What Memes Mean: The Muddle Of Wrong Worship

Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.

Modern worship leaders have a knack for incessantly reminding congregations that real worship is more than just cool music and singing songs on Sundays, which is the general message of this video.  Sometimes these reminders are a constant thread in morning worship diatribes, with Romans 12:1 reluctantly breaking its way in towards the end.  I’ve often wondered if worship leaders realize how ironic they sound when they say these sorts of things, and if they worry at all that they may eventually argue themselves out of a job (because they basically just help us sing songs on Sundays).

I think the point these worship leaders are trying to make is, “There is a danger here that you will simply sing songs on Sundays that make you feel good, but then leave here and do as you please.  All of your life is worship.”  This is valid, and at some point we all need to hear this.  However there is a danger that, in this discussion, the word “worship” gets muddled and slung about between contexts until I’m not sure we’re really saying anything that makes sense.  Are we talking about singing or actions, or both?  How does singing connect with the rest of our lives, and in what way?  I’ll give a bit of my view, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Music is a unique and strange thing in itself, and singing with a crowd to the God invisible is even stranger. Congregational worship is unavoidably a somewhat passive experience, an act of personal listening and enjoying as well as participating. This is not like most actions, it doesn’t really “connect” with them on the same level, and I would say music is in a class by itself.  It is certainly in the context of “all of life”, and the usual “all of life” rules apply – “all of life” should be lived to the glory of God.  But it’s not fair to place it side-by-side with the daily grind.  It is too unique, transcendent, and strange an activity to be treated the same way as these other things.  It has its own set of problems, as well as its own set of joys, all of which could be explored in-depth.

I disagree with some of the thinking behind this video, though I can’t disagree with some of its implications.  It’s not that we think too highly of music at the expense of our sanctification, it’s that we don’t think highly enough of it, or at least don’t view it correctly. All of life is to be lived to God’s glory, we aren’t to simply sing songs to feel good, but we should emphasize that singing songs holds a unique place among life’s God-glorifying activities.

There is still more thinking to be done on worship music.  Some of these thoughts so far may be considered simple reflections, but I’ll stick by the idea that music is inherently different than most actions.  The strange (and beautiful) grace of music is something to be treated with reverence and sanctity – biblically, it will be a constant part of heaven.  Let music be music, let pepole sing because it’s fun.  It’s not like our other activity, stop muddling it in with everything else.

About Kirk Bozeman
  • Alan Noble

    Good thoughts, Kirk.

    I had two initial reactions to this video:
    1. I felt like they were asking me to mean or feel or believe what I am singing more/better/stronger. But I think this can lead us down a dangerous path where we begin asking whether we are “authentically” worshiping. The elusive search for authenticity can keep us so preoccupied with our emotions and thoughts that worship becomes about Us, when Paul is clear that our task is to be encouraging Each Other with hymns and the whole of Scripture shows that we ought to be worshiping God. While I don’t want to advocate people disingenuously singing, I also don’t want to go to the opposite extreme and suggest that we need to feel a certain way.

    2. It is a bit ironic to me that these songs seem to be about our superficial worship but the blame is consistently placed on the congregation. Perhaps if our worship is consistently I-focused we should take a good long look at the music and lyrics. Do the songs and the modern standard model of the Worship Leader and Worship Band encourage or discourage or have no effect on our attitude in worship?

  • Matt

    I think these are some good points.

    Alan you mention that you “don’t want to go to the opposite extreme and suggest that we need to feel a certain way.”

    I think that everything we are passionate about elicits an emotional response from us in some form and facet of our lives. I’m personally passionate about UGA football, so my emotion overflows at touchdowns and wins (or more common, lately, turnovers and losses). Good or bad, my heart overflows and my mouth speaks.

    Since God has commanded us to be emotionally involved with him, shouldn’t there be an emotional response from us in some form and facet of our lives? We can and absolutely should think deeply and logically about our faith, serve through works, and work to spread the Gospel. The danger comes when there is not an emotional springboard for these activities. Serving without loving becomes tiresome and even legalistic.

    I lead worship at my church. I know the people of our church love God, like serving him. Shoot, they even like 50% of the songs we sing, but why are they not bursting at the seams with praise, gratitude, and thanksgiving? While I try to get our congregation to think that worship is a daily activity, I also try to let them know they should be feeling it.

    Because I feel that, overall, churches similar to mine have often been so obsessed with what we should be doing, we de-emphasize the why. I don’t mean to say that every person should get their emotional kick from the “worship time”. But it should happen somewhere.

    Our church is traditionally very reserved, but we want people to be free to express their emotional response to God in our “worship time”. So to our music team, I say: “I want to see you worshiping”. They know what I mean. They know I’m not asking them to put on a show. I’m asking them to feel it–to express their love and devotion to God through our music.

    And if they can’t do that, then there is a problem.


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