The Worship Industry (Brian McLaren)

I was at Derek Webb’s blog and came across this Youtube video by Brian McLaren on worship.  Check it out and let me know – What is Brian’s thesis? and  Is it true?

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  • I agree with him almost wholeheartedly.

    Studies have been conducted which suggest that worshippers at some contemporary or charismatic services are worked into a frenzied high which is similar in nature to the effects of cocaine on the brain.

    I am a twenty-something. I do not want theater seating or coffee cup holders. I want something true, something real, something deep.

    God is the God of Order, and I think nowhere should that be more apparent than in our worship. In no way is it perfect, but I think liturgy is perhaps the best tool we have–it’s been used effectively in worship since the days of ancient Judaism, and it connects us (through tradition) to something much deeper than ourselves. God says over and over again in the prophets that he doesn’t want our songs, our incense, our offerings. He wants our hearts. How can we give our hearts to Him if they are wrapped up in superficial “feel-good” worship?

  • Jon

    I go to a Vineyard church and worship is a very high priority. However, in the last several months I have been exploring different avenues of worship and contemplative prayer by going to a Taize service at a local Methodist church..
    I find that the Holy Spirit meets me in both scenarios. So while, I agree with the heart of where Brian is coming from, yet, I think we as Christians are too quick to want to draw deep contrasts and make everything into an “either, or” type of scenario.. So in short, let’s embrace it all..Contemporary worship, gregorian chants, old protestant hyms, black spirituals, victorian organs..It’s all a gift from On High

  • TL

    Perhaps some contemplation on what worship is and is about would serve well. Worship is much more than singing, dancing, playing music, reading the psalms, poetry to God, etc. It’s an attitude of adoration, respect, awe. I don’t think there can be any imposed limits on how to shower worship toward God. It isn’t limited to corporate meetings on Sunday morning. But when we do gather to worship, we could change how we worship from time to time.

    Perhaps, some of the problems are that usually the same people ‘lead’ worship in churches every Sunday. The fact that different people do things differently if left to their own desires, should be a good thing for those who share worship ‘services’ with them. IMO it would be awesome to have different groups or persons lead worship every few Sundays. In the same way, I’d love to hear different preachers instead of the same person every Sunday.

  • Megan

    It’s really interesting to me that McLaren is known in some circles as some sort of radical, when here he is, a bible quoting guy, wanting people to be honest with their worship. Perhaps this speaks to a greater need in the Church to be honest all over the place, not only in worship, but in our person-to-person relationships as well.

  • Amy Stone

    I hear Brian saying that worship requires honesty, and when we mass produce “worship” as a consumer-oriented product, we distance ourselves from communion from God.

    Disingenuous worship is like a TV dinner, thoughtlessly consumed before a facsimile of God, as part of a fantasy-based entertainment experience.

    Genuine worship, on the other hand, is like a masterful work of art. It cannot be consumed. It inspires us to reflect on and envision God and our lives in new ways. Worship must be a new creation, every time, the nature of which is determined in our here and now relationship with God.

    While I share McLaren’s discomfort with the current state of so-called worship in our consumption obsessed culture, I wonder how his notions of true worship play out in practical ways. How does a worship leader stand up in front of the congregation and say, “You know, I don’t feel like praying today. In fact, I’m not even sure that God give a flip about us (if God exists). I guess I’m only here this morning because I’m getting paid. Well, if we must, let’s get this thing over with so we can shut this show down on time.”? That’s honesty all right. Honesty isn’t always the best policy. (Okay, that’s a straw man, but maybe you get what I mean)

    So, how does honest worship play out when our souls feel empty and distracted and our only resource is pre-packaged prayers, songs, and forms? I’m not sure I know how to break free from the consumerist system we live in.

  • John Lunsford

    The fact that we continue to refer to the portion of the service/gathering where music is played as worship gives me a lot of stress.
    Is worship really supposed to be about the time when music is played? My students have already fallen victim to this mindset. Unless we have a guitar guy we can’t worship. Unless there’s a Passion CD in the car we can’t worship.
    This mentality of compartmentalizing worship so that it doesn’t bleed over into other areas is depressing. Worship should be everywhere and all the time, the very breath between our words.
    The worst part is what Brian describes as the letdown if the worship isn’t adequate. The conference sucked because the worship guy didn’t play our favorite songs so I just couldn’t get into it. Ugh!

    • Amy Stone

      Right on! My former church closed, so my family and I now find ourselves in a new congregation (we’ve been there about 18 months). We went from a very music centered worship service to a more lectionary based/hymn singing (piano accompaniment only most of the time) format, where there is a sense of a continuous flow of worship throughout the service. A typical service looks something like:

      Opening reflection–prayer–singing–scripture reading–responsive reading–singing–scripture reading–sermon–singing–offering–congregational sharing–prayer–community announcements–singing-benediction.

      In this approach the idea of a “worship set” just doesn’t fit. The idea of separating the singing out as “worship” is absurd.

      I know most people consider hymns boring (even offensive), but there is something about the form of hymn singing that is especially conducive to congregational worship (as I see it). It circumvents the creation of “worship” celebrities. All the parts are necessary and equal. I really like it.

  • John

    I have listened to a number of Brian’s talks, and he has always struck me as very real. I think his thesis is “who are we trying to please?” and it’s a core question we need to repeatedly ask ourselves. Is worship there to fulfill our needs? Well, yes, in some part, but the primary reason we worship should be an authentic, all of life response to the worthiness of God. When we start to grasp just how blessed we are as his creation, the amazement will overflow from our hearts. Not only in corporate worship, but in everything we do.

  • wmccaig

    I think the issue is deeper than Sunday morning worship experience. I think if what happens on the stage on Sunday is the only way we worship or experience God in our life, we are being sold a cheap substitute. Worship should be a way of life. I run an urban ministry and I see people worship God in some weird ways but they are beautiful. I see people wrestling with addiction admit that they want to be clean but doubt that God would love them enough to help them. I see them break into tears lamenting their past mistakes and crying out to God to help them. I think that is what Brian is getting at. What I see is honest searching for God. A willingness to be broken before God. So much of what we experience as “worship” lacks authenticity or as Brian said it is “pre-packaged.” We are basically looking to the folks on the stage to move us instead of seeking God deeply from within our souls. The problem is not with the folks on the stage, it is with the entire premise that worship is what happens in a sanctuary on a Sunday with a music leader.

  • Worship seems to be another one of those words which has lost it’s meaning. In my circles it’s a synonym for Christian Music. In the Bible it seems to be the act of prostrating one’s self. Some people think it’s a way of experiencing God or expressing our love to God.

    Why don’t we, instead of worrying about expressing ourselves, or experiencing God, concern ourselves with honouring and serving God? And how can this be better done than in serving and practically loving the “least of these”, the marginalised, the suffering, the poor? That’s the weird thing about “our” God – he doesn’t need anything from us, he is so fulfilled that he says: if you want to make me happy, make someone else so.

  • Loyd

    Whew. . . ! How right he is. Wonder what we would do if while in worship we actually had an encounter with God, mighty and wonderful?

  • I resonate with the discomfort of worship packaging…I’m probably a bit more extreme in that I find much of the feeling- and emotion-laden manipulation that is called “worship” in a lot of churches, to be ANTI-worshipful to me. Of course, it doesn’t help that a lot of it is just badly written and badly played either…

    But am I the only one who noticed an irony in the music playing under Brian’s voice as he spoke? Though the form was different, it reminded me of nothing so much as the organ playing “Just As I Am” while the old-time preacher prayed his closing prayer and gave an altar call in churches of yore…