Worship: It’s Not About the Music!

Dan Lucarini, who used to be a ‘worship leader’ of a ‘contemporary praise team’ wrote of his journey out of the CCM circle in his book Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement.  I have that one coming in the mail; more on that later.

For now I want to point out his follow-up book, It’s Not About the Music (Darlington: EP Books, 2010).  In this book, Lucarini debunks the modern notion that the heart of worship is music.  He quotes a CCM musician to prove his point, who said CCM artists gravitate “toward a U2-esque sound built around a true worship song, giving the listener a deeper worship experience.”  I know quite a few Christians who would agree: the heart of worship is our singing to God, and the better we feel about it, the better the ‘experience.’  Lucarini disagrees (as do I!).

“We live in an … age where music performance is the focal point and given the lion’s share of time, energy, and praise at most worship services and religious gatherings.  No wonder that we fight over it, given the over-sized importance we have assigned to it.  But what if we’re missing the point entirely?  What if music is not the main thing about worship?”

“If there is one thing you learn from this book, let it be that biblical praise is all about the words, not the music.  Praise must be centered first around fitting and honorable words.”

Lucarini also notes how the centrality of music has pushed other parts of worship to the side.  He recounts how the worship leaders swap places, bands shuffle music, and sound guys tweak the settings while the pastor leads in prayer.  This should repulse us: while the pastor is praying to the living God for spiritual growth, lost souls, and other such serious things, people are dinking around in the background.

Another lamentable aspect about modern church music is that it has to do with the cult of youth.  Rather than respect the elderly (5th commandment) and rather than minister to the whole flock, the worship leader and/or pastor puts the attention on the music of the youth.  The youth-centric culture of America is driving much worship music; Lucarini makes a good point here.  How many of America’s favorite Christian artists don’t look youthful and hip – highlights, makeup, tattoos, and all the rest?

I’ll blog on other parts of this book later.  It’s not written in technical language by a theologian; it is more of a book written by a concerned layperson who has first-hand knowledge of the disasters that ‘modern worship music’ has brought to the church.  Some of Lucarini’s insights have convinced me even more that all this craze of worship leaders, bands, CCLI, concerts, albums, videos – pretty much the whole CCM scene – is an American perversion of Christian worship.  If you think that statement is over the top, consider one of Steven Camp’s 107 Theses written in 1997 (#41):

“Now it [contemporary Christian music] yodels of a Christ-less, watered down, pabulum-based, positive alternative, aura-fluff, cream of wheat, mush-kind-of-syrupy, God-as-my-girlfriend kind of thing.”

shane lems

sunnyside wa

7 thoughts on “Worship: It’s Not About the Music!”

  1. “Now it [contemporary Christian music] yodels of a Christ-less, watered down, pabulum-based, positive alternative, aura-fluff, cream of wheat, mush-kind-of-syrupy, God-as-my-girlfriend kind of thing.”

    Wow! I could not agree more with that statement. I have spent the last two years visiting different evangelical congregations, and I can say quite confidently that the majoirty of these congregations are forced to sing songs of that nature. The one bright exception has been a Sovereign Grace Ministries church.

    I have never heard of Mr. Lucarini but I now want to read both of these books. Thank you for the heads up!

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  2. “Another lamentable aspect about modern church music is that it has to do with the cult of youth. Rather than respect the elderly (5th commandment) and rather than minister to the whole flock, the worship leader and/or pastor puts the attention on the music of the youth.”

    That was part of my problem with Frame when he tried to use Rom 14 to say the strong (usually the older) should defer to the weak (usually the young and hip) in his first book on worship.

    If those who have not studied theology – and perhaps have hardly studied music – write the worship music for the church, we have the younger (untaught) “leading” and influencing (teaching!) everyone else (including the servants of the word). How strange. In his book on preaching, Lloyd-Jones warns of the detrimental impact certain music has upon the mind of the congregation and even the preacher, possibly tempting the man of God to alter his preaching as the music is out of accord with him soberly preaching the word.

    If the strong (wise) deferred to the weak (immature), when will the weak ever mature? How are we to grow in spiritual wisdom if we were stuck with shallow words that do not resonate with the apostles’ view of God and what it is to live before him?

    After I became a Christian I found myself in a small, old, dispensational, Sandemanian Baptist church. The only thing that profited me in those services were the hymns of Toplady and Watts and Luther.

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    1. Thanks for the comments, guys. Also, appreciate the words on the “strong” and the “weak” as far as worship goes, Dante. Amen!

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    2. Dante, very well said. I have had the same observations over the last few years. Many of the people who write the contemporary worship songs that the church sings are not very grounded in the Word. Therefore, the songs are trite, shallow, and even border on heresy at times. I don’t doubt their love for the Savior. But it does take a little bit more than knowing the chords in G major and being able to make the end of lines rhyme, does it not?

      I heard DA Carson say once that if he was a pastor, he would make sure that the guy who was in charge of corporate singing had a theology degree, since he in effect, lead half the service. I have always liked Steve and Vicki Cooks songs (Sovereign Grace Music . com). I listened to a lecture by them once, and I was very impressed when they said that they have three people they submit their lyrics to: a pastor friend, and two theologians. They wanted to make sure their lyrics reflected the scriptures. If only all song writers were committed to that!

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  3. I read this right after reading your piece (and the comments) on Timothy Ware’s book on Orthodoxy. Although I am a member of a Reformed church, I am greatly attracted to the Orthodox liturgy, having visited quite a variety of Orthodox churches of various jurisdictions and ethnic backgrounds (Greek, Russian, Antiochian, Romanian). One of the things I like is the singing (quite different, of course, from CCM): we get to sing our praises to God and don’t have to put up with being sung *at* by a choir or being deafened by a “praise band” (which, I am pleased to say. my own Reformed congregation does not have). Another attraction is that they are not ruled by a clock but are quite willing to spend however long it takes to do what they are there for.

    Of course I do not agree with everything in Orthodox theology. Although I have no problem with dumping the filioque, I think they have gone overboard on Mary and the saints.

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    1. Thanks for the comments, Alan. I’m guessing (feel free to comment here) that most traditional/conservative/historic (not sure what to call them) Orthodox churches don’t have a lot of Western cultural influence in thier songs/singing. Most American churches are dripping with syrupy American pop culture, wherease the Orthodox churches are not.

      Makes me think of a story I heard about a Russian minister who told churches in the U.K. that supported him – he said this to them: “Don’t send your [Western] music to our churches, please, it is offensive to us.”

      I would, of course, say the Reformed teaching of the Regulative Principle is a better answer than going Orthodox and it is also a great antidote to the worldliness of much American church music. Too bad so many Reformed churches have forsaken their confessions – but that’s a whole different topic.

      shane

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