Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Narcotic of Music

I am a musician. I play the piano, guitar, and the trumpet and I have written well over one hundred songs of praise and worship. I have led the music part of the church service as well. There is a real power in music. Most of us know how music can affect our minds and emotions. And when the singers of musicians are performers then the power is only strengthened. Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, and a long line of music performers have collected tens of millions of fans. But even if there are no alluring visuals the music itself can draw us almost magically. In a way music is a narcotic and can mesmerize us and we can become addicted.
But in the last fifty years something has happened within the church. Fasting and prayer have been marginalized while music has taken a prominent and almost cult position. One of the main things a church has to have in order to “attract” visitors is a dynamic music program complete with praise and worship singers. This becomes front and center in the “worship” service. And music quickly captures the hearts and minds of the congregation and usually lifts their spirits and elicits favorable emotions. Believe me, I know.
Spiritual songs and hymns are good. They can be filled with worship and praise which depends on the heart and not the singing. But in these last fifty years music has all but taken over the church. How is it possible that prayer is given a short perfunctory role in the gathering but music is not only given a lengthy place but it is many times good theatre as well? And in the last fifty years praise and worship cassettes and CDs became legion and a must have if you desire to “feel” God’s presence. Some church worship teams travel around the world and draw thousands just to watch and listen, and oh yes, worship.
Could westerners actually worship God without music? I doubt it. And that is a problem. When something becomes addictive and absolutely necessary then you will need more and better and different. I do not believe most of the church set out on a course to make music rival and in many cases overtake the message, to say nothing of prayer or fasting, but it has happened. Music sets the mood and when led by a skilled leader and melodic voices music can lead a person into experiencing emotions he believes are worship. But as you see the sea of hands lifted across the congregation do you believe they all walked with God in a meaningful way during the week?
And I have yet to hear, or I myself have yet to write, a song of repentance even though repentance runs through the psalms. Again, repentance is another casualty of the modern music service. People leave the music service uplifted and feeling good about themselves regardless of their present spiritual condition. And that is by design. Churches want people to come back. In fact the standard of a spiritual walk is so diluted these days that most preachers do not want to challenge their flock either because they are fearful of losing members or because their own spiritual walks are so compromised.
And some churches even have a light show to enhance the ambiance and aura of the “worship” service. The words projected upon a screen are now ornate and sometimes have pictures. Everything is geared toward a “worship experience” and churches by the tens of thousands openly and pridefully tout their worship experience. Can you imagine such a thing? So you are saying your church can conjure up the presence of God on command and on a certain day and a certain time? What they are saying is that their music is so wonderful and powerful that it does not matter if the hearts of the music leaders are not right with God, or if a good portion of the congregation hasn’t prayed or cracked a Bible, you are still able to pull people into God’s presence simply by the power of your well oiled music service. Actually, that is exactly what is being suggested.
Which church says, “Come and repent with us!” What church brochure says, “Come and fast with us!” What church advertisement proclaims, “We observe a lengthy season of prayer on Sunday morning. Come and pray with us.” How about, “Our gatherings last most of the day on Sunday. We pray, we study the Word, we pray some more, we sing to God, we pray some more, we fellowship together, we pray some more, we take the Lord’s Supper, and we dine together. And after we eat we will do what we believe the Spirit is directing. Some come be a part with us!” First of all which preacher would even imagine such a thing, and secondly that local assembly would be empty.
The one hour so called service has always been a product of a fast paced culture and is an affront to God. And even that one hour has been overtaken by music which in the west is interpreted “worship”. If you close your eyes and lift your hands and sing a song you are worshiping. That is the western mindset today. But the church has gone too far and has way too much invested to even consider these thoughts. And to fast and pray about these things carries with it far too great a cost.
But you and I as individuals can repent and seek the mind of the Spirit. God does not require perfection, and there are no set rules for worship except a broken and contrite heart. To be sure music can be a part of worship. But is inside a surrendered heart where true worship takes place.

Jn.4: 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

I fear there is much excitement and much revelry and much orchestrated atmosphere that passes for worship when indeed it is far from it. It is my experience and the Word of God’s teaching that any real encounter with God in the Spirit draws you to repentance and literally changes you. And no professing believer can walk in the flesh and yet arrive on the scene and quickly walk into true worship. But music is wonderful and some of it anointed, but it has become a deceiver to the masses. Those who served Christ before us and covered the earth with a gospel witness would be confused and even offended at the average western church service. That means we have either used technology to ascend closer to Christ or we have allowed technology to use us. I will allow you to decide which is true.
If I am not mistaken the only place where music is mentioned in the life of Jesus is when they sung a hymn after the last supper. What have we done?

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