Rich Kirkpatrick

Is Our Modern Worship an Idolatry of Experience?

We all need signs. Where am I? I love the arrows on maps that tell me exactly where I am and the context. Real life scares us because rarely are signs this clear. When it comes to faith, signs were sought by many of our Bible heroes. Whether I am praying and leaving out the fleece at night or putting my fingers into the holes in the hands of Christ, it is all the same. I need to see. Those that truly saw God like Isaiah wreathed in the fetal position. Honestly, I may ask for a sign, but may not want the real deal. If God truly shows up, it seems I might have to change as anyone is “undone” in his presence. This is the reason why Christ came as a baby. God knows we just can’t handle it.

In the Evangelical church, marketing and branding have been paramount since the posters of Billy Graham in the 1950s, Jesus People of the 1970s, church growth movement of the 1980s to the “seeker” movement and Vineyard music of the 1990s. Then we have a youth-infused “modern worship” take hold in the new millennia. Passion college events in the USA and stadiums filled in the UK gave voice to something new. The charismatic movement was now mainstream and rock-driven. Today, that same stadium-rock experience is in houses of worship. It is fun—for most of us!

Our pragmatism has led us to build an attractive experience to share the gospel. With this idea, a star athlete or celebrity artist will share the stage to sell our message. We are cool. We are relevant. Far be it for us to be irrelevant and out of style, eh? Theology is not entirely questioned in our methods to attract. We simply learn how to say that we have freedom to worship and express our worship in a culturally relevant way. Yet, today’s average house of worship is just as racially exclusive as it was in the 1950s. And, we actually like it that way. Is this a felt need worth reaching?

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