Sara has posted more thoughts on contemporary worship over at ABA, to which Seth has a response. Both have salient points, but one thing comes up again: that unhealthy focus on the “personal relationship” which carries with it the danger of individualistic idolatry.
In the comments to Sara’s post, Ash responds, “Jesus knows our hearts at worship. That’s all that matters.” To which I must, in part, disagree. Yes, worship in spirit and truth is a deeply personal experience with a personal Savior, but as I have asked before: if that is all that matters, then why bother to worship at church, if you can just sit at home with a bible and a guitar to sing godly love songs in your room all Sunday?
The answer, of course, is that worship is more than just a personal feel-good emotional experience; it involves the whole community in the glorification of God and the edification of each member of the Body. I would venture to say that Paul’s admonitions on tongues, prophecy, and order in worship apply just as much to our sense of communal worship as to our use of spiritual gifts: “For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.”
Seth also echoes my own doubts about redundant praise songs that simply sing the same line over and over again. Such repetition irks me, not so much for the danger of a “Mantric Glaze” (akin, I suppose, to the babbling of pagans, or “vain repetitions,” as the KJV puts it), as for the complacent standstill to which such songs bring the believer, as if constant recital of the same basic spiritual truth is enough to build one up in the faith. Granted, the spiritual infant must be weaned on spiritual milk, but the believer must eventually mature to solid food. Our songs must progress, and not dwell solely on repeated “I love you’s” and “Hallelujah’s” at the expense of richer, fuller knowledge of Christ.
Tangential discussion branches off into one of Jenn’s entries, where Seth (scroll about 3/4 down the page, or search for the word “spastic”) has some nitpicks on Matt Redman’s Heart of Worship. That interests me a lot, as we just sang “Heart of Worship” over at Epic service in Central, and it gladdened me greatly to see these lyrics rise above the shallow, repetitive theologies of nominal pop-Christianity. Though Seth is right about some of the humanistic residue present in some of the song’s finer details, Redman’s humble and repentant turn-of-heart is an admirable sentiment which leaves me hopeful that contemporary worship is not a sellout to pop-culture sound and fury.
(Not to say, of course, that modern worship is all sellout, but there are certain implicit cultural indicators which cannot be ignored. But ah, that is fodder for another blog entry.)