November 04, 2007

Cell phone jammers and worship jammers

I have recently been considering the issue of so-called "vertical worship"—the concept that when we worship God in church, we are to have a one-on-one relationship and communication with God. This trendy concept completely abandons the historical "corporate worship" tradition. Yes, we are to have and cherish our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We are to be grateful to God the Father for His providence and for preparing a way to overcome our sins and the damage our sins caused. We are to seek the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit. But when we come together for fellowship with the saints, we are to worship corporately. This means keeping in mind the worship of those around us. We should seek to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to worship God along with us.

An article about cell phone jamming technology brought this consideration to the forefront of my mind. Here is a quote from that article:

“If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people,” said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University.

I think Mr. Katz has hit the nail squarely on the head. And the problem is seen well within the walls of the church.

Just as the inconsiderate cell phone users chatter away in their one-on-one conversations with whomever, many well-meaning Christians chatter away with God in their one-on-One vertical worship, completely disregarding and totally disrespecting the gathered saints around them.

Cell phone chattering is quite annoying, but is not usually too much of a problem. It can be more of a problem when someone is trying to give a speech and the people in the audience continue to pursue their one-on-one conversations through their cell phones. But when the speaker decides to pursue a personal one-on-one conversation in the middle of his speech, the problem has gone way over the line. This video shows such an example:

What does this have to do with worship?

The goal of the worship leader should be to help those in the congregation worship God together in an organized manner—singing as one. When our worship leaders decide that they want to pursue their personal one-on-one vertical relationship with God by using the music that they personally find worshipful in spite of the fact that there are many people in the congregation who prefer to speak to God in a different genre, Guliani's gaffe has entered the church.

The Church, becoming more like the world

In this regard, the Church is way ahead of the world in showing disrespect to each other and in valuing ourselves more highly than anyone else. It is the duty of church leaders to provide an opportunity for everyone to be corporately involved in the music of the church. This must take into account the tastes and musical traditions of the saints. As they are led by the Holy Spirit, they will also desire the benefit of those around them—thus, they will not force their own musical desires on everyone else. But rather, everyone will be presented with something that helps them to worship God and everyone will be introduced to cross-cultural worship (different genres of music or presentation style) as well. This is the entire basis for congregational church government and for the biblical concept of freedom of conscience.

When we force our favorite musical genres on others, we set them up to be just as selfish as we are. Eventually we end up with what has been called "the Worship Wars."

It's a sad state of affairs for present-day evangelicalism. May God forgive us for our selfishness.

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