Jonathan Aigner on Why Church Music Time is Not Worship
Jonathan Aigner holds a music degree from Baylor University in Texas and a Master of Arts in theology from Wheaton College in Illinois. He is an elementary school music teacher and the traditional worship minister at a United Methodist church. Kelsey and Jonathan live in the Houston, Texas area with their beloved dog. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.
Music isn’t worship.
If this event were not called “worship,” if they were honest and called it a “concert,” I wouldn’t be so concerned.
This is music. Just music. Only music. Strums on a guitar. Slaps on a drum. Chords chopped onto an electrified piano. Glib, high-larynx wails into a hot mic. I’d advise against it, of course, but you can certainly choose to like it if you want. You are free to immerse yourself in the electronically-boosted experience.
Just don’t call it worship.
It’s just music.
I’ve said before that there’s a reason the contemporary pop-worship church holds such a low view of Holy Communion. It just doesn’t understand the point. Music is their substitute sacrament. Through commercial music, they allow themselves to be carried away on an emotional level into a perceived sensory connection with the divine. When you interpret worship through the lens of emotional stimulation, the bread and wine don’t make sense. It doesn’t compute. No overwhelming feeling equals no worship. But for the historic church, there was no worship without the Eucharist. It was the natural culmination of the liturgy. We take in the bread and wine, and we are poured out into a dry, thirsty creation as participants in the gospel story.
This saccharine substitution contains the ultimate compromise. God is willing to give us the real presence, but instead we’ve settled for something else. In fact, we’re so sold on it that we’re willing to throw away wads of cash for a pseudo-divine, over-romanticized, emotional experience.
Music is not worship. Worship is a function of the church where the Word is preached and the sacraments are administered. It is a disciplined, structured reenactment of God’s story that we as God’s people participate in as if our lives depended on it. The church enters as God’s covenant people, shaped by redemption’s story. We participate in the proclamation of God’s Word. We give thanks at Table.
And then we go, strengthened, changed, renewed, refocused by the grace God offers to us.