One of my favorite churches to visit as a young man was a small Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas. It was a traditional Church of Christ for the day, with no paid staff, musicians, falderol, or gimmicks.
Church Elders took turns delivering sermons. Volunteer song leaders led the hymns. Everything was a capella, with no instruments, no background tracks, just a few dozen folks singing their hearts out every Sunday.
This memory returned to me as I watched a sermon from a Texas Hill Country church I attend occasionally. The pastor is well-educated, well-spoken, and preaches with just enough humor to keep things interesting without trashing the message. I was not present at the live service, but I was told I should watch the recorded sermon, which I did.
However, I did not limit myself to the sermon. I watched the entire service. It started with the Worship Team singing a song my wife said brought her to tears. Sadly, the person with her at the time, our daughter, thought Mom had fallen asleep as her head was down and her eyes were closed during the opening song.
She was not paying attention to the Worship Team, the lighting, the screen graphics, and the rest of the production. No! She was listening to and reacting to the message in the song! The assurance that God will fight our battles if we let Him. A belief that she strongly feels, given her testimony.
My experience in this area leads me to believe most of the congregation’s younger people might have reacted as our daughter did. To them, it is not worship if you are not moving to and feeling the beat of the music!
To be clear, I move a bit, or more, to contemporary worship music as well. Heck, I sing in a traditional choir and have difficulty not bouncing to some of the more traditional music we sing. I don’t think God will be offended if we react to the beat of a well-written and performed upbeat worship song.
Back to the sermon! After giving a well-received and thoughtful message, the pastor bowed his head in prayer. The lights dimmed, and a spotlight shined on him while he prayed. The prayer seemed heartfelt and appropriate. During the prayer, the Worship Team silently returned to the stage, arranging themselves behind the pastor.
Completing the prayer, he opened his eyes; the lights dimmed further. The pastor quickly and quietly walked off stage right. As he exited the stage, the first cords of the Worship Team’s closing number stirred the air. The lights came up, and a full-blown production was underway!
I know times have changed since I visited the little church in the Diamond Hill area of Fort Worth. Still, the idea that church services should be the religious equivalent of a Broadway or Vegas production seems a bit much. I addressed this point in one part of a longer piece almost a decade ago. Check out Whose Jesus if you’ve got the time.
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