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Frank Jamerson

   (Note: This article was written March 21, 1999, in Lakeland, Florida. It sounds like the things we have been hearing that many churches want in worship today—even in some churches of Christ)

   The nation of Israel desired a king because the nations around them had kings (1 Sam. 8:5). Human nature has not changed, and it would be foolish not to learn from history that God’s people are influenced by their environment.

   We see the influences of denominationalism among our more liberal brethren, and then we can expect to see some conservative brethren being influenced by the same activities.

   In the April-June, 1997 issue of “Gospel Gleaner,” Wayne Jackson wrote an article entitled, “The Growing Trend Toward Jazzed-Up Worship.” His conclusion was that “this surge toward false emotionalism is due in part to the shallowness of our people in Scripture knowledge. Many have become so spiritually/intellectually lazy that they are looking for a quick-fix to alleviate their boredom. It is almost like some are searching for a sort of ‘Spirit’ drug on which to get a fast ‘high.’”

   The thing interesting about this is that some (including Wayne Jackson) who have taught brethren that the church can do what the individual can do, and that there is no pattern for the work of the church, are now reaping the consequences of that lack of respect for Biblical authority.

   In the October, 1998 issue of “The Spiritual Sword,” David Sain reviewed a book entitled “SHOW TIME! Worship in the Age of Show Business.” He, too, is lamenting the disrespect for the Bible pattern on worship, and agreed with the author of that book, who said there is a “shift in the focus of of our worship—away from God and toward one’s own interests. The worshipper has been placed at the center of worship!” He said that some defend entertainment on the basis that it “attracts the un-churched to Christianity.” But, he pointed out that “such a strategy is contrary to that which Jesus gave to his disciples, to whom he never suggested that they try to win the world by making Christianity attractive. Instead, Jesus basically said ‘tell it,’ not ‘sell it.’” We need to tell the message of salvation, not sell people on a superior entertainment program.

   Evidently, some of the more liberal congregations are getting into drama, contemporary music, lifting hands and special music in worship. In response to the argument that “drama helps people remember the lesson,” David Sain said, “the end result of drama is supplanting of preaching (cf. Matt. 28:19), rather than the supporting of preaching, which, by contrast is what appropriate illustrations and visual aids do.” He sees clearly that there is a difference between an aid to accomplish what God authorized and the addition of another kind of action. To the argument that drama “awakens people spiritually,” he said this “implies that the gospel is lacking power (Rom. 1:16).” Then, he said, “Drama in the worship assembly is a practice for which there is no authority in the New Testament. God wants his word presented in simplicity through preaching (1 Cor. 1:18-21; 2:1-5). In the judgment of this reviewer, drama only feeds the desire for entertainment, and trivializes the teaching of God’s Word, reducing it to a ‘performer’ and ‘spectator’ level.”

   Concerning the use of special music—solos, quartets and choirs in the public worship, he said, “A careful study of Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16, et.al., will lead to the inescapable conclusion that vocal music is the only kind of music divinely authorized for Christian worship, and in the worship assembly of the church the singing that is authorized is congregational in nature.” Then, he correctly concluded that “special music produces an inescapable entertainment atmosphere.”

   The battle over “traditional” and “contemporary” worship has been raging in the denominational world, and now it is beginning among our brethren. Those who have compromised Bible authority to justify the unscriptural things they want to practice (such as church kitchens and ball teams), are at a disadvantage in opposing these trends. We can certainly improve the spirit of our worship, but unscriptural gimmicks must not supplant spiritual worship as authorized by Christ.


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