I shared my last post in the ever-popular “I’m Fed Up With Bad Church Music” Facebook group. This was one of the responses I received:
“I am actively involved in my smells-and-bells, musically diverse Episcopal parish that reaches out to its worshippers by offering the Eucharist and reaches out to its neighbors by acts of kindness.
I am also profoundly moved by Hillsong music.
For me, I don’t see conflict or competition. At heart, Hillsong artists are psalmists. If I choose to go for an evening out, it’s nice to have an option like theirs, since John Denver isn’t around anymore and Branson, Missouri artists don’t tour. No one is forcing me to go, and I am unfazed that my attendance in part may make one or more of them a handsome living.
Do I want a steady diet of concert music? No. Would *I* call their concert ‘worship’? Perhaps not. But I would unhesitatingly call it ‘meditative’, ‘devotional’, ‘edifying’, and ‘enriching’.” – Peter
As I said in my previous post, if Hillsong or any other so-called “worship” acts were merely looked upon as forms of entertainment, and people out of their own volition decided to spend their money on their products, this wouldn’t be such a profoundly important issue to me. If the musicians could simply call it a concert and not “worship,” it wouldn’t be such a big deal.
And there’s certainly nothing wrong with a Christian consuming music, be it sacred or secular, classical or pop, that he or she finds to be helpful for reflecting on faith and spirituality. That reminds me of the first time I heard “You Found Me” by The Fray, but I’ll stop there lest I embarrass myself further.
Peter, Mr. Smells-and-Bells Episcopalian, no doubt understands the importance of the historic sacred liturgy more than the average Hillsong fan. And though I’m skeptical about whether Hillsong’s output could really ever be “enriching,” at least Peter knows enough not to call it worship.
But, frankly, most Hillsong fans are not as astute as Peter. The worship industry has replaced liturgy all over the place with its jesusy music. It has turned corporate worship into something it was never supposed to be, and the marketability of their product has been the driving force. What constituted worship for nearly two millennia is gone, and in its place we are given concerts of rock music, albeit with at least vaguely “Christian” words. Hillsong fans have been convinced that this experience, especially the way the music makes them feel, is what constitutes worship. Neither the group nor their fans likely even understand the lie they’re perpetuating, but it’s a lie, nonetheless. No amount of sincerity they can muster makes it any less of a lie.
So let’s look at what these sorts of concert events are doing. They are turning the so-called “worship music,” that which has replaced all semblance of liturgy in many places, into a commodity by marketing it as “worship.” People who like their stuff (again, not our friend Peter, but the average mindless Hillsong fan), aren’t thinking, “Oh, yeah, I should go attend their concert, even though it’s not corporate worship, and perhaps receive some personal encouragement and edification…without it being actual worship.”
They are thinking, “Oh, yeah, let’s go to this Hillsong worship event and worship like we usually do on Sundays.”
And thus the lie is compounded. Wherever they can get this jesusy music becomes worship in their own minds. And the scores of liturgically weak and uninformed clergy active in every denomination allow it to overtake liturgy in their church because their people want it, and often, they themselves want it.
That’s the insidious nature of the worship industry. It is destructive to a healthy liturgical and sacramental theology because it sets itself up as the actual word and sacrament. The feelings of enjoyment, however deep, are substituted for the actual presence of Christ. And that’s a huge, ugly, grievous mistake.
This is why I boycott the worship industry. It’s not because someone might possibly like it, but because it tears down the church by weaseling its way into its liturgical life. There’s no way to keep it out of the church and in the concert hall where it belongs.
If you absolutely feel compelled to go, I’m not going to try to stop you. (Well, I might write a blog post, but I’m not going to physically get in your way.) But my conscience won’t allow it. The worship industry doesn’t know its own place, so I earnestly pray for its rapid demise.