Christian Worship or Rock Concert?
As you enter the concert hall, the house lights are off. You stumble to your seat amid the overflowing crowd of young people. There is a hum of conversations all around, and the atmosphere is charged with a palpable excitement. Then suddenly the stage is bathed in a blue light, and smoke fills the front of the auditorium, closely followed by an explosive guitar riff as the band begins to belt out a number at a level of decibels that is guaranteed to cause hearing damage to every person in the building. The auditorium is still in darkness, but all around you young people are on their feet, jumping and waving to the thumping beat.
No, you are not at a rock concert. This is a church service at a large city church whose congregation is predominantly young people. What you are experiencing is what they call worship.
Apart from practical concerns of possible injury from trying to find your way in the dark, almost certain hearing damage from the noise, and the question of how anyone over the age of 30 could possibly relate to this, the whole scenario raises some very serious spiritual questions.
Firstly there is the issue of the darkened auditorium. What does darkness have to do with worship? Are we not children of the light, walking in the light, and worshiping a God who is in the light? Is there darkness in heaven?
Then there is the noise. At some point the pastor stands up and says that “heaven is a noisy place.” This is certainly true – a hundred million angels all declaring the glory of God “in a loud voice” is certainly not quiet! However, heaven is not a closed auditorium where sound reverberates off every surface, nor does it have amplifiers turned up as far as they can go without exploding! Just how does causing long-term hearing loss to every person present glorify God? What’s more, any older person who has the courage to venture in is likely to experience physical pain from the volume of the music – does a total lack of concern for them bring honor to the Lord Jesus Christ?
Even more concerning is the question of focus, which is totally on the stage and the musicians. What is being worshiped here – regardless of what words are put to it – is not God, but the music, the musos, and the experience. How does this offer the people in attendance anything different from what they could have received at any rock concert? The Gospel is not about us, yet here the whole atmosphere tells the audience that it is all about them and their having a good time.
When will God’s people learn that noise does not equate to anointing? When will we learn that we do not have to imitate the world, but rather that we are to be radically different from the world? When will we learn that worship is not about us, but about God? When will we learn that indulging our senses does not bring us into God’s presence? And where are the prophets who would be bold enough to cry out, “This is not the way!”?
This is not suggesting that the Church should be stiff and starchy and never sing anything but old hymns. It is not the style of music that is the problem, but the presentation and the focus. If the focus of the worship is the music and the experience rather than the Lord, then it is false worship regardless of whether the style is rock or baroque.
Church, wake up! We are not here to compete with the world on the world’s terms. We are here to counter the spirit of the age with a vastly different spirit. We are not here to call young people to sign up for a free rock concert every week – how difficult is that? – but to call them to a costly commitment of service to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not here to indulge our flesh, but to manifest the glory of the Lord. Church, it’s time to stop trying to be the word, and start being the Church of the living God.