Worship Service or Christian Rock Concert?


So yesterday was Sunday.  Normally my family and I head to church together, but this Sunday my husband was out of town with the only car that would fit all the kids.  So we stayed home and I searched on line for a church with live streaming of their service.  I found one that I have watched a couple of times, though I had never caught their worship time… their song service.  I won’t tell you which church I watched, but it was a very trendy, young Evangelical congregation.  Every woman on the stage wore thigh high boots and too much make-up.  Every man wore a shirt at least one size too small for his belly… one guy was wearing skinny jeans.  *shiver*  But I guess that’s cool now?  I don’t know.

Anyhow, I found it extremely hard… no impossible… to actually participate in this worship experience because I was totally distracted by the “Concert Effect” of what I saw on the screen.  The colored spot lights swirled, the audience bounced together with hands raised, the pretty people on stage hammed it up with very dramatic “worship” movements.  The cameras zoomed in for close-ups of the singers and musicians.  The quality was as good as a music video!  It felt inauthentic.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a Pentecostal Christian (I guess in America the lines between Pentecostal and Evangelical are sufficiently blurred so as to confuse even those of us that GO to church regularly).  I love an emotional worship experience.  When I worship, often I do it with my whole body.  I participate in the moving of the Holy Spirit.  So don’t mistake me, I enjoyed this musical experience, but I just couldn’t worship with it.  It felt more like a Christian Rock Concert- like a show.

So I just want to throw this question into the void:  What is the difference between a modern day Worship Service and a Christian Rock Concert?  I am interested in your input here, Dear Reader.  I would like to hear from both Christian and Secular readers.  What is your opinion of the image of the modern church, as you see it?  Are you comfortable here, or like me, do you feel like an outsider watching from a computer screen at home?

9 responses »

  1. I like to view it like this: The worship leader/team is the director, the congregation is the choir, and God is the audience. If we keep this in mind as leaders and worshipers, I believe God will be more pleased with the offering of our praises.

  2. HI April, Great post! I actually do enjoy a little more of the “concert” feel for worship but I love songs that are easy to sing to, somewhat loud that you can really get into. Now, on that note, when we moved to NC we attended a church for a year that had great music (although too loud for Mike) but they kept begging for money. Every 6 months there was another “call” for money and they loved doing the Daniel Fast. I think the thing that bugged us the most was the less than stellar small groups (very basic & not very in depth), Pastor and his wife wearing expensive clothing (everything they wore was designer and easily cost more than $200+ and wife wore a $500+ blazer – when asking for money it was too much). Now we attend a wonderful, family focused and small church. The music varies a LOT depending on the worship team but it has heart and that is what is really important. I do miss my church back in Minnesota, I just loved Lisa & Spencer.

  3. It’s not my style either. So to answer your question, I think that is the difference … a style preference. I visited a church that was like that where I live, and it just didn’t work for me. But I have nothing against the churches who do it, or the people who like it! In fact, those churches and those people may not like the way I prefer worship, and may not come to know Jesus at the place I worship. Churches are a lot like radio stations to me – one radio station can’t play to everyone’s taste, and neither can one church. You have country radio, classic radio, spanish radio, pop radio, classic rock, on and on. It’s a reflection of God’s creativity in creating people! So as long as the message is true, and the messengers are sincere, the method is open to the creativity of God’s creation … and that is how all people are reached!

  4. We need a “like” button on comments. I liked what all of you have said so far. The styles being different from church to church does appeal to more people… the message needs to be right… perspective on money needs to be Biblical and balanced… and God is our ultimate audience. Good stuff!

  5. Hello April, Everett here. Thanks for your post. I have been thinking about it since I first read it yesterday. I didn’t want to respond without thinking through an answer so I have thought about it and I am back to blather.
    I was thinking that the modern “worship experience” is similar to the “NFL experience”. In the NFL experience you get to throw the ball, tackle dummies, meet famous players, etc. In other words you get the highlights…but that’s all. You don’t get to experience playing your guts out and the joy of the victory or the pain of defeat. You don’t have to train for hours on end exercising discipline in every area of your life. To have the NFL experience you can just roll off the couch and go have the experience because someone else has set it all up for you (for a fee of course- but that’s a different topic) . I suppose it is similar with the worship experience. You get the highlights, the emotion (aka happiness) see the players, and throw the ball a few times. There’s all fun and no real substance. It is pretty bleak, but I think there is a movement of people that are quite dissatisfied with the “experience” and want the real thing. I know that I am weary of theologically shallow, mindless repetitive lyrics set to loud music and fancy lights.
    Now before you respond let me clarify- I am NOT saying that if a church has loud guitars and fancy lights that automatically means that God is not honored or worshipped. I do, however, think it is safe to say that we have strayed into the area of “if it feels good it must be right” form of worship in the overall church culture.
    If we were indeed made to worship Him than “worship” cannot be contained to 30 minutes of rote singing once a week.
    God be praise!!
    OK I am finished…I think.

    • Everett, that’s a good analogy… and one I never would have come up with, you know. But you’re right. I’ve been wondering through my own thoughts on this for many years now and I haven’t settled on a pleasing perch, but I’m wondering how much of “church” is essential? How much of what we do as a church is essential to God- pleasing to God… extremely pleasing to God? Not that he’s DISpleased with rock concert worship, but did he ask us for that? or is that for our own pleasure? I’m wanting to separate form from function and have a more pure connection with God in our corporate worship… and I don’t know what that looks like. But this show felt inauthentic and, well, showy.

  6. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b).

    May we not miss the opportunities we have to worship the Lord whenever and however we can. He is worthy of our praise (even when the “atmosphere” is not to our liking). The heart of worship and faith is as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Psalm 51:17 says: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. The Lord knows those hearts that are offering up worship in Spirit and truth. Our part is to offer up our own heart of worship – in humility – mindful of our great need for Him.

  7. The difference from what I can see and feel is the Holy Spirit is not present in these rock concert type services.

  8. This is something that has been bothering me too lately. And another question I have to ask is, is this why these churches seem to be so successful? Is because they are supplying an experience like that of a rock concert? I’ve been to both- a mega church worship service and a U2 concert and come out feeling the same. At both there were electric guitars, drums, keyboards, syncopated lighting, smoke machines, LED message boards that showed images. So, what was the difference? Apparently, at the one you’re being entertained, and at the other one you’re worshipping. I’m not convinced. Lately, the new “worship” songs sound like love songs, and if played on a commercial radio station the girls listening would think the words are beautiful. There is no mention of the name of Jesus, the Father, or the Holy Spirit. Are we becoming too comfortable in our worship that we no longer mention those Names? I pastor a small Methodist church in South Africa and we are blessed to have three people who lead our singing who have three distinctive styles- guitar (more modern praise and worship) and two pianists, their ages determine what they play…and as a congregation we connect through it to the Throne Room and the heart of God.
    Just thought I’d throw my 2cents into the trough.

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