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Meta-worship in the contemporary church

Contemporary Christianity involves a lot of meta-worship. Let me explain: by meta-worship, I mean this: songs that describe more the human’s experience with the divine and the process of worship rather than extolling and praising God for who he is. “[Let me sing about how I do this worship thing. Let me tell you how I lift my hands and how I can speak in vague generalities which, after we break them down, don’t really mean a thing.]”

There is so little actual worship of God for who he is that the worship itself, as the Baptists say concerning prayer, does not rise above the rafters. Who are we worshiping when we sing these meta-worship tunes? Where is the extolling of God, who alone is worthy of worship?

One could hear a sermon in a hymn. They were so full of truth and so concerned with God’s nature that one could not be confused about who the actual object of the song was.

What is the object of today’s music? Is it God? Or is it—which seems more likely—ourselves?

I’m going to stick with my phrase here: I rarely, if ever, want to here ‘I, me, my, we, us, our, ours,’ etc., in a worship song, unless it is talking about God and what he does and praising God for it.


Note one:

It is true that the Psalmists engage in meta-worship, at times. However, when they do, it is as a supplement to the worship of God. Meta-worship becomes a problem when it is the focus of worship or when it becomes the end. At that point, it has moved from worship to idolatry.

“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— …” Philippians 3:3

Evidence of being a believer in Jesus Christ is being who puts no confidence in the flesh, who glories in Christ, and who worships by the Spirit of God. Hopefully, I need not illuminate the fact that the Spirit does not exist to make much of us or of our experiences; the Spirit uses those things and ourselves to make much of God; the Spirit points to Christ and to the Father, never to us for our own sake.

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:28, 29

Gratefulness for God and his gifts leads to worship. And acceptable worship here, indicated by the author (whom I believe to be Barnabas, but that is another post), is worship with reverence and awe. Why? Because our God is a consuming fire. That is what drives the attitude:  the nature of God.

“‘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.’”

John 4:23, 24

There is true and false worship. And true worship is in spirit and in truth, as defined by Christ.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16

You can fight me on this interpretation, but I do not believe you will be correct in doing so. Paul says to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Got it. That’s clear. Then he qualifies the statement with what that should like. It will involve “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” and “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The word of Christ promotes this. It promotes true theology, whereby we can teach and admonish our brothers and sisters.

But it also promotes a thankful heart which is necessary for true worship. We can take the Psalms as they are, and sing them, which is what Calvin did; or we can take those general or specific principles found in Scripture concerned with the Father, Christ, the Spirit and their relationship to us and create songs from those principles.

Note two:

I do not criticize the musical form of worship in any degree, so long as it promotes a reverential and humble spirit in the worshipper. I love the old hymns. Does that mean that I require a choir or an orchestra? Absolutely not. Why? Because true worship is not bound by human tradition. Now, an elder generation may find contemporary musical style to be in bad taste. They are free to think that. However, when they begin to think that a contemporary musical style is improper for worship, then have they gone too far and crossed the line from preference to a theological position, which is an improper move to make. In the same way, if a younger generation were to take either position concerning hymns, then they would be in the same relevant position as the elder generation.

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