Praise and Worship
A Bit to Read
Praise and Worship
By all accounts, the May Long weekend in Nanoose Bay gave many reasons for gratitude. Good speeches, good discussions, good atmosphere: it was all very positive.
There was one event Sunday evening that resulted in further discussion. After his speech on Monday morning, Rev Schouten commented on the Praise and Worship event of Sunday evening. He subsequently put his comments to paper and posted them on his blog (May 21, 2008). For our benefit and reflection, I take the liberty, with his permission, to reproduce his comments here. For the interested: Rev Schouten’s blog is available at http://revroblog.wordpress.com/. His blog on Praise and Worship has drawn some comment, and he has in turn given further answers.
June 6, 2008
After a “Praise and Worship” event involving Reformed youth in this area, I made a number of public comments in which I expressed criticism of what I witnessed that evening. My comments were as follows:
1) The majority of the songs belonged to the genre of “Contemporary Christian Music” or “Contemporary Worship Music.” About 90% of the songs in this genre can be classified as some form of “Rock.”
2) Proponents of CCM or CWM believe that musical forms are neutral. Rock music, they say, is neither good nor evil, neither God-pleasing nor God-displeasing. What makes it good or evil is how it is used - either to God’s glory or not. If Rock music is employed in harmony with godly lyrics and a believing heart, then it is good. I argued that this position is naive because, apart from the lyrics, musical forms carry a freight of their own. Music has theology built right into it. Not just the words of a song but also the form of the music convey beliefs about God, about the world, about human life and morality. In the case of Rock, its musical form is the expression of a culture of rebellion against God. The medium of Rock contains a message of its own which overwhelms and pushes out the message of the gospel. Because of this, attempting to use Rock to glorify God creates emotional and spiritual dissonance for the worshipers.
3) I stated that the Church should not expend its energy trying to stay up to date with musical styles of the non-Christian world. Why would we let the world set the agenda for the Church? We don’t do that in regard to the message of the church and we should not allow this to happen in regard to the music of the church.
4) I stated that we should we wary of direct appeals to our emotions. I mentioned how in revivalist traditions, highly emotional music is used to “prepare” people’s hearts for conversion. However, as history shows, the conversions brought about in this way typically are not authentic. Because they were made on the basis of an emotional appeal and by way of emotional manipulation and not through the convicting power of the truth, they prove to be short-lived. Of course there are exceptions. However, these exceptions only prove that God can make a straight path with a crooked stick.
5) Some of the young people expressed the thought that we should use CCM or CWM as an evangelistic tool. My response was that the Bible never links music with evangelism. Besides, what sense does it make to seek to attract the world to Christ by bringing the world into the church. When I think of the CWM concerts I’ve witnessed at our local Christian bookstore or when I read about a recent concert in a a large Abbotsford church which literally “brought the house down” (the floor collapsed because the concert goers started dancing), the question I have is: who is evangelizing who? Is the church evangelizing the world or is the world evangelizing the church? It may come as a surprise to some but there are many churches where no rock music is played and yet they are filled with young people, including new converts.
A final comment: One of the people attending this Praise and Worship event was the camp caretaker who belongs to a Pentecostal church. She was very happy with the Praise and Worship event and got into it in true Pentecostal style. However, it was interesting that this same woman had earlier told me that when the Pentecostal young people come to camp, they don’t show reverence for the Word of God. She had witnessed 275 Reformed young people taking in two speeches and participating in two worship services in which God’s Word was expounded. She said that she had never seen young people show such respect for the Word of God and that, in contrast, the Pentecostal young people only want to be entertained. They are not prepared to listen but want to get straight to the “worship” - high energy, high octane, Rock-based Praise and Worship. My fear is that if our young people get a steady diet of Praise and Worship evenings of the kind I witnessed, they will lose their affection for Reformed worship and will eventually vote with their feet.