"Contemporvant" Worship Video--Funny? Offensive? Satirical? Mean?

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Well, since my last blog post about ten days ago about a contemporary worship service Rose and I attended, there has been a fair bit of traffic on this page and a few comments--both on the Network and to my personal email. So now maybe it's time to keep the fires burning, the sparks flying, the synapses clicking (or whatever synapses do).

A friend sent me the following link to a video that really does a send-up of probably the most egregious elements of contemporary worship. What do you think? Is this video helpful? Offensive? Needless? Disrespectful? Something else? Check it out--because I don't know how long things like this remain available:

Admin's Note:

Not long, evidently! After noticing that the video had been removed, we contacted the creators (North Point Ministries) and here's what they wrote us:

While we are very pleased with how the video turned out, we discovered that it was getting some negative attention online that we did not intend.  This video was created as an opening video for a session at our Drive conference that put the video in its proper context.  Without seeing the talk that followed this video, it was very easy to misconstrue our intention in making the video.  And this was happening online, so it has been removed.

Too bad, since it elicited good discussion in the 2+ months we had it online in this post (and elsewhere across the web). But we respect North Point's decision. If you missed out on seeing it, sorry! This is probably a good time to mention that you can get all new blog posts via email. Just click on the "Subscribe" tab above to receive weekly updates from this network and others.

I strongly believe that all folks who plan worship, who put so much time, prayer and thought into words, songs, readings, personal presentation and appearance have to be respected, whether that is for traditional, blended, contemporary, avant garde or whatever. Worship planning is not simple, but we work on such a huge continuum of choices, resources. Can we tease each other respectfully? Can we learn from each other hopefully and faithfully? We pastors do this not for a living, but for a significant part of our vocation before God. So we have lead responsibilty to do it well, with beauty, winsomeness, love, hope, joy.

Most importantly, how can we focus ever and always on keeping God the centre of our lives, our worship?

OK, let's go folks!

And by the way, check out the "Imagining an Early Worship War" article. It's kind of old, but then so am I.

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I know this video is showing the extemes. It would be just as easy and effective to show a video of a traditional service. This version might show members of the congregation walking into church in a solemn manner, no joy on their faces anticipating a time of joyful worship. In the backround we would hear the sounds of the pipe organ playing something from the 1500's. The pastor, dressed in his dark suit stands behind the huge pulpit and gives God's greeting. The congregation is then invited to open their Psalter Hymnals to sing. Notice the somber voices and the way they bury their heads in the book. This, too, would be a video of extremes.
There needs to be a way to find a middle ground. We need to find a way to respect the needs of people on both sides of the aisle (and also in the balcony.) Sunday worship is a holy time; a time to revere our God. It is also a time of praise and rejoicing. We need to be reminded of our sins and of God's grace towards us. We also need to be encouraged to shout to the Lord, to praise His name with our voices and our instruments.
Steve

Love the video! But then again, I love satire. It helps us to see what we do from a different perspective. It should cause us to examine our motives for doing what we do.
This is what the video tells me. Church is about worshiping God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit-but are we really doing that? The video suggests that worship has become less about God and more about the people in the pew. We've all heard about the need to be relevant, engaging, etc. But in the end, it is God's Word and God's Spirit who grabs people. Authentic worship, regardless of style, will be exciting. Let us all worship in spirit and in truth!

Great video - important to be able to step back and examine what we do in worship objectively - and laugh at it when necessary.

I"m just coming off a three-month sabbatical and had the opportunity to worship with many different congregations. It gave me a chance to be in the pew and to worship as a lay person in CRC's, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and United (Canada), and non-denominational churches. It surprised me to find connection (both vertical and horizontal) most easily in the Anglican church. Highly liturgical, yet no wasted words.

I love the video in that it makes one really think about true God centered, Biblically based worship. Unfortunately I have been in worship services like that and left wondering what the full message was even tho I liked the sermon. There were too many conflicting messages thru song, testamonies, readings, etc.

Worship, for me and hopefully others, should focus on God and the Word. Everything from the prelude to the postlude should focus on the same message/theme. To me, it does not matter if it is traditional, contemporary, evangelical, ... but everything should enhance the next part of worship. It should lead one to meditate on the Word during and after the service and into the week.

As much as I love music, it seems to be the biggest contention to worship. I am nearly 60 and do not mind contemporary music but it needs to be in harmony with the whole service. And I admit I like a pastor that says it like it is, Truth is Truth, and if we are convicted, we are called to repent, not ignore.

All in all, we need to be aware of our worship. It cannot be all fun and games and nice just to bring people in or make them happy. We can update, yes, but do not dilute. The Isrealites danced in praise to God, why not us? And an extension of what we have gleaned from our worship is evidenced in our everyday life and outward doings:Obedience and Thanksgiving to God.

My good friend Pastor Dave Horner pointed out this video to me a couple months back and I thought it was hilarious. For those of us who are worship artists, particularly in the modern worship movement, many of these things hit very close to home.....sometimes so close that it stings. And like most artists, musicians tend to be pretty sensitive folks (if you've ever been in a band that plays to the 10 people who showed up on time to church, you know what I mean).

But in the modern church, artist stretches from drummer to sound technician to video editor to web designer to lead guitarist and (hopefully) to pastor. Its helpful to point out that the people who put this video together are poking fun at themselves in many ways - artists reflecting satirically on themselves.

My favorite part of this video is the part about the worship leader trying to sing a song he wrote so that you'll buy it later in the bookstore. In our bands, we call this "inbred" music - being so selfish artistically that we only sing songs we wrote the way we wrote them with the band members we select. When its all about us in worship, the comments God makes about worship in Amos start to become very true.

Participant

I can very much appreciate this video having been there and done that as worship pastor and musician.

I wonder still as the CRC ventures further into contemporary if we shouldn't offer a little more in the way of training to help with the transition. I've watched CRCs try to make this move and do it poorly trying to turn worship into something like the video portrays and no one trained well enough to even remotely pull it off. How do we make worship genuine and not manipulative so that the vertical and horizontal movement glorifies God and draws people into deeper relationship with him and each other?

I noticed that it seems in my area we are about 10 years behind in most things including clothing styles. There is the mentality especially among our youth to have the "hip" worship like the video as if that is the only option. And there are many here who believe if we change to more modern worship like that we will attract more people. And while I have worked hard with our church to develop a more "well done" blended, but slightly weighted toward modern, style of worship, I stress that God uses devoted followers of Christ to grow the church.

I'm not going to lie, I'd love to have David Crowder or Chris Tomlin or Blue Tree as my worship leaders.

Are we Christians so saturated with consumer marketing paradigms that we can't praise God without obsessing about the targeted demographic? If there wasn't truth to this video would we still be talking about it months later?

This may rub some people the wrong way, but of course the gospel needs to be marketed and targeted to demographics. Paul knew it ("I will be all things to all people"); Moody knew it ("If ponies in the parking lot bring in the kids, I will lead the ponies around the parking lot"); and today's mega-churches know it. That's why they're so successful. And I have no problem with that. We draw tons of kids into our youth ministries because they are FUN--it gets them in the door. If they don't enter the doors, they can't hear about Christ.

The problem comes once we get them in the doors--will the Gospel be watered down? Will I serve those kids a "dumbed down" version of Jesus and the church and their place in it? Or, on the other hand, will I cram dry, memorized catechism questions down the kids' throats and expect people to step into a time warp--archaic language and songs that have words and music I don't understand--in order to join me in worship?

This is where many churches drop the ball. I have no problems with the loud praise bands, and the "hip" speaker, or the solemn pastor or the old-style choir, if they're sincere about what they're doing. The main thing is that the Gospel be presented to people, where they are, in all its glorious freedom and liberty. We truly need to emulate Paul and be all things to all people.

(RE the video: I have not yet seen a church that does "blended" worship really accepted by the members of its congregation. People want one or the other. It seems to me the churches that are successful at the moment are offering all traditional or all contemporary or separate services (one of each). Not saying that's the best way, but it's what I see in my area. "Blended worship" is a little like taking both Pepsi and Mountain Dew--each with their defenders--and putting them together to make everyone happy. No one's happy.)

This video reminds me of those off-beat Old Spice commercials (youtube them if you have a moment-they are funny). We need to be able to laugh at ourselves! Just not at someone else's expense. We all have one goal here, to worship our Lord. Just because some prefer the new way, does not make them superficial...and the old fashioned supporters are not always stuffed shirts. Tolerance-we need to be taught this skill-it will get us far.

Participant

I loved the video too! As a traditional kind of guy, it scratched a particular itch that I have. Something has always bugged me about contemporary worship but I have been hard-pressed to put it into words exactly what bothers me about it. This video gets at a lot of it (the anthropocentric tendencies mirroring our consumerist culture). Presentation is part of the content. I recommend David Wells' book "The courage to be Protestant".

Now in fairness, I would like to work on a video that shows where my side goes wrong. You could have some fun there too (some lumbering tune with words praising tradition for tradition's sake etc.) Looking out for eachother's specks and logs.

Veronica, you make some good points about portraying the gospel in such a way that it is not "dumbed down" but I think you also make a couple of mistaken assumptions that might change the way this issue is approached.

A couple thoughts. Paul was talking about Jews and Gentiles when he said that he is "all things to all people" and that mean that he had a different starting point when it came to presenting the gospel; it didn't mean that he became a pagan to pagans, or an idolatror to idolatrors... So, we need to keep that in mind. When we present the gospel, we will do it with an eye towards our audience, BUT, we don't have to shape the gospel to meet their "felt needs." In other words, to someone who is struggling financially, we don't present God as the one who "wants to bless you and prosper you..." -- We might talk to them about the idolatries of money, or wealth...

Also, the assumption that "unless they come in the church, they will never hear the gospel" is, in my judgment, a more serious error. It assumes that the gospel is in the hands of an institution, but WE are the "temple of God." Believers are the ones who carry the gospel, and taht means that the gospel goes into the world WITH us; we don't (necessarily) have to bring people into the church so they can "get the gospel" or "get saved". What that means practically is that our job is not to convince people to come to a building (though an invitation to church is never a bad idea) or "wow" them with a great show or production or program, but rather, we can share the gospel "in our going" -- at work, school, in the neighborhood, etc.

Just a couple of thoughts.

Hi, Rob. I don't necessarily agree with your take on Paul. When he stood in the public square and called everyone's attention to the "Unknown God," he WAS relating to the pagans from a pagan standpoint. He knew where to start with those folks and how to guide it to the Lord Jesus Christ.

And isn't the point of sharing the gospel with others ultimately to bring them into the church? As a GEMS leader, my goal wasn't simply to have a smashing GEMS program, even though that introduced them to Jesus--it was to bring them (and their families) into the life of the church. Of course, they can hear the gospel in the workplace or in their school or through our GEMS or Cadet club, but Paul re-iterates over and over the importance of being part of the church ("Can the toe live by itself" and all that).

I agree absolutely that we can't re-form the Gospel to meet the needs of the individual. These evangelists who promise no problems, no worries, abundant wealth and prosperity, etc., drive me nuts. But the gospel always has a hook we can use to present it to those who are looking...a way to get a foot in the door.

I guess my biggest problem with the traditional church is that we have for so long expected people to come in to our fellowship--IF they clean up their act, and IF they know the unwritten rules, and IF their kids know how to behave and IF they know how to dress, etc., etc. My congregation is going through a culture clash right now. They love the concept of missions and evangelism as long as it's WAY out there. The minute these kids start coming through the door with all their baggage (through the youth programs) it's not so fun and it's not so cute anymore. We have actually lost families who don't want their kids "rubbing shoulders with the non-covenant kids." It makes me weep.

That's where the contemporary worship/dress/atmosphere does a much better job. Jesus always met people where they were and didn't expect them to "clean themselves up" before they came to him (woman at the well, Zacchaeus, pool of Bethesda, etc., etc. He healed them first and THEN told them to go and sin no more, not the other way around.

Participant

If you're looking for a satire of the opposite type of church service look no further than the Simpsons & Rev Lovejoy.

I like this video a lot because it's effective satire and shows that these guys are humble enough to reflect on where their approach is weak or even sinful. And then they applied their creativity to the situation.

Participant

Thanks for a good laugh this morning.

This is where it strikes me (coming from a church planting situation): sometimes we try too hard from our own efforts to make the worship gathering flashy and meaningful and emotional and...contemporvant.  Like if we just try harder then we'll see the life transformation we're hoping for.  But we forget that no matter what we do, no matter what style we worship in, it is the Holy Spirit who works to do the transforming.  I am reminded of this everytime I think a worship service- or a sermon- flopped, and yet God uses that broken attempt to do amazing things. 

 

Amen, Sometimes we take ourselves much to seriously.

I like it.  All too familiar and I hope it challenges people to rethink their motivations when it comes to worship.

Admin

It's gone! North Point Ministries has removed this video from the web. See the note we've added above for details.

P.S. Also, please don't post links to any unauthorized versions of the video. We respect North Point's right to remove their own content from the web, and ask that you do the same. Thanks.