One major heresy of the church today is that it looks like the church has developed so much interest in the entertainment business. But, is the church wrong in venturing into the entertainment business when it comes to worship music? Should the church be concerned that so many people want to be entertained while they worship?
Should worship be entertainment?
We live in an era dominated by entertainment. We seem to live in a world so different in context from our biblical forebearers. For instance, they did not have access to radio, television, or the internet. In this era, everything is designed to appeal to our emotions and to entertain us. The entertainment culture has crept into the worship space and is corrupting our view of God and the way He is addressed during worship services.
In an attempt to answer the aforementioned question, the literal meaning of entertainment must inform our answer. If entertainment is amusement (the state or experience of finding something funny), then absolutely not during the moment of worship. Of course, every worshiper is expected to enjoy worship, but that is a byproduct of true worship, not the essence of it. There is an erroneous impression today that the key reason for worship programmes is to enjoy ourselves.
Worship during service is sacred. To pervert and corrupt that solemn moment with entertainment and is trying to please and gratify ourselves. The sacredness of true worship must not be sacrificed on altars of entertainment-oriented musicians, choirs, and other groups.
Whiles some describe worship as an act of attributing reverent honor and homage to God or to ascribe worth to something. In the New Testament, various words are used to refer to the term worship. The primary Hebrew word for worship is Shachah which means, to depress, prostrate (in homage to God) or to bow down, crouch, fall down, humbly beseech, do obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop and so on. In Greek, worship is translated as proskuneó, which means paying homage, to bow down to God or kings; sebázomai, meaning “to render religious honor”; and sébomai, meaning “to revere or adore”. These definitions clearly indicate that the entertainment element has nothing to do with God when it comes to the time of worship.
Unfortunately, most churches have lost the real essence of worship to the extent that some pastors have relegated that to the background. It is common to observe that some ministers of the gospel feel too big to be with the congregation during worship. In fact, some do not participate in worship/ministration until when it is time for them to deliver the Word of God. This reduces the sovereignty of Almighty God to non-entity. It is common now to see people fidget with their phones, take “selfies”, videos during worship. Some women become even more sensitive to their outfits or make up than to God. True worship is when one loses his senses for God to sense him/her.
Defining the place of worship
It is imperative to note that the place of worship is as important as the object of worship. Any time a particular place is declared a place of worship, it becomes a Holy Ground and therefore ceases to be an ordinary place. Worship music in any form is unto God irrespective of the location, be it church or any auditorium. Once the programme is tagged worship, it can be described as an encounter with the sovereign Lord.
In the book of Exodus chapter 3:4-5, Moses was cautioned by God to be mindful of where he was standing: “When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, Here I am. Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
The fact that God asked Moses to take off his sandal at that material moment, is an indication that He requires total reverence during worship. It’s only natural that one’s desire to be entertained would creep into our outward expressions of spiritual devotion but it must be done with a caution. The worship ground is a sacred place, worship time is a sacred moment, and it cannot be used just to excite oneself. An encounter with God through worship music should not necessarily be for entertainment purposes; it is a spiritual exercise which demands the highest form of concentration. Other programmes can be organized for entertainment purposes but once it is captioned worship, it becomes a sacred moment where humanity meets divinity. It is no joke!
In our local parlance, no one goes to a fetish or deity for consultation and expect to be entertained. Some gospel musicians are seen living fake lifestyles. The concepts in their music videos are questionable and intended to show off extravagant lifestyles which do not necessarily inspire others to worship God.
What every true Worshipper must know
We have all been there to church services or worship programmes where everything looks fantastically planned but, at a point it feels like there is a disconnect between the performance and your spirit.
This brings to fore the need to properly dichotomize between Gift and Calling. The two are related and sometimes confusing, but there is a difference. There are those who have been given sweet melodious voices (Gift) to sing but have not been called into the worship music ministry. The Greek word for gifts is charisma. Charisma which can be singing, draws or attract people to oneself, but Calling is what we have been born to do. In other words, a gift is what one loves to do but calling is what one is born to do or lives to do. Though there is often a bit of confusion between charisma and calling, a Gift is about passion and Calling is about purpose. It is possible for a person to have the gift of singing but have not been necessarily called into the worship music ministry. There are others also who have the calling but have fallen victim to satanic influences and yet still have the gift. Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance”.
In September 2008, there was shock in the Christian community across the globe that popular Christian music icon Ray Boltz had publicly announced he was living a homosexual lifestyle. Reactions from fans across the world regarding Ray Boltz’s revelation have run the gamut of emotions for years. Boltz, an anointed singer, father of four who was married for 33 years before officially divorcing his wife, is well-known for his widely acclaimed songs “Thank You, I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb and my anchor holds”. Many gospel musicians or worshippers are into that space for purely business purposes. So in their worship programmes, everything is geared towards pleasing man in order to increase patronage not God.
Every worshipper or choir must have in mind that worship is for God ONLY. Songs selected must be ones which have the propensity to magnify, glorify and appreciate God for who He is, not because of answered prayers. Though sound and stage presence are important, the resources put into production should not outweigh the very essence of connecting one’s soul to their maker.
Worshippers must recognize that singing the latest or trending songs does not necessarily make one a good worshipper. Content and context are extremely important in promoting a true worship experience. There seems to be a misconception that every low tempo or low pitch gospel song is a worship song. The fact is, worship songs have very little to do with the tempo of the song but rather the content.
Worshippers must bear in mind that the worship experience is not for the exhibition of talent but an avenue to lead people to give reverence to God. The ultimate goal for the congregation/patrons is not just a feeling, but a transformation as indicated in Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. True worship experience must lead to the conviction that worship is a lifestyle, not a moment in time.
Worship is not about a weekly ritual, neither is it about just expressing oneself. True worship experience is to honor God, adore Him, not because of what He does but simply for who He is. If one begins to worship God well, it disarms Satan of his schemes. Nothing should take away from God what is rightfully His, Worship. The Bible says in the Gospel according to John chapter 4:23-24, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The church should be worried about the growing heresy that adding more entertainment value to worship music is paramount for church growth. The church should be apprehensive that worship services or programmes are delineated primarily by performances and pep rally atmospheres than by a true spirit of supernatural awesomeness to God.
The heart, focus and intent are key components of a true worship. If the figurative spotlight in any worship music programme or church service is on any individual or human performance other than the awesomeness of God, it is absolutely not true worship. If a person (s) other than Jesus Christ is receiving our adulation and applause, it is not God either.
If worship through music is for God only, then one can argue that exalting Him does not necessarily need any entertainment value. Worship isn’t about meeting our own needs; it’s about finding ways to express our wonder at God’s Sovereignty, Holiness and Glory. On the other hand, we shouldn’t always feel like we must deny our natural, God-given instincts to make a joyful noise in response to the wonder of God. But there are times where the culmination of talents and creative expression in response to God will be captivating to others.
Jesse Carey writes, “If you are an artist using your talents and creativity to express awe at the glory of God, there’s a good chance what you create is going to be captivating to others. The most important element isn’t our means of expression, but the focus of that expression. Is it ourselves and our desire to be applauded and entertained? Or is it on God, and His majesty?”
Answering the above question the right way will drive ones focus to the kind of worship that is reasonable, genuine and spiritual in contrast to human manipulation. Without a grand vision of God, without a heart of awe and reverence, your worship will be empty, dry and without direction. Staying amazed by God is what makes worship what it is.