The Ancient Faith
WHAT IS WRONG WITH CONTEMPORARY WORSHIP?
A friend of mine who is a fine Christian and a contractor was called by a denominational church to bid a job of refinishing the inside of their building. Since he had done work there before he noticed that their communion table had been moved out of the way to the side of the building. When he asked why it had been moved he was told that they had decided to have three worship services on Sunday morning. One was for the old timers who wanted to worship according to their traditional pattern. The second was for those who wanted to dress down in more comfortable clothing and perhaps modernize their service in a limited way. The third was for the younger generation who wanted a more contemporary worship with a rock band, hand clapping, swaying with the music, etc. Of course, the communion table did not fit in with this so it was shoved off to one side.
This example happened in a denominational church. We are not surprised when something like these changes take place there because they decided a long time ago that correct doctrine and sound, scriptural practices were no longer necessary. But it is surprising when similar things begin to creep into the churches of Christ that have at least paid lip service to the requirement of a “thus said the Lord” for any practice in their worship service. We need to be more aware of such practices and make sure our worship is the kind that pleases God and is acceptable to Him. More than that, we need to sit up and take notice that there are a few in our ranks that have attempted or would like to try to move our worship services-in this direction. Sometimes the changes are so slight they are almost undetectable. The devil knows that any attempt at a broad, sweeping change would be challenged-and defeated. What are some of these desired changes and what is wrong with having a more contemporary worship service that would excite the worshippers in a greater way and would appeal more to prospective members from the world?
WORLDLY CHANGES THAT ARE DESIRED
There is a desire to restyle not only our worship services, but also the plan of salvation and the organization of the church. These changes have been going on for years in many of the liberal churches of Christ. Books have been written warning us about those who desire and are promoting these changes. Such books as Behold The Pattern, by Goebel Music, The Restoration: The Winds of Change, which is a lectureship directed by Jim Laws, Piloting The Straits, by Dave Miller, and perhaps the one with the most ominous title is Change Agents and Churches of Christ, by William Woodson all give portentous warnings about changes that are being attempted right now to bring about revised practices in worship in order to better appeal to the present generation of younger adults and teenagers. A partial list of the desired changes is found on page 181 of Piloting The Straits:
“These changes include the areas of church music, lifting up hands, handclapping, drama, female leadership, observing religious holidays, dedicating babies, the Lord’s Supper, Sunday night cluster groups and children’s worship, preaching style and worship environment.“
A brief glance and study of these changes indicate that their direction is away from God and toward man and the desires of his flesh. Those interested in making these and similar changes are interested in the things that please man instead of the things that pleases God. It has gotten to the point where man with his feelings has become the focal point of worship. It is more important to please man than it is to please God, Galatians 1:10. The necessary requirement for a practice in worship is an affirmative answer to the question, “Does it make the worshipper feel good?” Take, for example, the practice of hand clapping.
This practice has crept into religion in a plurality of forms. Sometimes it is used as a rhythmical accompaniment to singing. As such it is a violation of Ephesians 5: 19 and Colossians 3:16 that require only the voice and heart. It is in the same category as other forms of instrumental music and is an addition to God’s word. At other times it used to express approval for a performance by a preacher, soloist, quartet or other group singers. Such applause of a human action or performance that is scriptural or unscriptural is unworthy in an assembly designed by God to worship Him only. Such adulation is a violation of Matthew 4:10. But, says one, “Our hand clapping is nothing more than a person saying “Amen” when we agree with a speaker or performer.” Such people forget there is a scriptural time for saying “Amen,” I Corinthians 14:16, and no scripture can be given in the New Testament for hand clapping.
Entertaining the worshippers has become the goal of many religions today in order to attract new members and keep the young interested. It is not uncommon to hear of rock bands, etc., being the main attractions at religious services. This exciting entertainment is just exactly what the world is looking for in religion. In commenting on such practices and condemning them Adam Clarke in his commentary on Amos 6, Vol. 4, p. 684 wrote in 1826A.D., “In the light of such a text, fiddlers, drummers, waltzers, etc., may well tremble, who perform to excite detestable passions.” He was writing about those who would bring instruments of music into the house of God. Neither is it scripturally right to sing praises to God accompanied by sounds made by using one’s voice or other body parts to mimic the sound the mechanical instruments of music make.
A scriptural church service may seem boring to you. If this is true the remedy is not in changing God’s plan for your worship of Him, but in learning to become excited about doing exactly what God wants you do. Remember, it is not the purpose of the worship service to entertain you. It is arranged for you to worship God and to be edified Dave Miller wrote in Piloting the Straits, pg. 217:
“May God help us to resist the impulse to change with the times in an effort to remain culturally relevant. May God help us to find contentment and satisfaction in simple, unpretentious New Testament worship. May we rediscover the heartfelt fulfillment and genuine excitement that can only come from simple submission to the words of our great God and Father.”
[This is from the July 1999 issue of the OPA].