We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Worship" Pastors

A relatively modern invention in the Church is the “worship pastor.”  I don’t know when this position was invented, but I’m guessing the reason for it was to make worship more amenable to the population at large.  Of course the whole idea of a “worship pastor” is flawed, because it treats music as the primary form of worship and that without such a position our worship just might not take place — or it may not be “good.”

Here is what I have seen happening in many churches, especially the seeker-sensitive and emergent models, when it comes to “worship pastors,” and these items are gleaned from the many videos I have seen over the years, as well as from the many churches I have visited or attended:

1.  They have to be “hip.”  Soul patch or goatee is normal, earrings and tattoos to prove their “coolness” are also a usual part of their facade.  Oh, and casual dress is a must.

2.  The music chosen will usually be contemporary and most often will be what are known as “choruses” — those which go around and around with 24 words as we sing them 7 times through.  Many will be vacuous, often from Vineyard or some other aberrant group or musician.

3.  When they do choose to perform a traditional hymn, it has to be done with their particular style rather than in the way the entire congregation has sung it for decades.

4.  The “worship pastor” tends to add commentary bridges between songs to demonstrate how he is pointing you to God.

5.  During the songs it is common for the “worship pastor” to yell “amen.”

6.  While everyone is singing, the “worship pastor” will very often emphasize certain phrases or words, or string out an end note, holding it several beats beyond the end of the measure — lots of “oh, oh-oh-oh-oh” additions, etc.

7.  The “worship pastor” will always be dancing and swinging his guitar back and forth as he sways his head around and around.

8.  And don’t forget about the music the “worship pastor” (or his pianist) will be quietly playing while the Pastor is praying — after all, we need to set the mood.

9.  Rather than leading the congregation in the songs, the “worship pastor” appears to think he is a cheerleader creating enthusiasm and driving the emotions.

(And, of course, they will often write their own songs and expect everyone to learn them.)

I’ve seen these examples so many times that it takes nothing to recite them.  Rather than point the congregation towards God, the distractions caused by his actions really point to him as a performer.  The appearance and feeling of the service becomes more like a concert than a worship service.  The more musicians the “worship pastor” has, the more concert-like the performance becomes.

The church we attend recently hired a “worship pastor,” who started his duty yesterday.  It was the second time he was at our assembly, having come to perform several weeks ago so the congregation could vote for him.

Well, our new “worship pastor” fell right into the position.  His first visit was definitely a harbinger of things to come, when he was given the majority of the worship time to prove his metal, and it was just one big performance.  He used more traditional music that time, but he also had to sing with his wife (the pianist) as a duet with a song I believe they wrote.  This Sunday he did one traditional hymn but with his own “country-style” behind it, and then it was mostly contemporary tunes which he could dance around to — including the obligatory Vineyard songs!  By the end of the service he had accomplished all of the nine points above.

We already had a volunteer worship leader; a mature, dignified, and humble man, who has held the position for over 20 years. We replaced him with an immature performer; one who I am guessing is in his early-to-mid-30s.  We gained nothing by putting in a paid staff member except to increase our budget needs. In the process we took a ministry away from someone who actually had a gift for the position.

When discussing the situation with one of the elders the week after the new “worship pastor” was voted in, I was told that we need to appeal to the younger generation — as if playing to a particular demographic is ever good for any Christian body!

The problem doesn’t lie with the “worship pastor” — he is only doing as he has learned.  The problem lies with the leadership who sanction such nonsense in a worship leader, and with a non-discerning congregation who will vote in such a position just because the leadership suggests it; after all, if it’s good enough for the leadership, it must be okay — right?

My wife and I have attended this assembly for almost 13 years.  It isn’t a perfect assembly — there isn’t such a thing.  There are some things the leaders do which I disagree with — and that’s not surprising.  But with all the little things, the important thing — the teaching from the pulpit — was what kept us there.   As long as the teaching remains good, we will stay, but we may have to remain outside the auditorium until the sermon time begins, and then leave immediately after the sermon.

I don’t go to church to be audience for a performer.  And neither should you.


Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

You might as well leave now because the next three or four years are going to make you miserable and sour and then you are going to leave anyway.

Been there, done that.

Neil said...

The final straw for our last church was when the huge background screen had a video of the band -- that was already in front of the screen! -- and then it zoomed in on the performers and even the guitars! You described the rest of it well. I usually have thick skin on things like that, but my wife and I both couldn't worship in that environment.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

My husband and I send our condolences to you and Jill. We are so very sorry to hear what just happened at your church.

It seems that in today's church "hipness" has replaced "holiness". This I know for certain: Christ is not pleased. One bit.

We have precious believing friends (a godly, mature husband and wife), who also had this happen at their church. Like you and Jill, our friends had to stop attending the music part of service. Unfortunately, many other problems at the church soon followed. Our friends, and several other godly believers, ended up leaving. The Lord found our friends a new church to attend, where things are sound and reverent. Their previous "hip" church has had nothing but problems since.

In our experience as well, irreverent worship is always a harbinger of more problems. We've always left churches where the music went south. We have sadly found that as the music goes, eventually so goes the doctrine.

May the Lord direct your steps, as you seek to honor Him.


Steve Bricker said...

Glenn, I remember that position being posted for your church. Since I was unemployed and qualified, I read through the job description. Much of it was standard fare, but there was something about it that did not set right. If memory serves, there was a deliberate statement that worship/music was to be slanted toward what is contemporary/popular as an appeal to a younger demographic.

I wonder if those who set their sights on young adults know that the content of such music is postmodern inner reflection—truth defined by experience. Just recently, some of our music team leaders who promote this style of worship admitted to me privately that they prefer hymns but continue with the "feel god" choruses because they think that's what everybody else wants. And sometimes the pastor asks for them, which is a whole other issue of its own.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Apparently the majority of us in the congregation were totally unaware that the leadership was seeking a "worship" pastor (who currently seems to have no pastoral credentials, but lots of music credentials). If I had seen a description wanting contemporary music, I would have protested THEN. As it was, we first learned about him AFTER he was selected to be put up for a vote. There were only 20% of the voters against him - and a friend said that represented the people who actually thought about what was happening rather than going along with whatever the leadership wanted.

"Postmodern" seems to sum up most CCM quite well.

Doug Evans said...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but rather than being slanted toward a younger generation, shouldn't the worship music be slanted toward God?

My wife enjoys contemporary "Christian" music but luckily our small congregation of Bereans prefers hymns, and when the pianist is ill we will sing a capella from the hymnal.

Having come from an RCC background I LOVE these beautiful hymns and I don't want to give them up, but we have been to churches with a modernistic allergy to sheet music. One can only wonder why the worship leaders don't realize that worship is not a performance piece, it's a sing-along. We will even break out 'kids songs' from bible camp on Sundays just to get everyone singing.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

shouldn't the worship music be slanted toward God?


Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

My wife and I moved to our town in 1978. We found and joined a fairly large church with two godly, bible-teaching pastors and an unpaid, part-time choir director/song leader. Soon after that, our church hired a music minister.

Since my wife and I were accustomed to singing in the choir, we joined. It soon grew from about 30 to 60. I was instrumental in assisting our music minister when we produced the church's first major musical event for Christmas. It was truly a very respectful, God-honoring, and Christ exalting ministry with a deliberate focus on the gospel.

Okay, so I could make a really long story out of this but I won't. Over the years the music ministry grew, the pastoral staff grew (I was added to the pastoral staff), and the congregation grew. I witnessed, first hand as the "music ministry" began to change from ministry to performance and then to major productions. We hired a full-time sound and multi-media technician. We spent several hundred thousand dollars on sound, video, and lighting equipment. They converted and equipped the gymnasium to a "contemporary worship center" because our very large auditorium was too traditional for the unsaved masses they were targeting.

It is my observation and experience that when a church's practices and programs are designed to attract the unsaved masses and sustain the flow income (to protect large payrolls), orthodoxy takes a back seat. Sermons are deliberately simple and designed to be attractive and lack substance. It is the natural decline of a "seeker or purpose driven" church model.

I had to leave about four years ago because I was one of those who sounded the warnings. But no one was listening. I was threatened to shut up and submit or I would be brought up to the deacons for discipline and removal.

We were there for nearly thirty years. The church has since, changed its name, dropped all hints of its denominational identity, changed its polity from a congregational rule to an elder rule, minimized the need for membership, and accepts non-members into ministry positions. At one time, membership reached nearly 2000 and weekly attendance was 1400.

It is now in decline. Today, the total attendance for two services (including the children and young people who have been "programed" out of traditional worship) is about 600.

By the way, "Unbelievers cannot worship." To pretend otherwise is disobedient and insulting to God.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I've heard the same type of story over and over again. I'm just hoping the congregation won't stand for it.

Anonymous said...

"It is my observation and experience that when a church's practices and programs are designed to attract the unsaved masses and sustain the flow income (to protect large payrolls), orthodoxy takes a back seat. Sermons are deliberately simple and designed to be attractive and lack substance. It is the natural decline of a "seeker or purpose driven" church model." ... "'Unbelievers cannot worship.' To pretend otherwise is disobedient and insulting to God."

Ralph nailed it.

Glenn, my husband and I have unfortunately also had similar experiences to Ralph's. I pray your congregation won't stand for it, but I fear you and Jill may soon find yourself in the shunned minority... but take heart, you'll be in good company.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add that being near Nashville, where music is everything, it seems, it is quite difficult to find a solid Bible preaching church who ALSO has a discerning pastor who knows about the inherent problems associated with contemporary Christian music. My husband and I have often said that God does not accept the 'worship' of unbelievers. When the service is geared toward them we can expect our Sunday mornings to start being hip, shallow, casual and feel good-y. We are praying for revival to come to our country. Will you join us? Oh, one more thing, I have noticed that in these situations, the change is a gradual process. So people need to be aware ahead of time of what to look for.

Ron Livesay said...

"What is worship? The Nelson New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines worship as 'reverent devotion and allegiance pledged to God.' Obviously, one of the most important ways to express our praise and love for God is to obey Him. All outward expressions of worship become meaningless without true submission and obedience to the one we call 'Lord.' Jesus expressed this very clearly – 'If you love Me, you will keep My commandments' (John 14:15, NASB).... He wants to see our demonstrations of love and trust for Him through obedience. Only then will our outward acts of praise and worship be acceptable to Him." (Excerpt from an article I posted on my blog about four years ago.)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

What!?!? Do you mean there is more to worship than just music and singing?!?!? How can that be when so many churches think that's what worship is?!?!

My sarcasm for the day.

Ron Livesay said...

You nailed it, Glenn.