Pagan church worship?
I admit it, I did read this article: http://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/is-your-church-worship-more-pagan-than-christian.html
And I did not agree with it. (Imagine that!)
I approach church worship ministry, as those of you who know me will know, primarily from a traditional point of view. Our church doesn’t have a praise band; we have a choir and orchestra. So we don’t deal with some of the scenarios that were mentioned in this article.
However, I’m not really sure I agreed with the premise of the article, which basically tried to show us that music isn’t really a way to enter God’s presence. On the contrary, I have over the years felt that our worship indeed is the primary way for us to enter God’s presence, and in recent years, I have become even stronger in my conviction on the matter.
I do agree that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Worship can never do what Christ alone has done. However, worship can draw us closer to God as it gives us a greater awareness of His presence (and of our need for Him).
Here are the author’s main points:
- God’s Word is marginalized.
- Our assurance is threatened.
- Musicians are given priestly status.
- Divisions are increased.
Let me gently address each of these.
God’s Word doesn’t have to be marginalized.
I agree, faith comes through the proclamation of God’s Word, but if I were to take this author’s argument to the extreme, we might as well remove the entire song portion of our services. Yes, the preaching of the Word of God is preeminent, but the musical worship of God’s people has it’s place too.
Our assurance doesn’t have to be threatened.
I understand what the author tries to say here. He doesn’t want us to associate entering God’s presence with a certain feeling or emotion. And it’s true, there needs to be solid biblical truth involved in our worship. But we are also to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, emphasis added). Our assurance need not be tied to a feeling, but our worship need not be devoid of feelings.
Musicians–and all worshipers–should be given a priestly status.
If the author had just changed the term from “priestly” to “rock star”, I would have been happy. And so, again, I know what he’s getting at. And if it weren’t for semantics, we’d be golden. But I genuinely believe our worship would be much more pleasing to God (and personally fulfilling) if we would take our role in the worship service as seriously as the Old Testament priests took their role. I want all worship leaders in our ministry to take their calling seriously, to approach it with a sacred passion, and to be faithful to their calling. There’s just no other appropriate way to worship God.
Unity can be achieved.
I will be very careful here, as I don’t want my words stretched or used against me. (And I have people who I would consider dear friends who would disagree with me on this.) I believe that much of the contemporary worship (that is, those rock concert worship churches) is dependent upon a feeling, an effect, emotionalism, or whatever you want to call it, often at the exclusion of truth (or much substance, at least). But lack of unity is not so much a result of an inaccurate view of approaching God through worship (as the author would have you believe), as it is a result of losing site of the main thing. When we turn our focus away from Christ, and on to our preferences and what we want, then of course there will be divisions.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not undermining the fact that there have been years and years of worship wars. Many tastes, preferences, and opinions have split churches right down the middle. It’s not been pretty. But to infer that the cause of that is a pagan philosophy of worship is not entirely accurate, in my view.
It’s completely understandable what the author is trying to do, and on much I agree. I’m thankful for the discussion it has led to. Don’t misunderstand me: I’ve no patience for pagan worship. But I regularly seek God’s presence in worship, and desire to lead others there as well.
James Koerts serves as the worship pastor of Mikado Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. In addition to his full time responsibilities at the church, James is also a published composer and arranger.