Recently, I attended a week of youth meetings. It was held at a Charismatic Christian College known for it's missions and ministerial programs. I've always had high respect for the school, although I haven't always agreed with all their practices. But I'm a firm believer that there can be some differences in preferences amongst Christians without disruptions of fellowship or unity.
This year was certainly an eye opener for me as a Pastor's wife. Being involved in several on-line groups, some with Christian women and others with women in ministry, I was aware of some of the ideas about worship that are being taught in charismatic/pentecostal circles that migrate from conventional types of worship, but I didn't realize how detrimental some of them can be until I observed the results of them first hand.
The first thing I noticed right off was the "party" type atmosphere. I believe that there is joy in the presence of God, but it is because of the presence of God. It is not what brings the presence of God. It appeared to me that the youth and quite a few of the youth "leaders" were there to have fun, thinking that having fun was worshipping God. There were lights changing the backdrop color, balloons flying everywhere, people jumping up and down like pogo sticks, booties shaking in a provocative manner, leaders leading the crowd in cheers and hoots as if we at a football game instead of a church service, musicians dancing around as if they had a snake in their pants, and songs with words that appeared to have been written in a yellow submarine during a writing session with the Beatles.
There was a heralded rapper, whom appeared to be a sincere, godly man. The words to his songs, (what I could understand anyway), were God honoring. But quite honestly, I can't see him standing in heaven with a dew rag of righteousness (I'm sure I misspelled that--I'm a hick) swinging his arms above his head yelling "come on everybody, let's make some NOISE! Get your hands up, get your hands up" If my version of the Bible is right, it's already thunderously loud in heaven, the general position for worship is prostration and there is no need to encourage people to worship. Furthermore, the beat of those songs was such that my flesh could hardly keep still, which put up a red flag for me right away. And John and Charles Wesley said "Amen!".
There seemed to be a general disposition to make God anything we wanted Him to be in that we could present any type of worship we felt like and it would be accepted by God and bring Him pleasure. There was a popular worship song a few years ago that began "Come, now is the time to worship....Come just as you are to worship...." That song has always bothered me because at no time ever, has the Bible taught that we can come just as we are to worship God. In fact, there are instances in scripture where God hated the worship people were trying to give him. The only time we can come just as we are to God and be accepted is in repentance at the time of salvation. At that point, we are cleansed by the Blood of Christ, which makes us able to worship in spirit and truth. (To the songwriter's credit, that is not what he meant by the lyrics, but because most people didn't know his life circumstance at the time of it's writing, the song presented a wrong message.)
And as a Pentecostal, I know that at times the Spirit of God will lead us out what is considered the norm, but some of what I saw had walked clear out of the realm of the spiritual and into flesh. In the OT, the priests and the Levites went through all kinds of cleansing and special activities to prepare themselves for the worship of God. It is true the veil has been rent, but that has not changed the holiness of God one bit, nor the kind of worship He desires and is worthy of. He is the same as He always was and responds to the kind of worship He prescribes, not whatever we want to come up with and call worship.
As the service progressed, the pulsing of the drums seemed to drive people into a fleshly frenzy even though the words of the songs really wouldn't lead people that direction. Maybe I'm just a moldy oldie, but encouraging me to "take off my lampshade" is not exactly a spiritual thought. And for the most part, the words to the songs were at best shallow, repetitive, and mostly a bunch of "Christian cliches" thrown together in an effort to create lyrics. In fact, the song that brought the most presence of the Holy Spirit during that whole week of worship services was written in the 1970's and went like this:
"For thou Oh Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all other Gods (Repeat)
I exalt thee, I exalt thee, I exalt thee, Oh Lord (repeat)
Hmmmmmm......Words directly from the Bible AND IN KING JAMES LANGUAGE--gasp!
As I, for the most part, made myself worship the best that I could, and I looked around at people seemingly enraptured singing lyrics that neither flowed in a particular idea or concept nor made any logical sense, I thought to myself, man, I am really losing it! But inwardly, I knew that I hadn't, but I discerned that something was terribly wrong.
Our Pastor, who is a fourth generation pentecostal, who has seen genuine worship and revival first hand, has preached many times about the advantages and the disadvantages of the Charismatic movement. It did bring a spiritual renewal that was needed in the church, a renewal of faith, healing and worship. But it seems that our culture, that always has to have something new-new doctrine, new worship, new methods-has carried it beyond the boundary of Biblical doctrine. Having sat in charismatic circles with other well known and popular ministers, I've heard them discuss first hand how they have to "one up" the speaker that came before them or they won't be invited back next year. Sad to say, but at that moment, I was very ashamed of the ministry.
Ah.......doctrine. The main disadvantage of the Charismatic movement is it's lack of training in Biblical doctrine and scholarly learning of Biblical doctrine and Biblical languages, therefore making proper interpretation difficult. As I watch Christian t.v. with a man who had 5 years of Biblical Greek, it amazes me at how these guys butcher and make up definitions and pronunciations of the Greek language. In fact, my husband is in search of the books they get this stuff from because it's not in any of the myriads of books he has on the subject!
"Scholarly" is not a dirty word. All the heralded preachers AND song writers of the past were schooled in doctrine. And like it or not, they got us where we are. But with the coming of Charisma, the emphasis shifted from doctrine to experience, but went to the point where instead of doctrine discerning experience, experience became doctrine. According to D. McIntyre, who quoted an unnamed theologian in the book "The Incomparable Christ" by J. Oswald Sanders, the church has swung like a pendulum from thinking too much of the deity of Christ and too little of His humanity to allowing His humanity to hide His deity." In many circles, Christ has become one of the boys, our best buddy, our "daddy", our lover (which I see perverted way too often, especially in song lyrics), our bestest friend. While all of these things may be true, except for the lover part if you are thinking in human terms, there is also the Holy, Righteous Kingship and all powerful, unlike any human, judge of the universe side to God. Scripture does tell us to "behold the goodness AND the severity of God." And we must learn to worship within the balance of those two things.
Jeff Purswell writes:
"Doctrine provides a right understanding of God's person and character. At its core, worship involves a response to God's self-disclosure. However, we can only respond rightly to God if our perception of him is true. Sound doctrine shapes in us a true vision of God, and curbs our sinful tendency to accommodate our view of God to our own self-interests.
"Imagine that a man living in conscious, willful, unrepentant immorality walks into a church. He gets caught up in the melodious sounds of the voices and instruments, and thinks, 'I'm really alright with God. God loves me, and I love him, too.' Then he leaves and continues to pursue his immorality unabated.
"Has that man worshiped the true and living God? Absolutely not. He has simply worshiped a god of his own making, a god who winks at sin, a god who is not holy. This man came to church, and sang worship songs, and felt good, but he worshiped a false god...and one which looks suspiciously like himself.
"To grow in our worship of God, we must first grow in our knowledge of God. Far from intruding into worship, sound doctrine makes true worship possible.
"Doctrine enables us to respond appropriately to God."
After growing up in a denominational church, singing from a hymnal; getting saved in a Baptist church with choruses and hymns that actually included words like "Blood" and "Sin"; getting filled with the Spirit in an A/G church where we sang the early choruses of what is now called "contemporary Christian music"; and spending years in ministry circulating amongst several "camps" of charisma, many of which had the reputation of "cutting edge music", and experiencing the effects of all those different kinds of music, I see a dire need to put doctrine back into our worship. We need to put Christ back as the focus of our songs. Most of what I see now, is about what I am in Christ, what I'm going to do for Christ or because of Christ, what I can do through Christ, what I get from Christ, what I feel as a result of Christ, what I....I.....I--well, you get the picture.
It's not about us! It's about HIM! In our church we have waged war on wacky worship. We have declared that we will not worship in a wacky way. We will not sing wacky songs. We will not give to God anything less than what He instructs us to do in scripture or leads us to do by His Spirit, as long as it lines up with Biblical doctrines of worship. Fortunately, we have a Pastor who is schooled and sensitive to the Holy Spirit to guide us in this.
My heart fears for the young of the church in America. They just need what is real. They get their flesh stroked everyday by the world, and now, it appears by the world that has infiltrated the church. May God have mercy and bring a sovereign move to this generation.