Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone
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Rock Concerts and Worship Services



“When rock concerts and worship services are indistinguishable, then we're of this world, not just in it.”  --me

I tweeted that statement out yesterday, and let’s just say I’ve had a few responses.  So rather than respond in 140 characters, let me take a moment to explain.

First off, I have no problem with rock and roll.  I love to rock.  I have no problem with rock music in church, especially if that’s the most culturally appropriate form.  There’s no kind of music that is more or less Christian.  My objection isn’t to the rock, it’s to the rock concert.

Second, I think you can worship Jesus at a rock concert.  You, as an individual.  Why?  Because you can worship Jesus anywhere under any circumstances.  You can worship at Kroger, in the hospital, or on the golf course.  You worship when you turn your heart toward him and give him the honor due his name.  But let’s be clear: rock concerts are not designed to point you to Jesus any more than are grocery stores, hospitals or golf courses.

When you worship, you gather in the Name of Jesus.  At rock concerts, you gather in the name of the Band.  Even if Jesus is prayed to, the sign on the door and the words on the ticket don’t say “the Triune God” they say “the Band.”

When you come to worship, you may give a financial offering if you choose.  Worship is led for free.  When you come to a rock concert, you pay to be there.

When you come to a rock concert, the staging, sound and lighting are designed to give glory to the band.  Video cameras follow them, spotlights illumine them, they are there to be heard.  In Christian worship, everything gives glory to God.  If you are in a room that has been darkened with all the lights on a single person or small group, if you can only hear them and no one else, if one person’s face looks down on everyone from a tall screen, whom are you meant to worship?

In worship, you should be able to respond to the God’s Word.  You should sing, pray with others, have silence, and be given the Sacrament.  You are the church.  At a rock concert, you’re the audience.  When you sing praise to God, why isn’t your voice good enough?  Why does your voice have to be drowned out by a sound system?  Why can’t you hear your neighbor sing?  Why is it necessary to have a close up look at the preacher or singer on a giant video screen?

In Christian worship, the Word of God is preached and (in most Christian traditions) the Sacraments of Christ are administered.  The Word of God should be preached by someone appointed to that task.  At a rock concert, who ordained the lead singer to preach?  Bishops, elders, congregations?  No, record company executives and radio station managers.  Who holds the preacher accountable?  No one, unless the profits slip.

Rock concerts are designed to give you an emotional experience.  Everything works together to entertain you.  They want to make you feel good, to feel euphoric.  You should have fun, and you should want to buy more product.  Worship of the Christian God is not about fun, good feelings, entertainment, or euphoria.  Worship is laying down our lives, honoring the God who died for us, and receiving his grace.  That has nothing to do with rock concerts.

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