I’m somewhat out of touch with the rock/pop music scene known as “contemporary Christian music.” I used to listen avidly, but when my convictions changed (another post, maybe), so did my listening habits. I don’t follow what they are up to these days. So when an email arrived this morning selling “WOW Worship” CDs, it was like a slap in the face — perhaps even more so because I’ve been preparing to preach this Sunday on a particular text.
A quick web search showed that this is not new. There’s a “WOW” CD of some type for every year since 1996, often more than one. You also get “WOW Gospel” and “WOW Hits” and even “WOW Essentials” (really? essential?). So apparently people are used to this, and Christians have been buying these CDs for a while.
It’s all messed up. I don’t even have to listen to know it is all messed up. When you stick the word “WOW” anyplace in anything to do with worship, something is seriously wrong. It doesn’t have to be prominently placed to tell you that, but when it is the title, you know they’ve lost the plot. Though I’m sure it wasn’t meant that way, it seems blasphemous to put “WOW” and “worship” together.
This Sunday, Lord willing, I’ll be preaching on this passage:
1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
The God who is “high and lifted up,” worshiped and praised by angels, is not a God who is going to be “wowed” by human worship of any kind.
11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
The God who revealed the events described in Revelation 5 is not going to say “Wow,” let alone “WOW,” to anything produced on this earth.
Now, I doubt that those who produce this think God will be “wowed” by their music. That problem would be so obvious to anyone that I hope there would be no point in writing about it. So why am I talking about God’s response to their music, and that He wouldn’t say “WOW?”
Worship is about God, about honouring Him. Any discussion of worship has to be about Him, or we’ve missed the entire point. “WOW,” though, is a human response, not God’s response. The message is either “This worship will WOW God!” or “This worship will WOW you!” Both are wrong. It won’t WOW God, and if you are talking about WOWing people, it isn’t worship.
The very use of the word shows a shift in focus, from seeking to please and honour God, to trying to achieve particular human responses. It centres worship on us and our response, rather than God. If the music is true to the name, it is going to have a wrong focus, and that will lead to trouble.
Our culture (including Christians) redefines words at a frantic rate, with significant ramifications to our attitudes and behaviour. Some of these have a bearing on our attitudes towards worship:
- “Music” in society at large often means “entertainment.”
- “Worship” has been largely redefined by many Christians to mean “music.”
- Thus, “Worship” in modern Christian discussion often means “entertainment” (whether passively enjoying what others do to entertain or actively participating in that which entertains us and others). But entertainment looks to elicit particular human responses (otherwise, it won’t be entertaining).
We hear these words used in these ways, and it gradually affects our attitudes. We don’t see worship for what it is supposed to be, we see it according to its new definition, the one everyone around us uses. If we think worship is measured by our response, or the responses of others, then “WOW Worship” probably won’t bother us at all. We’ve accepted the redefinitions, and if it makes us feel or think “Wow” (or even “WOW!”), then it must be really good.
“Worship” at Dictionary.com:
Reverent honour and homage paid to God….
Implied modern definition:
Music about God (or Christian life/experience) that makes me feel or think “WOW” (or at least “wow”).
When “worship” centres on our own responses, reverence is of secondary importance — and anyone who tracks the “contemporary Christian music” industry knows reverence is not as important as the entertainment value, as important as the emotional response stirred by the music.
When our “worship” puts our own emotions, our own responses, before God, when we give them the preeminence, we’ve begun to worship ourselves. What we like to hear and feel and think is placed on a throne, high and lifted up, and its train fills the temple.
That’s why “WOW Worship” seems blasphemous, whether intentionally or not. Yes, it is just a word. But it reflects the all-too-common attitudes that have twisted “worship” into a very deceptive form of self-idolatry, one that we might not even recognise until it is deeply rooted in our hearts and habits and becomes very hard to break.
Related: “What does it mean?”