Monday, July 14, 2008

That's Entertainment...

Ok, I've been on a LONG break in the "Is Evangelicalism Still Christian?" series, and I really am coming back to it. (Really!) But I saw this video this evening (using a recent White Horse Inn pod cast and adding some examples)... and I believe that this DEMANDS the careful attention of every Evangelical today. It is well worth your time in watching.

You may say that this isn't representative of your church... but while the examples may be extreme, the philosophy of "worship ministry" just may seem all too familiar.

So, what do you think? Reactions? Comments? I'm especially interested in thoughts from anyone involved in a worship ministry: Where are the White Horse Inn guys wrong - or right?

The No Pearls Comment Section is wide open...


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
Your post begs the following question.

I believe it is intended as satire, but not sure.

Anonymous said...

The examples in the video seem somewhat extreme, but I understand the point. My church would never do Garth Brooks or a dancing rap song and the rare drama doesn't feel like this at all, but I'm not sure the examples completely match up with what the pod cast was saying.

Anonymous said...

I skimmed through the video, and I think I understand, and agree with the White Horse Inn guys. Some elements of the church today have evolved toward an entertainment mode, at the expense of spiritual content.

Lots of reasons and history to this, which I won't go into...

But I know this: God desires our creative, imaginative input, informed by our spiritual understanding, into our worship and teaching ministries. He also expects us to use the language and media of the culture that is our mission field.

Jonathan Edwards' (multiple citations in the video) dry recitation of spiritually dense prose would be spoken to an empty auditorium in our culture.

We, as leaders in our church ministries need to use our best judgement in these decisions, to reach the most people for Christ, to best equip the saints, and to worship our God.

Bob G.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with BG. That's why in my best judgement, I always play at least one 30 minute bass solo during our worship gigs. The kids really seem to like it.

Sure, it might appear as if it's all about me, my fullfilment as a musician, and the audience's visceral reaction to the awesome show I'm putting on, but it's actually all about glorifying the Almighty with my creative imaginative input in the language and media of my culture.

If you were smarter, you'd understand that.

I could cite the numerous relevant scriptural references, and explain how I came to this conclusion, but I won't go into that right now.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote, "God desires our creative, imaginative input, informed by our spiritual understanding, into our worship and teaching ministries. He also expects us to use the language and media of the culture that is our mission field."

I would like to know where, in the bible, you see that we are expected to conform to culture in our Gospel message (outside of the obvious...learning the actual language so people understand our words in a foreign country). Or where do you see that we MUST be creative? I would also like to know why you feel that an un-creative approach would lead to an "empty auditorium."

While I would certainly say there is nothing wrong with creativity (as long as it doesn't water down the truth), it is NOT our creative approach, but the GOSPEL ITSELF that miraculously changes lives.

If creative methodology results in people MORE being "converted," and a dry, straight forward, non-creative (yet biblical) Gospel message reslults in LESS conversions, then I would question the authenticity of many who are converted under the creative approach. The Holy Spirit does not "need" our creatiivity. God changes the lives of those He calls, regardless of our "methods." If the methods are the difference, then conversion hasn't happened.

Our modern-day dependence on creative methodology, as if THAT is the gospel, truly saddens me.

Doulos Christou said...


Welcome... I'm noting some sarcasm in your comments (although I did get a kick out of the larknews article referenced - I'm not sure my staff member buddies will think its so funny!)

Bob, welcome too! Following on Stephen's point, I'll ask this (Geezer raised it too, I think):

Where in the Bible does one see that "God desires our creative, imaginative input...into our worship and teaching ministries"?

I think the issue raised goes deeper than the question of whether we use "a dry" or a "creative, imaginative" presentation...

I'm not sure I agree with your point about Edwards not having any appeal in today's culture... While people and their attention spans have changed, I'm don't think that there is any lessened impact of the power of the Holy Spirit and God's appointed means of Biblical preaching.

So what does the Bible actually teach about worship? Are the Willow Creek/[fill in the blank] Creek/Granger/Saddleback Community Churches of the world missing the mark here? How about the more traditional evangelical churches that are following their "style" (even if its from a distance)?

You see, Steve, you took the words right out of my mouth!

Anonymous said...

Stephen: of course, the gospel message never conforms to culture. But the language and presentation need to be relevant to the culture. Where do you draw the line? Paul preached about "the unknown god." How much more can one draw from a culture? The message is eternal. The methods must constantly adapt. Agree?

Doulos and Stephen: Where in the bible does it say that we should NOT be creative? Read the psalms. Read the instructions to sing and make music. David danced naked and caught grief from his wife. (Geezer, you never did that, right?) Heck. Look at the artistry employed in the creation of the Tabernacle. Or the Ark of the covenant. God created us in His image, didn't he? Art is emotional and creative, and God desires us to worship Him with our whole beings, doesn't he? If we can't create, then we're just robots.

Doulos: You run ads for a 45 minute recitation of a Jonathan Edwards sermon. I'll run ads for a 30 minute Geezer Butler bass solo, followed by a 15 minute gospel presentation. Let's see who shows up for what.

Geezer: You in?


Anonymous said...

I'm in, and I'm naked.
(except for all this ink)

I think I'll set my hair on fire too.

Anonymous said...

You miss my point, BG. Nothing wrong with creativity. However, I disagree that it is NECSSARY. You use phrases like "we must" or "God expects". That kind of thinking eventually leads to a man-centered gospel in which our methods become the most important component of evangalism. That's a natural response, but must be fervently gaurded against.

Ever increasing creativity and methodology also lead to false conversion...people who become "saved" through slick marketing. Bill Hybel's mantra has alway been to preach in order to meet our "felt needs." This is the great error in the seeker sensitive movement. Our "felt needs" are not the issue. Our REAL needs, our TRUE spiritual need is the issue...the fact that we are all under God's wrath, we can do nothing to avoid it, and Jesus is out only hope.

This message is NOT a palatible to the average person. This is BAD news and FOOLISSHNESS to those who are persihing (1 Corinthians 1:18-19). No amount of marketing or slick packaging will change that, outsiide of a work of the Holy Spirit. Creativity is not the aswer. The TRUE gospel message ANY form, style, cultural context, etc. The Spirit certainly can use our methods, but can also save through the power of the Word of God in spite of the most mundane, dry, uncreative presentation of it that we could imagine. It's God's Word ALONE that brings life, BG. I trust you understand that. The pendulum has swung much too far into "worshiptanment." I love a great worship band...nothing wrong with that. But again, that's not the gospel.

Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 1, "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were NOT IN PERSUASIVE WORDS OF WISOM, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would NOT REST ON THE WISDOM OF MEN, but on the power of God."

What do you think Paul's point is, BG? That we must have a Geezer Butler solo before God can perform His work? No...he is warning us against precisely kind of thinking!

Doulos Christou said...


I still think we may either disagree or be talking past each other. When I think about worship in the Old Testament, originality and creativity definitely do NOT come to mind. The establishment of worship practices (think Exodus 25-40 and the book of Leviticus, for example) hardly demonstrate that God wants us to be original and creative in our assembled worship - think Nadab and Abaihu for instance. (Where in the text would one see any implication that they did anything wrong except "improvising"?)

David's dancing before the Lord is an interesting personal expression - and maybe that's where this starts getting confused. Is one's personal expression of worship necessarily clearly translated into the corporate assembly?

Pentecostals have historically thought so, but the Church historically has embraced a posture consistent with Paul's instructions that there be propriety in worship (for example, 1 Corinthians 11-14, 1 Timothy 2, etc.).

Theologically and philosophically, I'm increasingly wondering how the "1/2 hour concert followed by a talk" format has become the standard for an evangelical order of worship... and whether the WHI guys are right when they suggest that this may have at least something to do with maintaining the attention span of a worldly or unregenerate church attendance.

I'm not suggesting a recitation of a JE sermon anymore than I think you're suggesting an extended bass solo, but as for the attendance challenge, I freely concede that "new measures" and the show will draw a much bigger crowd than the plain, direct preaching of the Gospel. That hasn't always been the case as you know, but it would be consistent with the day.

If drawing a crowd to provide an opportunity for a gospel presentation is the goal:

1. Is that "worship"? (Answer - no.)

2. Is that the purpose of the regular public assembly of the Church? (Answer - not primarily).

Worship isn't evangelism. The goats don't worship and while evangelism is our Great Commission, it is NOT the focus of the worship service.

3. Is there some limit that you would place on creative expression in your worship services? On what basis would you do so if it draws people in?

Bottom line, my question still stands: Where do you see the Bible teaching the concept that we should be "creative" in our approach to the worship service? My answer is that I see nothing of this sort, some you could imply - but the focus of the text is on order and propriety in keeping with the experience - that we are meeting with God as a body, to hear from Him, to be confronted by His Truth in the Word and to respond appropriately. The Father isn't seeking those who will worship Him creatively, but those who worship in spirit and in truth.

"Evangelical Worship" is becoming big business and takes on all of the trappings of a show. Is it a surprise that people are attracted more to that than the Word, Prayer, Communion and brokenness before God?

Doulos Christou said...

For anyone interested in another take on "worship," take a read of this interview over at Grace & Peace blog.

I think it paints a great picture of why the prevailing thinking about creativity in worship is just wide of the core issue.

Anonymous said...

Steve and Dolous,
We agree way more than we disagree.
For what it's worth, I am not a fan of most modern "praise and worship" music. When I was the worship leader at another church, I caught a lot of flak for:

1: not singing popular p&w songs that had shallow lyrical content and
2: not repeating choruses ad nauseum and
3: not always appealing to the most fervent "worshippers."

I believe that worship music should deliver content. The lyrical content should consist of the deepest spiritual truths possible.
These spiritual truths should be delivered in the most musical way possible. There are many scriptural injunctions to use music in the praise of God. But my bible does not contain and sheet music. Therefore, it follows that music must be created by God's people. Music is inherently creative.

How about this: if I'm doing music, I'll do it heartily, as unto the Lord. Can "heartily" be a substitute for "creative?"

Please don't parse my diction. It won't stand up to a rigorous hermeneutic! :-) But it makes sense.

Modern church services have evolved into something that appeals to someone. Of course I don't love everything involved in the service. But I love the people, and I respect the leaders, and am seeking to submit to their leadership.

Fair enough?

Anonymous said...


Your use of the word "heartily" certainly sits well with me. That's the point, isn't it? It's the heart that counts in worship, not the style. Of course when worship is expressed through music, creativity certainly is involved. But that's just the expression, not the focus. I think you would agree.

An analogy might be preaching. Is there "creativity" in preaching? I would say yes. Some preachers are great orators, others are less so. But it's the CONTENT that counts. I do fear that many today place more emphasis on style than content...both in worship AND preaching.

Again, I believe you would agree. But still, BG, you did contrast style as having much importance when you compared Jonathan Edwards to Mr. Geezer Bultler. I know that was an extreme, humorous example, but in reality, I've known many people who have said, for example, that a certain preacher is "really dry and expository." Alternatively they point to someone like a John Ortberg, who is a pehnominally gifted speaker (and also very entertaining), and say they prefer his preaching.

Now I would make the case that a "dry, expository" preacher like Tom Nelson or John Piper is FAR more powerful and biblically grounded than a John Ortberg, who I see as nothing more than "Christianity light" with pop psychology overtones. Do I "enjoy" Ortberg more than Nelson or Piper from a "creative" perspective? Absolutely! But Nelson & Piper effect change in my life exponentially above a John Ortberg.

Now, translate that line of thinking to worship. I am convinced that worship has become far more about music, style and creativity than true heart-felt glorifying of God "in spirit and in truth." One can be motionless, uncreative, and speechless and be truly worshipping, while the most creative methods often are nothing more than entertainment or emotional manipulation. It is abundantly clear to me that many, if not most evangelicals are blind to this.

Doulos Christou said...

I'm generally, sort-of, I think, kind-of, maybe with you BG... :)

I'm thinking of how to put my rhetorical finger on the pulse of the issue I'm feeling - maybe that's enough incentive to quit editing the next installment of this series and get it out for discussion/correction/debate/etc.

Doulos Christou said...

BTW, I'm not sure where geezer went - or where he came from... is he "from the land of misfit toys"?

Anonymous said...

Stephen and Dolous,
Hallelujah! We're now talking to, and not past each other! To the extent that our miscommunication was caused by my incomplete responses, I apologize.

I am fully in support of INTENSE, DEEP communication of CONTENT: the gospel to all unbelievers, and of the whole of God's truth for the edification/maturity of all believers!

Louis Giglio (considered to be the founder of the modern p&w movement) says IT'S ALL ABOUT THE WORDS..not the music or style. So there's hope...

Stephen: you said: "One can be motionless, uncreative, and speechless and be truly worshipping, while the most creative methods often are nothing more than entertainment or emotional manipulation" and I say, "Amen!" In fact, as a worship leader, I know this to be true. As a worship leader I learned that I could not possibly guess what God was doing in people's hearts, just by looking at them. (But, of course, as a guitar player, I'd rather see them all jump around and go crazy!)

Dolous: regarding OT rituals: of course, the sacrifices were a communication of of the Gospel message, and they were rightfully rigid in their presentation. You don't mess with the Gospel! But God left plenty of room for interpretation in the praise/music/dance/etc. aspects of His people's interaction with him. And we're encouraged to praise Him musically, so this will always be a topic of discussion for the Church.

Anyhoo, the methods of communication and style will vary considerably. We may never agree on the right methods, but that's the point, isn't it? It's hard to agree. So, if I employ my methods, and You guys employ yours, we can each reach the few folks who can stand us, and the world's a better place, ok?(insert peace sign here :-) And if we can stand each other, and our methods, than maybe we can do it together, ok? (although, in our little focus group here, it appears that I'm the 2nd most liberal* in terms of style (which would come as a huge surprise to those who know me well!). (*Geezer would be first, what with public nudity and all...)

By the way, Geezer was just messing with us, but that's OK. I wish him God's blessings: peace and love.

It's been fun.

Anonymous said...

Hey all of you ... define worship for me. You seem to have such a small definition of worship - like it's only singing. Come on ... it's way beyond that.

BTW, you seem to be fighting a 1980s war ...

Doulos Christou said...

My point exactly, Anon - people today seem to define worship as the 1/2 hour concert... I'd suggest that worship is our response to God, and the worship service should be the place where we are reminded of God's nature and character, God's law and our consequences, God's mercy and provision through Jesus for His people - the "Divine Drama".

It isn't about style or format - those were the '80's wars (I think). As a matter of fact, it isn't about us at all... it's about God.

That's what I think is lost in Evangelicaldom today... and we're the poorer for it.

What say you?

Anonymous said...

Dear Man who has swines but no pearls-

We are a new band called the "Smooth Talking Pineapples"

We sing Christian Hardcore Death Screamo Metal.

We would like to let you be our opening act. You can talk about your page and you message. And then we will take over.

Unfortunately, you style doesn't quite "fit" with ours so you'll have to adjust to be listened to by the audience.

First: You must be screaming every verse or point you say.
Second: You must be wearing all black with chains spikes and more makeup than your wife.
Third: You need to threaten people a bit or they won't take you seriously.
Lastly: Your message should be talking about death more than hope and bad more than good (but in a good way-show God's wrath)

We hope you will agree to open for our international show.

Hope to see you there.
We look forward to screaming about you soon.

Beth W said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.