Why singing isn’t worship, or why demon possessed people don’t sing worship.

I’m fighting a losing battle, I know. About singing and semantics and worship. But just let me irritate some people again about this whole concept of “Praise and Worship.”

Is this guy singing?

Donald Miller wrote a great piece today on his blog about not connecting with God through singing. It created a little stir.

Church services, especially in the evangelical world, are divided into 2 segments these days. Worship, which is the singing segment, and proclamation, which is the preaching part. Prayer, well, that’s a post for another day.  But if singing is worship, then the lead singer is the most important person in the gathering. Which may have been what got Lucifer into trouble. Read my thoughts on the Lucifer Syndrome here.

But a simple reading of the New Testament, not the mention that Old, causes one to wonder where our current obsession with calling singing “worship” comes from.

Two biblical examples cause me consternation. First, I was reading with my kids Mark’s version of the demoniac of Gerasene. Some versions say the man came out and fell at Jesus feet. Others say “fell and worshipped him.”(Mark 5:6) Hum, I wonder, did he break out in some Chris Tomlin or was it Jesus Culture do you think? (confession: huge fan of both)

The next example is when Jesus is walking on the water and scares his disciples. Then he gets in the boat and they “worshipped him.” Again, I’m curious. Was it a Wesleyan Hymn or a modern praise choruses (as my parents call them)?

Neither, obviously.

Singing has been part of the life of the church from the days of Jesus (when they had sung a hymn, they went out) but only in the last decade has the music industry completely hijacked the term. Oh, it wasn’t intentional or malevolent. There was, and is, a generation of people who are passionate to encounter God, and singing often opens us up spiritually in a way that nothing else can. But I question whether much of it is worship. Praise. Prayer, Ecstatic utterance. But worship? It can be, and it could be, but when worship is singing, the central part of the gathering of the community of faith is singing. Worship leads to change, and none of the outcomes of the supposed Worship Movements point to a radical empowerment for witness and effectual change agents in society. Inspiration, yet. Radical transformation, no.

And honestly, some people should not sing until heaven. Even then, they might have to apply for an exemption for humanitarian reasons.  And amazingly, some are even self aware on this. Men particularly don’t get into the emotional, “touch me, hug me, Jesus” type singing.  That’s too should be another post.

So can we try to at least recognize that, though a vital part of the gathering of the community of faith, singing is not the extent or the end all of worship.

What’s is worship? That’s another post coming soon.

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