Worshiptainment, Pros and Cons

Screenshot 2016-01-14 at 9.27.52 AMIf you haven’t read this post featuring A.W. Tozer from earlier this week, please start there. This is something of a follow up that continues the same line of thought.

I bookmarked a Patheos article last week on 8 reasons every Christian should sing hymns. One reason is that hymns are usually steeped in theology in a way the modern praise & worship choruses are not. P&W songs tend to take one good line and repeat it a dozen times. I’m not saying we should never sing those, but traditional hymns are designed in part to teach theology with the congregation. They are rich in biblical truths that allow us to memorize and repeat those lessons. Another reason to sing hymns is that the congregation sings together instead of watching a few professionals do it. Worship should involve everyone present in as many ways as possible. It’s something believers do, not something we gather to watch. Those are two good reasons to sing hymns, please read the entire list at the original source.

This week, thanks to the Wednesday Link List, I read another Patheos article that seemed to defend worshiptainment. David Murrow on the Church for Men blog asks the question “Is modern worship too entertaining?” He argues that public worship has been in the entertainment business for 1,700 years. There will always be some element of entertainment to our worship and that decreasing the production value isn’t the way to go. He seems to question what we’re complaining about when we criticize worshiptainment, suggesting that all of those entertainment elements point people to God. I do not advocate lowering the production value of our worship services; everyone should be able to see and hear which makes lighting, sound, and projection equipment necessary. But we must not forget what we are there for; to worship God and to rightly divide the Word of Truth. We can make an idol out of literally just about anything. There is a very real possibility, if we’re not careful, of being distracted by the HD images on the big screen and the high quality of our sound systems that we forget what the purpose of those things was meant to be. The tagline on the header above says “God honoring, Christ centered” so that I don’t get so distracted by blogging that I forget why I started a blog in the first place. Yogi Berra said “If you don’t know where you’re going you will end up someplace else.” I think a lot of church came together to worship and ended up someplace else.

The problem occurs when we replace corporate worship with entertainment. Worship is something we must do together, not sit and watch. Murrow argues that churches resemble stadium and movie theaters, and are thus designed for watching a show. Even though the buildings may look similar, the purpose is not. We go to the theater to watch a movie or play, and to the stadium to watch a game. Sunday morning worship is not a spectator sport. We go to church to engage in worship which is directed toward God. The production values can be incredibly high and still engage the congregation in many different ways. We don’t have to do away with all music or, as he also suggests, do away with the preacher and sermon. Preaching, and the response to preaching, is worship. Singing hymns, with or without music, is worship. Praying, giving, responsive reading, reading the scripture and even dramatic interp are all acts of worship.

“There will always be an element of entertainment to our worship.” I will not argue that point. But will there always be an element of worship? Perhaps Murrow and I have a different understanding of what authentic worship is and what it looks like. There are already several links in the post, but I will close with a book recommendation. Understanding, Preparing for and Practicing Christian Worship by Franklin M. Segler is a definitive work on what we are doing when we come to church and why. I recommend it for any church member and very strongly recommend it to anyone in leadership.

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