Home Worship & Creative Leaders Articles for Worship & Creative Amidst All the Debates: Are We Getting Worship All Wrong?

Amidst All the Debates: Are We Getting Worship All Wrong?

The debates never end.

The divide is strong. Is production in worship a value or is it destroying the church? Are we actually worshiping God or are we worshiping worship?

Mike Livingston address his concern in a recent blog post titled “The Heresy of Worshiptainment.” In the article he quotes David Platt and A.W. Tozer, talking about how humans have taken the place of God in our gatherings. We aren’t hungry for the Word of God, we’re actually hungry to be entertained.

This is interesting because I agree with most everything he said. But something about the article just rubbed me the wrong way.

To label our worship “heretical” is a severe generalization. No one can judge the essence of our worship but the Holy Spirit. It’s a waste of time for us to try to label forms of worship “wrong” because they appear to be more about entertainment than God.

Worship cannot be judged by outward forms. It is an inner response to an inner working of the Holy Spirit.

Sure, as a worshiper I should never be dependent on a certain sound, talent, worship leader or light show. But if those forms actually serve me in worshiping God, I’m all the better for it.

Do Talent and Production Serve or Distract?

John Piper, in his fabulous book Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully, dissects the life and ministry of America’s great preacher George Whitefield. Whitefield was a freak of nature when it came to preaching. He could command the attention of thousands of people in an open field (without a microphone). His natural talents have always been admired by Christian and unbeliever alike.

Many, including John Wesley, wondered if Whitefield’s preaching was actually in service of the Gospel or in competition with it. Did people simply enjoy Whitefield’s preaching style or were they moved by what he said? Was it more about Whitefield or the Gospel?

Piper sheds some light:

So if you ask Whitefield, ‘Why do you preach the way you do?’ he would probably say, ‘I believe what I read in the Bible is real.’ So let me venture this claim: George Whitefield is not a repressed actor, driven by egotistical love of attention. Rather, he is consciously committed to out-acting the actors because he has seen what is ultimately real. His oratorical exertion—his poetic effort—is not in place of God’s revelation and power but in the service of them. It is not an expression of ego but of love—for God and for the lost. It is not an effort to get a hearing at any cost but to pay a cost suitable to the beauty and worth of the truth.

The poetic effort to speak and act in suitable ways wakened in him the reality he wanted to communicate. For him the truths of the gospel were so real—so wonderfully, terrifyingly, magnificently real—that he could not and would not preach them as though they were unreal or merely interesting. He would not treat the greatest facts in the universe as unworthy of his greatest efforts to speak with fitting skill and force.

Can our excellence in production not serve this same end?

I don’t want to treat the greatest facts in the universe as unworthy of my greatest efforts to produce, create, sing, write and lead with fitting skill and force.

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David is a Worship Pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA.