02 June 2011

What Do You Look for in a Church?

Earlier this week over at The Watchman's Bagpipes, my friend Glenn Chatfield took some time to compare side-by-side the worship songs--both contemporary "praise" songs and older hymns--that had been sung this past Sunday in his church. For those of us who have spent the bulk of our churchgoing years saturated and, in my opinion, brainwashed, but mind-numbingly repetitive and weak "praise choruses," it is incredibly helpful to see the lyrics of these songs placed in a direct comparison with some of the older, doctrinal hymns.

Personally, I'm a hymn person myself. I won't argue that there are some hymns being written today that are beautiful in sound and also didactic in their lyrics (Stuart Townend comes to mind), but for the most part, "contemporary Christian music" is really the Church's pathetic attempt to be hip and relevant in the eyes of the world. Granted, as Glenn mentions in his article, older does not necessarily mean better (he uses the example of the hymn "In the Garden"). As John MacArthur notes, however, "Before the middle part of the 19th century or so, hymns were wonderful didactic tools, filled with Scripture and sound doctrine, a medium for teaching and admonishing one another, as we are commanded in Colossians 3:16. Most hymns were written not by teenagers with guitars, but by pastors and theologians: Charles Wesley, Augustus Toplady, Isaac Watts (Online Source)."

This discussion started me thinking. Nowadays, it's difficult to find a church that is dedicated in its musical worship time to teaching the Word of God. As I mentioned, for years we have been brainwashed to think that "worship" means singing and that this should be some sort of entertaining free concert every Sunday morning. In the midst of swaying in the aisle with your hands raised and your eyes closed, have you ever truly paused and pondered the words that you are proclaiming? Have you stopped to examine who you are really worshiping? I would encourage you to do so, because in so many churches today, the songs are exalting self rather than God.

There's another danger to this entertainment trend, however. In most churches, the service opens with a time of musical worship. And sadly, in many churches this is accompanied with loud guitars, highly-caffeinated drummers and, if you're "lucky" enough to attend a mega-church, you may also get to see some smoke, lights and lasers. This time before the sermon should be a time for us to prepare to learn about and worship our Lord in reverence. Yet we have come to expect a show. What happens, then, when you visit a church that isn't quite so entertaining in its musical selections?

What is your response when a church's worship team stands before you on Sunday morning and is faithful to exalt Christ, but isn't quite as fancy as you're used to? What if their singing is just a little bit off-key? What if they aren't putting on a show for you, with their own eyes closed and hands raised, enjoying their 30-minute spotlight on the stage? What if they are simply, faithfully and reverently singing the songs and playing the music and you aren't impressed? And what if this faithful, yet not entertaining (enough) music is followed by a carefully delivered, well-exegeted, Biblical sermon? Will you continue to attend this church? What is more important to you?

That last question is really what I'm getting at. Why do we go to church? We go to church to worship God. Period. The purpose of church is to glorify and exalt God through the teaching of the Scriptures to believers. So what if your worship team isn't going to win a Dove Award. Do they lift up Christ when they sing? Then they're doing fine. Is your pastor faithful to the Word of God? Then you are blessed. If you are someone who selects a church based upon their musical worship style, and the execution of that, then I urge you to perhaps re-examine your priorities. Are you willing to sacrifice being taught faithfully from the Bible every week, in favor of being entertained by the folks on stage with the microphones? Personally, I'd rather attend a church whose worship team consists of one tone-deaf guy with a guitar, but whose pastor stands before the congregation each Sunday and boldly and faithfully teaches through the Scripture, than to spend 30 minutes at a rock concert followed by a pastor twisting Scripture to serve his own purposes. But that's just me.

Jesus is Not My Boyfriend
Have You Praised Yourself Lately?
Romanticizing Jesus


  1. Very good!

    I'm going to post this on my Facebook to see what sort of response I get!

  2. Thanks, Glenn--that ought to generate an interesting response!

  3. I recently attended a service at the Flamingo Road "campus" (Plantation, Florida) of Potential Chuch, one of the laregst churches in the U.S. I was NOT impressed. The music was so loud it could not be characterized as worship; instead, it was an assult on the senses. I got the impression that many in the congregation traded their nighclub experience for an experience in a "church". Add the disco lights and it could have been a nightclub.

    The next part of the service could best be described as entertainment: Several audience members were invited to the stage to exercise (e.g., on on a treadmill, another skipping rope). In true game show fashion, they were given parting gifts for their participation: "Church" t-shirts.

    The teaching part of the service was the only redeeming part of the service: It was performed by a pastor from Potential's Bermuda "campus".

    What is the church doing? At best, it is keeping people off the streets and providing some entertainment. At worst, it is deflecting them from finding a church that is more helpful.


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