. What matters is whether your heart and spirit are connecting with God,” he said.

Boschman also emphasizes that he does not teach based on his opinions, but on what the Bible says about worshiping God.

“I’m using what Jesus and Paul said about worship, so it’s not just me talking,” he said. “Those things are spiritual realities.”

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