Forty years later, this all seems pretty silly. I mean, it has a kitschy appeal, but like your crazy neighbor’s pink lawn flamingo, it’s not going to be taken seriously by anyone. Take a look at this 70s-era McDonald’s commercial.
The pop worship of forty years ago is the same kind of thing. Today, it seems dull, lame, and outdated. In forty years, the pablum offered up today by Hillsong, Bethel, Thris Comlin, Elevation Worship, et al. will likewise be dull, lame, and outdated.
That’s what pop worship does. It conforms the worship of Christ’s church to the cultural entertainment of its day, so that the church is forced to recreate itself in the image of each fleeting generation. Not only is that a pretty tough row to hoe, it’s completely foolish. When we worship, we aren’t to be amusing ourselves with a cool show, yet that’s what so many churches are offering, week in, week out.
And we wonder why the church is declining. If all we have to offer is our own version of pop entertainment, we will lose every time. Every single time. Because TV, mainstream music, sports, and the like are all way better at entertainment than the church is. We must offer something more authentic and distinctive. Fortunately, we don’t have to look far to find what that thing is.
When you worship according to the biblical and historical Christian liturgy, you are lifted out of that chronos-centric slavishness. The centuries before and those to come seem to collapse, and you are worshiping with the saints of old by joining into the song of the heavenly host. Hymns, their words having enriched the faith of generations before and their melodies written in a nearly timeless musical idiom, find a place in new hearts and minds.
Not to mention the products behind that old McDonald’s commercial were deadly for your body and mind. Just like a consistent diet of McDonald’s creates bloated, unhealthy people, a consistent diet of pop worship creates a bloated, unhealthy church. Lex orandi, lex credendi.
Pop worship peddlers are no better than cigarette manufacturers. We brag about our bloated numbers and haughtily point toward all those shriveling liturgical churches. We package and sell our strategies to every desperate small church pastor. But we aren’t giving them anything that will sustain them. We are giving them Big Macs and happily taking their money time and time again. We are sticking cowboy killers in their mouth and offering them a match. We are giving them something that is unhealthy for their souls, knowing that it creates a chemical attachment in their brains that will keep them returning for more of the same poison.
Like McDonald’s, you’re looking your people in the eye, saying, “We do it all for you!”
That’s a lie. You’re doing it all for YOU.
We should be better.