A number of years ago, Matt Redman wrote a pretty good song called 'The Heart of Worship". At that time he was one of the leading lights in the contemporary worship scene. His lyrics were simple yet powerful. The lyrics included repentance for turning worship into something false and a refocusing on what worship is — exaltation of Christ:
"When the music fades, and all is stripped away…I'm sorry Lord for the things I've made it…When it's all about You, It's all about you Jesus … I'm coming back to the heart of worship".
You would think, with lyrics like this, that the contemporary worship scene would have transformed and enriched the wider church's worship. Yet the reality is, in many places, it seems like the opposite has happened.
I have been dipping into 'For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship' by Daniel I. Block. It's an indepth piece of work, but the introduction is captivating.
In the first few pages Block identifies two key issues with contemporary approaches to worship.
"A number of years ago I preached in a large church with three Sunday morning services. I shall never forget when, at a transitional moment in the service, the “pastor of music and worship” declared to the congregation, “Now, before we continue our worship, let me read a passage from Colossians 3”—as if reading and hearing the Scriptures are not exercises in worship."
"The worship industry tends to equate worship not only with music but also with a particular type of music: contemporary praise."
In otherwords, there is a tendency towards a reductionist view of worship within the contemporary church. Things that are not essentially worship (musical performance) are considered to be the definitive expression of worship and things which are worship (e.g. the reading of the Holy Scriptures) are no longer considered an act of worship.
Block draws from the work of Edith Humphrey who "Correctly identifies five maladies that plague worship in the North American church". However, it is worth pointing out, that these issues do not just affect the North American church, they are relevant for most UK churches who are following the contemporary models of worship. What are the "five maladies"?
They are as follows . . .
(1) "Trivializing worship by a preoccupation with atmospherics/mood (it’s all about how worship makes me feel)."
(2) "Misdirecting worship by having a human-centered rather than God-centered focus (it’s all about me, the worshiper)."
(3) "Deadening worship by substituting stones for bread (the loss of the Word of God)."
(4) "Perverting worship with emotional, self-indulgent experiences at the expense of true liturgy."
(5) Exploiting worship with market-driven values.
All Christians have a responsibility to worship God in "Spirit and Truth". If Block (and Humphrey's) claims are correct, we should be concerned.
Has the church rediscovered the heart of worship, or has individualism, experientialism, and consumerism ripped the heart from worship?