Pagan Worship

Posted by on Oct 16, 2010

Am I the only one who tires quickly (after only the second repeat) of praise songs that go on and on and on and on and….? You get my point. I find it ironic that we live during a time when truly masterful worship songs are being composed and disseminated but also at a time when some worship experiences seem far from Christian.

I’ll try to illustrate my point and then voice my concern.

There are some worship leaders today (Stuart Townend and Bob Kauflin lead the way) who are writing theologically rich, musically beautiful, worship songs. Their lyrics engage both the heart and mind and their music transports us to an experience that seems like a foretaste of heaven.

Many others have contributed excellent works as well. But some songs lend themselves to mindless repetition. In some cases, the verses are OK but the refrain is so simplistic, it lends itself to endless repetition, to the point of becoming a mindless mantra. (Years ago, I stood next to one of my sons in a worship service singing “I could sing of your love forever” over and over to the point of mindnumbing madness. My son whispered in my ear, “I think that’s what we’re doing right now!” I was both sad for him and proud of him).

Sometimes I just wonder if some song leaders can’t figure out how to quit the song. They’ve repeated it so many times, they just can’t let go. This is more of a musical or leadership problem than a spiritual one.

But my concern goes beyond personal taste or style. At some point, after a song gets repeated numerous times, the experience cannot be considered meaningful in any thought-engaging way. It becomes merely an emotional experience divorced from the intellect. I think the scriptures warn against such activity.

When Jesus taught us how to pray in his sermon on the mount, he warned, “do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt 6:7). I am viewing singing as a form of prayer in this case. The “Gentiles” he spoke of thought the value of their prayers were in their quantity. Quality did not matter, as shown by Jesus’ choice of the word “empty.”

Many pagan worship experiences disdain the intellect and seek to work participants into a mindless state where the spirits can transport people to experiences diametrically opposed to Biblical worship. God calls us to a holistic encounter of loving him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. We dare not settle for counterfeits.

2 Comments

  1. Bob Humphrey
    May 20, 2013

    Hi Randy. We believe in resurrection, right? Hope it’s ok to resurrect this thread! I appreciate your thoughts on worship songs. Here’s one of mine for your consideration. I’ve noticed that worship songs seem to fit into two basic categories. One is the proclamation of truth category. In this one, we sing about and magnify things that are true. Generally, our response to these truths are not necessarily part of the song. I can sing, “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” for example, and on one day feel nothing, on another be unable to sing because of the lump in my throat. On either day, there is no expectation from the song itself as to my inward response…it’s between me and God. The other is the response category. This type of song may proclaim truth, but it’s the response to that truth that is the focus. I have a hard time with these songs because they make me feel like a hypocrite. Why? Because I may not be feeling what I am singing that I’m feeling. In fact, it seems that the more emotion that is being displayed by either the song leader or the congregation, the more likely I am to feel nothing. I just don’t think emotions are something that can be orchestrated, at least not for me. Sometimes I actually find myself going to church late, just so I will miss most of the “worship” time because of this. Unfortunately, that causes me to miss the proclamation type songs. Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with this…just thought I’d throw it out there.

    Reply
  2. Bob Humphrey
    May 20, 2013

    Correction on the above post. I see now that it was Jon Newman’s post that I was responding to.

    Reply

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