15 Objections to Worship Renewal...and 15 Brief Answers - As a Worship Development Missionary, I became aware that God was routinely using worship renewal, particularly with contemporary styles, as a tool in transforming peoples' lives - and the corporate lives of local churches. Like fresh New Wine, new music brought to the table all sorts of discussion and emotions, particularly about what to do with...the Old Wine skins. In this matter, I've heard many legitimate - and insightful - questions and concerns; such thoughts have gone on to be much help in renewal.
In all honesty, though, the biggest obstacles have been those who preferred debate to revival. Some people just seem determined to discern when a local Body of Christ is moving toward refreshing, and then mire down every step with unending theological and philosophical tar! Bless 'em.
But whether the motives were sterling or stinky, those concerns began to repeat themselves over time - so did the answers. I've included here my own brief responses to typical questions we fielded for years; they may be helpful or jog your thinking as you deal with the same.
1. I don't need your songs to worship God. Worship is more than a song, it's a whole lifestyle.
That's absolutely true, and Romans 12:1 couldn't be more clear. Our lives should be 24 / 7 expressions of thanksgiving, praise and obedience to the Savior. The life of a worshiper will be characterized by generosity, holiness, evangelism, forgiveness, and all sorts of marvelous things, including the beautiful fruit of the Spirit.
Genuine praise, joyful and heartfelt, is the OVERFLOW of a life brimming with adoration for Our Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus. Those praises will not be silenced; they cannot be held back.
Here's where it gets personal: if those praises are NOT brimming from the life of an individual - or a church, it's reasonable to wonder if that "cup" is full, and challenge it to be so. But it gets sadder than that. I often meet laypeople - and even shepherds - who find it more satisfying to wrangle and fuss about the definition of worship than to simply and sweetly engage in the activity. It's a sign that something is deeply wrong.
Dr. Don McMinn takes this perspective: There is a "narrow" and a "broad" definition of worship, and both are supported by Scripture. Yes, "whatever you do," must be done to God's glory; that's a broad definition of worship. But we're also commanded to "declare the excellencies" of God and sing "a new song" to the Lord; that's a narrow definition.
Pointing to a broad definition of worship does not free us of the responsibilities of the narrow definition, nor - as some would prefer - is the reverse true. Both tend to be escapist ways of not obeying Scripture, and neither is noble. CS Lewis might have said in this case, "you must have it both ways."
How much more delightful to joyfully anticipate and foster times of personal and corporate worship, when we can touch the Father's heart, and have Him touch us. "Let others wrangle," Augustine said, "I will stand in wonder."
2. Why do you worship leaders talk about seeking God's "presence" in a worship experience? You can't make an omnipresent God "more present" by worshiping Him.
First, passages like Psalm 139 make it clear that God is everywhere, and since the term "manifest presence of God" can confuse people theologically, I'll gladly sign a petition to have it stricken from our vocabulary. But before we throw out the bathwater, let's make sure we're not tossing out any perfectly good babies.
Some have suggested that we would be wiser to carefully choose words like "acknowledging that Christ is already with us;" while that covers our intellectual assent to His omnipresence, it does nothing to express our response to His personally-or-corporately-expressed glory and love. Every Christian on this planet knows what it is to be touched by the very REAL SENSE of God's presence. No one, though, by admitting this, is claiming God to be UNREAL at other times! It's just that the sheep recognize the voice of their Shepherd.
Perhaps this perspective will help: Is God present in an inner city "crack house?" We'd all agree He is, though His heart would be grieved by the wickedness and destruction there. Is God present on Sunday morning when His children are praising Him? Without a doubt.
Now in which of the above examples is God's presence more likely to be "encountered" or "experienced?" In that answer is exactly what worshipers describe as the "manifest presence of God." It's a reference to the very desirable, powerful sense of God's obvious presence, when He is "enthroned upon the praises of His people." (Ps 22:3) We routinely pray for such services, and our prayers are answered during these times when God moves among us in life-changing ways.
The Master - as usual - said it best: Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
3. Too much of what's called worship is actually just entertainment. It takes the attention from God and places it on people and their talents.
Godly, skillful musicianship is no more inherently distracting from our Master than Godly, skillful preaching. And it doesn't take Perry Mason to make the case that poor musicianship is far more distracting from worship than good musicianship!
But the issue isn't really about art, is it? It's about heart. And it's about appropriateness. One musician's "hot licks" can leave us gagging on their obvious fleshy show, and another's fine musicianship can make our hearts swell with appreciation for God's glory. Same song, same notes, different heart.
Discerning pastors, elders and worship leaders will work together to cull "performers" from the platform. And by the way, it's not only greatly talented folks that love the limelight. I wonder how often junior high girls (taking 5 minutes of prime worship time to sing along with a Jaci Velasquez background tape) are focusing us on the glory of God. How many of our "specials" should have been kept for a church family talent night? If a special can't be woven into a worship service as a true part of the worship tapestry, it probably doesn't belong, no matter how much we love the singer or player.
Is worship a performance? Absolutely - it's a performance from the congregation directly for God. I long for the day when every member of the congregation sees him or herself as a member of the great choir, performing passionately and personally for the "Audience of One." When all worship leaders see themselves as worshipers first, and "choir directors" and "prompters" second.
WARNING: RANT AHEAD
A final thought on this matter, and - I'll admit - a personal one. If I was a faithful employee at a bank and yet my critics were routinely accusing me of embezzling money, I'd eventually get a little testy. Those who professionally handle cash understand that a great trust has been extended to them; they also know that theft is a dark betrayal of that trust. Similarly, worship leaders are called to handle the "currency" of heaven: God's Glory. Embezzling God's prais