Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rich Mullins on Sensationalism in Worship

Larry Peters at Pastoral Meanderings had shared on music and worship, referencing Rich Mullins.  Here is a transcript of a recording of a Rich Mullins interview from February 1993.
A very interesting thing happened in Wichita, Kansas, where a bunch of people who had been going to my church. They were, like, in the 20-year-olds group—they had been going there for several years, and they went over to visit The Vineyard. And after they started visiting The Vineyard they decided to join The Vineyard. So they went forward, and the pastor said, "Why do you want to join our church?"

They said, "Well, because your worship is just so exciting to us."

And you know what the pastor of The Vineyard said? He said, "Go back to your old church. We don't particularly need you in this congregation because this is what will happen: You used to go to the church where you've been going for about three or four years because you got a buzz out of it. So suddenly you come to visit our church and we give you a better buzz so you decide that suddenly you no longer want to be faithful to the church where you're a member. Suddenly you're going to go to a church that gives you a better buzz. You know what's going to happen? You're gonna get used to the way that we do our worship service here and then you're not gonna get the buzz out of it and then you're going to go seek out another church. You'll end up being the member of about 50 dozen churches by the time you're 50 and you won't have helped anybody and you won't have grown because you will have gone from one goosebump feeling to another."

It worries me that in churches, the demand among people my age and younger, is that we make services more exciting to us. You don't go to church for excitement. That's why you go to movies. We go to church for fellowship. We go to church to be taught the Apostles' doctrine. And we go to church for the breaking of bread. We go to church for the sake of sharing all things. We don't go to church for thrills. And yet we find that part of our religious experience so boring that now suddenly you can't only have church with a piano and an organ. Suddenly you have to have an entire orchestra. All of the sudden, you have to have a rock combo. You have to have a backbeat in order to sing a hymn because we want a sensation.

And you know, what's very scary to me are people who come away from services where they've just been beat to death with a lot of sensationalism. And you know what? I enjoy those services, too. There's something really cool about being able to go to a church (I like to do it occasionally) where you get to clap your hands and you get to whirl around and you get to sing at the top of your lungs and you get to yell "amen" whenever you want and there's a rhythm in it. You know it's that whole, tribal kind of exciting thing.

But the danger is, we frequently mistake that sensationalistic wonderful experience for being a spiritual experience. It's not a spiritual experience. It's a fun experience and there's nothing wrong with it, but if we think that that's spirituality then we've missed the boat.

Please understand I'm not criticizing an exciting service. I'm merely saying that that is not the equivalent of a spiritual service. Does this make sense to everybody? We live in a world that says if it doesn't feel powerful, it's probably not real. Well, I have a feeling like it is real whether it feels real or not. I have a feeling that maybe sound doctrine is more important than goosebumps. I have a feeling that a real "holding all things in common" is more spiritual than a lot of dancing around and clapping your hands.

And if you want to dance around and clap your hands in the meantime, that's perfectly fine. I think that God gets a big kick out of it. I just don't (think) that's the heart of spirituality.
I disagree somewhat, but his main point is correct: upbeat music is not the heart of Christian spirituality.

1 comment:

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