Though I trust it’s been unintentional, the contemporary worship movement has conveyed that a certain level of production quality is necessary to achieve faithful modern worship.
In this sense, contemporary worship has come quite a long way from the folk guitars and simple choruses of the 1970s, which were designed to democratize congregational singing so that more people could engage with it meaningfully. In the 2000s, contemporary worship media have embraced the values of polished production and mass-market appeal. But as modern praise has become more professionalized, it’s led at least some church leaders to conclude that they’d be better off foregoing human musicians altogether and leaving accompaniment to the (virtual) experts.
The good news is that God gives each congregation all they need to serve Him. First Corinthians 12:18 reminds us that “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” If that means a church is unable to produce the same quality of music they see at worship concerts and on YouTube, then we can trust God’s good purposes. He cares far more about the state of our hearts than the ability of our band to recreate the sound of an online video.
—Matt Merker, “How Contemporary Worship Music Is Shaping Us—for Better or Worse” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/singing-congregation-contemporary-worship/
It is by its worship that the Church lives, it is there that its heart beats. And in fact the life of the Church pulsates like the heart by systole and diastole. As the heart is for the animal body, so the cult [worship service] is for church life a pump which sends into circulation and draws in again, it claims and it sanctifies. It is from the life of worship…that the Church spreads itself abroad into the world to mingle with it like leaven in the dough, to give it savour like salt, to irradiate like light, and it is towards the cult that the Church returns from the world like a fisherman gathering up his nets or a farmer harvesting his grain.
—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 55-56
When Paul urges us in Colossians 3 to “let the Word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts,” he goes on to say that we’re to do that as we “make melody to the Lord in [y]our hearts” and as we sing and instruct each other in our praises. Now maybe it’s right that our noses should be in our hymnbooks when we’re singing; but it’s spiritually right that we should also have an eye to our brothers and sisters and be praying, “O Lord, sanctify these words I’m singing, in order that my brothers and sisters may be so instructed in their truth, as their lives to be comforted and transformed and centered again on Your glory, and blessed again in genuine fellowship that we enjoy with one another.”
And all of this because the Lord Jesus gathers us as God’s family, and then leads us in the singing of God’s praises.
——Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)
It should always happen in this house of God that the Lord speaks to us through His holy Word, and that we then speak to Him with our prayers and songs of praise.
—Martin Luther (inscribed on door into the sanctuary of Castle Church in Wittenberg, on opposite side of the building from the famous Wittenberg Door)
Americans are so little accustomed to quiet in their world that they mistake it for the absence of significant activity.
—Daniel Frankforter, Stones for Bread: A Critique of Contemporary Worship, 171
We are to discern the Lord’s body in one another. When the Lord’s Supper is being served, we should sit up straight, and look around the congregation, eyes open, up and down our row. It is true that we are to examine ourselves, but we are to do so in relation to one another. We must not curl up in a little ball, close our eyes, and try to establish a private, spiritual moment with Jesus.
—Douglas Wilson, A Primer on Worship and Reformation, 57
The success of worship is not measured by its entertainment values, nor is its success the sole responsibility of its leaders. Protestant worship is a communal activity that requires the active engagement of the worshipers themselves. Persons who sit passively waiting for worship to happen to them are likely to be disappointed. Each Christian must practice the disciplines of meditation and prayer for him- or herself.
—Daniel Frankforter, Stones for Bread: A Critique of Contemporary Worship, 183