Yesterday I attended a big church in our state’s capital city. I went because one of my favorite preachers, a man whose messages downloaded from the internet have blessed me greatly, was ministering there, and I wanted to get “close up” to his anointing, even though it involved several hours of train travel each way to get there.
This man’s message, as usual, was anointed and powerful, but I was greatly disturbed by the “worship” that preceded it. I arrived late to the first service – an unavoidable consequence of long distance train connections. The meeting was held in a concert hall, and when I arrived the house lights were off and the only lighting was on the stage, with spotlights circling the auditorium. At the natural level this created problems, because the only seating available was on the balcony, and this being tiered there were steps up to the seats – steps that were impossible to see in the darkness. Far more importantly, though, it prompted the question: 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?
The music was loud – so loud that, seated in the back row of the balcony, I could feel the vibrations through my seat! Definitely loud enough to cause hearing damage to every person in that auditorium. Exactly how does this honor God? At one point the pastor stood up and said that “heaven is a noisy place.” This is certainly true, and a point that I have made myself many times through the years – 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, I am sure, does it have amplifiers turned up as far as they can go without exploding!
Added to the darkness and noise were colored lights and a smoke machine. The second session, for which I was on time, opened with the auditorium again in darkness, the stage bathed in blue light and billowing smoke, and an explosion of heavy guitar riffs. In other words, exactly what you would find at a rock concert. The total focus was on the stage and the musicians. What was being worshipped here – regardless of what words were put to it – was not God, but the music, the musos, and the experience. How did this offer the hundreds of people in attendance, most of them very young, anything different from what they could have received at any rock concert? In part of his message the preacher said, “It’s not about us” yet the whole atmosphere told these young people that it most definitely was all about them.
The whole thing left me deeply grieved in my spirit. 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!”?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m 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.