Volume 7, Issue 3: Presbyterion
Just One Channel and No Remote
Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccesible, hid from our eyes.
Scratch a friend's back, scratch a back next to ya! Scratch a friend's back, and
sing tra la!
Worship in the modern evangelical church is, by and large, pathetic. The church
has left her biblical standard of worship, which is to glorify God, and has embraced
a man-centered goal the enjoyment and pleasure of the viewer. A successful service
is now thought to be one in which the participants are pleased. In a biblical
service, the desire of the worshippers' hearts is fulfilled when God is pleased.
Once the goal shifts from the pleasure of God to the pleasure of man, the church
has taken the first step towards liturgical idiocy. When that happens, all conservative
challenges to this deterioration will be resisted by the ever-sliding status
quo until God is pleased to grant a reformation to the church.
Whenever a culture's goal becomes entertainment, a law of degeneration immediately
sets in. In the field of economics, Gresham's Law states that bad money drives
out good. In the same way, bad entertainment displaces that which is not quite
as bad. In a sinful world, poor comedians will go for the easy laugh with dirty
jokes, lousy screenwriters go for high ratings through half-dressed sex cookies,
and mindless rock bands yell into the mike, using a lot of dry ice and lasers.
In the church, it is no different. When God is the audience, standards will
be high. "And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when
you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" says the Lord of
hosts"(Mal. 1:8). Biblical Christianity is a serious, intelligent, and demanding
faith, because the God we serve is the Most High.
The evangelical church at large has opted for the superficial in worship. Devotees
whoop and holler their way through trite upbeat songs; sometimes the songs are
even blasphemous. I once saw grown Christians at a conference jumping up and
down, lustily singing away, with hand motions, splish-splashing in the blood
of Christ. And when the moment turns serious, they will coo their way through
worship songs that sound like they were written for somebody's girlfriend. Substitute
Sheila for Jesus in a lot of these songs, and it would not make much of a
difference. At other times some good biblical word like alleluia is sung over
and over and over, as though it were a mantra for the born-again labotomized.
The church building itself often resembles the set of a variety-hour television
set. Some members, disgusted with these ecclesiastical monkeyshines, have tried
to leavebut they have not really succeeded. Tiring of the circus, they decided
to go to the opera. Wanting more serious entertainment, they worship with mummeries
that resemble an initiation down at the local Moose Lodge. They have simply changed
the channel over to a liturgical PBS.
But the focus of our worship is to be the glory of God. When evaluating a song,
or any part of our worship, we should not ask whether we like it, but whether
God's name will be lifted up through it. In contrast to this God-honoring evaluation,
we often see people visiting various churches the same way a bored television
viewer channel surfs, looking for something "he likes."
Because God must be our focus, the standard should be high, not to impress people
with a virtuoso performance, but rather to honor His name. This means our lives
should be in order, the lyrics scriptural in content, balance, and tone, and
the music worthy of Him. This last point is very importantrelativism has invaded
the church more successfully in the area of aesthetics than anywhere else. Whenever
high musical standards are set, all of a sudden Christians start talking like
nihilists. "And who's to say what constitutes good music . . .? You ?"
The answer is found in Scripture. God is the
source of all that is good, and when it comes to music He has said that there
is such a thing as skill . "Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a
shout of joy" (Ps. 33:3). And this is how those who love Him must strive to serve
and honor Him.
The New Testament calls us to have the word of Christ dwell in us richly as
we worship. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching
and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing
with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16). The majesty of our God and
the richness of our faith will not manifest themselves in poverty-stricken lyrics
and three-chord wonder songs.
The richness of our worship is a good litmus test for the richness of our faith.
Tragically, by this standard, the modern evangelical church has sold her birthright.
Our name is now Ichabod the glory has departed. Until the glory returns, the
believer can begin consistently to pray for reformation and revival. Or he can
shrug it all off, return to Howdy Doody time at church, and scratch a friend's