Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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The Ministry of Music

And so we have discovered that our liberal critic, Jeff Sharlet from my first blog, seems to have gotten it right regarding the negative impact that Church Growth “relate to society” marketing schemes has had on the church. However, because he merely addressed church music from a surface level and superficial perspective, it also appears that he has to a large degree missed the mark in his critique of Christian praise music. In limiting his analysis to items such as musical style, emotion and clothing, he demonstrated that he has very little understanding of the ministry aspects of the music that he was witnessing along with the real purpose of music in the church. Like the Church Growth advocate, Sharlet doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of Christian music. Rather he appears to see it all through the lens of Madison Avenue. But what he perceives as marketing ploys is in reality, as it is played out among sincere worshipers, all about people pouring out their hearts to God with an attitude of gratitude. It goes a lot deeper than what he is thinking. And it is not about musical style as he contends.

Unfortunately this misunderstanding is not limited to the opinions of liberal outsiders. Because of modern Church Growth marketing schemes, the ministry impact of music is likewise being overlooked by a multitude of pastors today. Hence, like the world that surrounds them, many clergymen in the name of becoming bigger have turned to focus their attention on the same surface level musical issues rather than the impact that music can have on the human soul. For that reason we now turn to the Bible to uncover what the ministry of music is all about.

The Apostle Paul, the Roman who turned that world around for Christ, had a lot to say about the ministry of music in the church. He indicated to the Ephesians that the sole function of music in the church ought to be primarily for ministry to God and then for ministry to each other. Therefore Paul wrote, “. . . be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. . .” (Eph 5:18b-19 NASB).

Hence, the Bible reveals a strong admonition regarding the use of music among believers that has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with ministry. When thinking of using music for the purpose of ministry in praise we are taken back to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa during the early ’70s. The vast majority of the music from that era was very simplistic both musically and lyrically with a focus of bringing people into communion with God. Many of these songs were very memorable with beautiful mystical melodies and moving texts that many times quoted a Scripture. It was very sincere and emotional. This movement basically provided the seed for the entire worship and praise idea and Maranatha! Music was the vehicle used to spread Calvary Chapel’s innovative worship and praise music throughout the country.

The qualm that many have with the resultant worship and praise genre is that it many times lacks theology and sometimes what little theology that it has is not even right. Others are concerned about the simplicity of the musical and lyrical form contained in these songs. There is also fear regarding the use of mantras – constant repetition of phrases like the Beatles did after they came back from India- in order to create a state of mind detached from reason, etc. This practice supposedly allows the worshipper to ascend into heaven or the “holy of holies” to experience the so-called “manifest presence” of God. And then there are others who are concerned about substituting this New Worship style for traditional music forms, such as hymn singing, which can be equally emotional, spiritually uplifting and expressive with regard to worship and praise. Lastly, many have objected to the notion that worship is totally embodied in the experience of singing these songs to God as an escape rather than seeing worship as a lifestyle. Indeed this so-called Christian music that actually is seeded in the mystic cults should be avoided in church worship.

However, over the past years there has been change in some sectors of worship and praise music that have addressed these concerns to produce biblical songs expressed from sincere hearts. It is this music that reflects orthodox Christian worship models that we should seek.

The work of Frank Pooler provides a profound example of musical excellence that has provided a great deal of direction with regard to my music endeavors. He conducted the celebrated Cal State Long Beach Choir for decades while playing an integral role in the rise of pop stars Karen and Richard Carpenter. He also co-authored Merry Christmas Darling with Richard. As well as touring in various worldwide venues the choir performed with the pop dual on many occasions. I had the unique opportunity of not only studying under Pooler, but also being a part of several of these first class performances. Regarding this modern form of church music Pooler, who served for years in the church as a music minister, once commented to me, “It sends me to another place where I live for a few moments in calm & gentle spirit.”

Dr. John Lavender was a renowned evangelist who eventually settled down to pastor a vibrant church during a time of renewal. While celebrating the old with the new, the congregation that he led grew by leaps and bounds during his tenure. I worked under this discerning shepherd for about 6 years as his praise leader until he retired. He used to say that for him it was all about “intimacy with God.” These are very accurate descriptions of modern worship and praise music.

Intimate feelings will always result as God’s people sing about Him with passion and sincerity. And singing both praise songs and hymns can and should evoke the emotions of those who seek God. And Christians ought to be encouraged to draw close to God in biblical ways. For the Scriptures declare: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (Jas 4:8a MKJV)

Worship and praise music, therefore, is a spiritual matter. It is not about marketing. Its purpose is not to attract people into the church but honoring our God who is always near. It is about praising Him for who He is and what He has done. It’s not at all like the music that so many in the Church Growth field today propose. For they see it all as a surface level phenomena that appeals to the senses rather than the human soul. But worship and praise music goes much deeper than the place the Church Growth advocate wants to take us. And it is timeless.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase:

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//

  1. Nice Blog Donnie, but you have forgotten one very important aspect of worship: The Battle

    2Chronicles 20:21
    And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.

    At the front of the battle array of men for Jehoshaphat were positioned the singers and the musicians. They led the battle by praising and singing to the Lord. When the enemy heard this heavenly sound they were confounded and confused and the Lord’s men were able to ambush and destroy their army.

    Do you have a battle to fight, an obstacle to overcome, something seemingly insurmountable that appears impossible to overcome? Position yourself and stand still, then begin to praise and sing to the Lord and watch the obstacle fall and the enemy be defeated.

    The weapons of our warfare are not of this world, they are in the heavens where our great God dwells and from where every enemy and obstacle is overcome.

    I copied this from and article Called “Battle by Worship” Posted on May 9th, 2010

    Written by Rob Robinson

    I knew that it was in the Bible (and in more than one place), so I searched to find the reference and found this whole article on it. His name is just by coincidence the same as mine.

    Carol Stein Robinson


    • wigtunes says:

      Carol; Thanks for the excellent comments! Yes, the battle is the Lord’s and daily praise is certainly the way to defeat the enemy!!! I’m right in the process of learning that grumbling and complaining is of no use to me as a Christian. This blog is going to go on for quite a while, as I am actually blogging a book I wrote called Holy Wars. . .about worship in the church. As this progresses I plan to get into a lot of biblical information regarding worship. By the time I’m finished I hope to leave no stone unturned. . .and you just unturned a significant stone that confirms the very things I am going through right now. God bless, Donny

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