I tend to write about “hot topics” just past the point where they are becoming tedious to hear about. It’s probably one of my more irksome characteristics, but I’ll tell you the reason behind it: It’s easy to get caught up in the clamor surrounding a specific story or issue and totally miss its broader implications. We all need to learn how to take a step back when something provoking pops up in our newsfeeds, for the sake of both humility and for honest, fair rebuke where it is needed.
The state of worship in the Western church is lacking in both these things. And this has been a problem on a larger scale than just the issue surrounding Lauren Daigle (if you missed it, I think this article explores it fairly).
So there’s no need to dance around the thing. . . .The Western Church as a whole has got to start caring about the people and things they let entertain them. Even in a culture where the sciences seem to have a monopoly on truth – key word being seem, but that’s a post for another day – we are well aware of the monumental ways in which art can influence us. And this influence often happens more subtly than we realize. We often do not have the control over our hearts that we believe we do (Jer. 17:9; Prov. 20:9; Prov. 21:2). There is no room in Christian wisdom for introducing or entertaining influences that offer us little in the way of biblical consistency.
We’re beginning to see how our general apathy toward biblical soundness has affected us (see the recent study, “The State of Theology“) and I’m of the conviction that “Christian” entertainment has contributed to this in a big way. It confuses inspiration with biblical edification. And we have grown into the same mentality through its influence over us. We become attached to music that comforts or affirms us during tumultuous seasons of life. We look up to the people who produce this music and begin to mimic them in thought, dress, and speech. Then, if they step outside of the boundaries God has laid out in Scripture (or refuse to acknowledge them at all, in Lauren Daigle’s case) our hearts are pricked with a sense of loyalty to them, and we downplay or defend their mistakes.
I know this because I have lived this over and over. And now I see it over and over in many of my fellow believers. So please hear me when I say that it matters, much more than our emotion- and entertainment-driven culture is willing to admit, whether or not the people who lead us in worship are biblically literate.
Right worship matters to God. If you don’t believe me on this, read the account of Aaron’s sons in Leviticus 9:23-10:3:
“And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord has said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”‘ And Aaron held his peace.”
I don’t doubt that Nadab and Elihu had good intentions for the worship sacrifice they offered to God. But God is so unequivocally perfect in being and character that worship not offered to Him according to His standards is damaging to the ones who offer it. If we don’t believe He is perfectly just in His response here, it speaks of our underestimation of God’s holiness and an overestimation of our own good intentions.
I know that might be hard to swallow. It’s hard for me to type.
What I don’t mean in referencing this passage is that we should expect a fiery death when we sing along with Lauren Daigle, or Bethel Music, or any other artists who profess Christianity but lack biblical consistency. God is so gracious toward us. He relates with us on the basis of a covenant that hinges on Christ’s good and finished works, not our own.
What I do want us all to start thinking about, however, is our standards when it comes to sound worship. Who are we trusting to lead us in praise to the Most High and Most Holy God? What makes them credible? What would it take for us to be willing to reject their influence over us?
These questions are essential because God-honoring worship is essential. And God-honoring worship is not determined by the quality of music . . . or the good intentions of people who want to be leaders but do not know the basic ins-and-outs of biblical interpretation . . . or the extent to which we have been “blessed” by art that contradicts the whole picture of God given in the Scriptures.
This sense of blessing is an illusion. He deserves far better than what we have been offering – even it it’s only a shift in the focus of our hearts.