Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why worship music has spun out of control [1/7/08]

I have recently reviewed some CD's by artists or bands that are independent and up and coming...possibly. You see, the label that some market themselves as is a "worship artist". The whole concept is beginning to really make me sick.

I grew up in the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church movement. My family has strong "born again " roots that are strong and Bible believing. I grew up with the hymns and was introduced to praise-type choruses as a teenager. Most of variety being campfire songs, Andre Crouch, Dallas Holmes, and of the Gaither variety.

In the 1980's, Maranatha and Hosanna Integrity got into the act. The Christian market back then was huge on Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and The Imperials, to name a few. Many churches were slow to pick up on the praise and worship mentality.

I left a solid independent Bible church in my early 20's because it was apparent that they were going to be so slow to change, that their feet would be stuck in cement. I started attending an Assembly Of God church that used a combination of modern praise from Maranatha and Hosanna Integrity mixed with Jewish Messiahic praise music. It was a good mix and a place to grow in.

It was in my Care group, a home group of a bunch of single adults, where I learned how to worship and grow in leading it. We sought out music that was authentic and anointed. I was drawn to the Vineyard worship, along with the violet burning's music.

As cycles happen, things fell apart and people moved on. After a couple shorter stints at different churches, I discovered a Vineyard church in my area. I was a part of the worship team. We rocked! I began writing my own music as well. It was a good growing experience for a musician.

Along the way, I collected and soaked up a lot of worship. I wasn't into the so-called worship artists, like David Crowder, Charlie Hall, etc... I was selective. I am into a few, like Robbie Seay and Kate Miner. Most of my attention has gone towards deep music, anointed stuff, and moving rock and roll that sends shivers. I fell in love with a lot of Vineyard based music...that is until they started going commercial with their "club" to join.

We have a festival in my neck of the woods called Kingdom Bound. When they first started it in 1987, there was a lot of potential for bringing in good alternative artists and bands. This potential lasted only a few years. Slowly, the money making formula reared its ugly head. It now is mostly geared towards "worship artists" and the like.

This is what makes me sick. Playing worship equals money. It is trendy now to lead worship, make a worship CD, have a traveling worship ministry, and act like you are "all that". It is sad, because all of the Christian bookstores cater to selling units, just like the record stores. I remember a passage where Jesus once turned the tables. Today, five, count them, five worship CD's marketed by the powers that be in the record industry with Michael W. Smith's name attached to them are "worship" CD's. Can I get a side of Jesus breath mints? How about a Time Life series Country Worship CD playing all of your favorites by well-known artists?

The radio stations cater to the feminized crowd with homogenized worship music for the masses. I think the majority of record labels left aren't even owned by believers anymore. It has all become a push towards the almighty dollar, rather than the Almighty God.

The funny thing about writing worship lyrics is practically any "babe" in Christ can create lyrics just by stringing together Christian cliches. I will write one now just to prove it:

Worship the King
Worship Him forever
Praise Him now
Praise Him now and forever.

I really did just pull that out of my hat. You will have to believe me here on this one. Is it anointed? I doubt it. I am in a sarcastic mood. Could somebody make money off of using those lyrics? Sure thing they can.

I seriously wonder what God thinks of all of this fodder. A lot of well-meaning folk are innocently creating music as they feel led by God to do so. It is when you get fans, you have to hear yourself in the monitor during soundcheck, and you utter prayers during worship events that are tired cliches up to God thinking that you are really making a difference, that a wall begins to cave.

I once learned from a mentor that you lead to get out of the way. He was teaching me for another ministry, but the point rings true here. You lead worship to get out of the way, not to stand in front and have all spectating eyes looking to you for the next refrain. After all, most people love to get something out of their worship. "I was really lifted up, really encouraged"...rather than God was lifted up. The balance is off in a huge way.

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