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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Maybe it's just me, but I've been noticing a trend in the Church lately. It started a while ago and has been gaining speed for some time. It seems to me that Christianity has been reduced to good worship - or it is fast heading in that direction. Don't get me wrong - worship is good. We ought to give our God the thanks and praise that is due. Scripture tells us that, but we have created a pretty tight mold of what that should look like and then practice it almost as much as we partake in the Mass.

The over-emphasis on this particular kind of worship is clear from the amount of it that is done these days and by the pressure put on people when they are there. When at one of these worship sessions it is expected that everyone participate in the most obviously visible and audible way. If you sing really loud and lift your hands up, then you're a good Christian. Dancing around - even better. You must be really holy if you're dancing!!! On the other hand if you don't do these things, you're not a good Christian. In fact, you're probably in really bad shape spiritually if you're not worshiping the way you're are expected. Time and time again have I seen people's relation to God judged by how crazy they get at worship. Whether or not God was working on a given night is usually determined by how loud everybody was singing.

As part of this same trend, churches are focusing much of their energy and resources on praise and worship. It is the new centerpiece of most events outside of the Mass itself (and even plays a major role within the Mass). It has become one of the main ways to live out our faith. Admittedly, I have a pretty limited view of the Church. This is not true everywhere or for everyone but from my experience, it seems pretty common.

What is a person to make of this odd obsession? That the most important part of being a Christian is to sing loud at worship events? I hope that's not the message we are sending. Obviously, praise and worship is not bad. I think music is a great way to praise our God and I enjoy playing drums at such events. But I've also come to wonder why there has been such a huge emphasis put on it and why people are pressured to participate in such a specific way. Sometimes I think that we've gotten a little side tracked by this whole worship movement. Shouldn't we be more concerned about the transformation that needs to be seen in our daily lives... taking time with God in private prayer, loving our neighbor, sharing the joy of Christ with those around us, helping those in need, building up the kingdom? Singing songs a couple of nights a week is nice, but let's see that faith in action.

"We must go, live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward, keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go"

Tim Hughes "God of Justice"


Anonymous said...

I think this is a thought provoking post, Matt. I very much valued praise in worship when I came from a Catholic Community that taught me to do so and I think your impressions about how quality of worship is judged is sadly true. After a few years of being away from the community I had to ask myself some of the same questions that arise within you as a musician. What is the focus supposed to be? Are we just trying to control prayer by emphasising the experience over the mysterious event of the Mass? Are we guilty of idolatry in the sense of placing emotions over God? Although I think there is a revival happening in the hearts of the people of God with the help of praise and worship music, I also think we need to be rooted in our traditions. I agree that personal prayer time is of the utmost importance for a mature Christian walk because only in truely listening to God's voice within us, can we live fully our lives. There are seasons in the Liturgical year that call for more silence (lent and advent) and there are parts of the Mass which are to be honored as sacred with gestures and the best music we can muster up.

Sydney said...

There are many times when I have also felt this way about how people are entering into prayer during Mass. It seems as if one person is praising God by raising his hands, than I must need to do the same thing so that I am most effectively praying. Obviously, there is no right or wrong way to pray, but sometimes I think our emotions are easily played upon based on our environment and the other people who are present. When I find myself judging the integrity of other people's prayers, I try to just say a prayer for them that their worship may be true. If raising their hands and singing loudly is really deepening their relationship with God, then Hallelujah! But for some of us, that can be a distraction and not really draw us in deeper. Hopefully we can all approach the Mass, since it is the source and summit of our Christian faith, with a sincere heart of prayer since that is where we can most deeply encounter and experience God's presence.