Back to Basics: Dismantling the Mecca of Modern Worship
There has been a lot of talk on the problems of worship in Contemporary Christian communities recently, primarily in discussing the lack of congregational participation. There have been many theories of blame circulating. As a contemporary worship leader, and lover of the contemporary Christian genre, I feel compelled to jump in on the conversation. Rather than contributing to the blame game, I want bring us back to basics in asking: what is the foundation of worship? I ask because I think we have forgotten. Spiritual amnesia has forced us to stray from the reason for why we worship. So, if worship isn’t about fog machines, drum loops, catchy choruses, MacBooks, or in ear monitors, what is worship about?
I had a church music professor in college, (Dr. Jonathan Blackmon, currently teaching MBU in St. Louis), who used to define worship as communion with God. By this definition, the function of worship leading is to lead others into communion with God. So I ask, are worship leaders (who are first and foremost ministers) doing all things possible to lead people into communion with God? Additionally, are we as followers of God first seeking communion with God, in order that we might bring others into this divine communion for which we are familiar?
According to Blackmon’s definition of worship, some of the best worshipers in the bible are hidden! I’m not talking about the mainstream, radio-friendly worship leaders like Moses, King David, or the Apostle Paul, I’m talking about the lo-fi, undiscovered, b-side nameless bible characters who do whatever they can to commune with God, to worship. I was having lunch with Jason, one of the youth ministers at my church, when he recounted the story of Jesus healing the paralytic who was lowered through the roof of the house Jesus was teaching in (Mark 2:4 and Luke 5:19). Jason talked about how the men got to Jesus in the quickest possible way. They were so eager to be in communion with God that they went through the roof (which Jason cleverly suggests was pretty sketchy, given that property damage was probably a crime), but they didn’t care! They were not concerned with the cost of communion with Christ, and they were definitely not concerned with themselves (as they stayed on the roof). We as worshipers and worship leaders have much to benefit from this story. Are we so concerned with protocol, our personal preferences of worship, or the spotlight, that we have forgotten that its about communion with Christ? Sometimes I feel like I could buy contemporary worship service tickets onticketmaster.com, as the environment screams “praise the good-looking, talented musician,” rather than the bloody Jew on the Cross.
We should be doing everything in our power to commune with God, and lead others into this communion. The reality is, everybody worships something. Whether its a significant other, a possession, or even yourself, we all worship, because we were created to. But we weren’t just created to worship anything….we were created to worship God, to be in communion with God. For this reason we are all worship leaders, and while the Chris Tomlin Passion songs, the 15 electric guitars on stage, and the light show equivalent to a KISS concert are fun and helpful resources, the best worshipers, and thus worship leaders, focus less on themselves and more on communion with Christ. Do everything in your power today to commune with God. Leave everything else behind.