Saturday, 6 October 2012

Same old worship?

Is there a danger that our worship can become too generic?

I absolutely love listening to new releases, new ways of doing worship, new songs, new ways of seeing thinking and doing. But recently I was watching a conference that shall remain nameless on GOD TV...

There was the usual mix of passionate worship, with choirs standing to the left and to the right. The band were centre stage with various guitars and singers (in a Hillsong type approach). The songs, which were fairly good, were brilliantly played with life and vigour, dressed with impeccable outfits and smiles.

The lights rolled with the music, with colours sensing the moods of the songs and delicately and vibrantly reflected what was going on stage-side. The cameras panned, rack focused, did close-ups on worshipping parts of the audience. Then the well-dressed speaker appeared to make some cool comments, preceded by a video segment carefully crafted by the awesome visuals team. The speaker made his points, bringing a slightly fresh approach to a Biblical passage. The equally well-dressed members of the conference stood, sat, made notes as the preacher mixed his emotions, drew people in, made them repeat his words like parrots and exploded into life with shouting (as attendees stood and roared, nodded approvingly).

But something was missing. At least it was for me.

I'm definitely not someone who advocates just getting back to basics or doing things simply for the sake of it. Some people say this is what's needed, especially in the North American church. But that's like putting a fresh coat of paint on a car that needs fuel. The fuel we all need in our worship and churches is the Holy Spirit.

Now I'm not saying for one minute that this conference didn't have the Holy Spirit. Far from it.

But I guess my heart is that we need to stop trying to be cool, stop trying so hard to be right. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to direct us in every way. There is something that feels a little fake in some of the worship I see. It is too generic. And this isn't about a movement of getting back to more organic ways of worship like the awesome Rend Collective. Now they have a passion and freshness that comes from God. So we don't want to copy that either. Ultimately it's about what God is saying to you and your church and your worship ministry. What God is saying may be to do things like other churches. That's fine and I'm not criticising any styles.

The passion that burns within me is for our churches to be real. It's hard in huge churches understandably. Tight programming, stage managers, MIDI controlled lighting synced with click tracks is utterly awesome and I love it. But every week? Every band? Every worship service? Every church?!

I can't quite put my finger on everything I mean and feel. I really don't want to be critical and I'm sorry if this comes across as being judgmental (not intentional at all). But Matt Redman's 'Heart of Worship' says it all to me and it's about coming back to the very heart and essence of worship - the presence and person of God, who alone is worthy of praise.

 I so want to see the fire of God in our worship, to see the person of the Holy Spirit released. God is logical and organsied but he is uncontainable and beyond our understanding.

Let's not have such generic and tightly controlled worship that the Holy Spirit isn't given a look-in. Let's not have such performance oriented worship that we have superficiality over substance. I want worship 'meat' and not worship 'milk'. I want God-crafted songs, not songs because we have an album deadline. I desperately want God more than anything and I've nowhere near arrived. But I guess this burning underlies my frustration with much of the generic worship I see. Yes, sometimes our hearts aren't right as worshippers (forgive me if mine isn't). But let's lose the fake and get real. God is looking for worshippers in Spirit and in Truth. Let's be those people.

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