High on Praise Music
Republished July 8, 2010 (first published September 21, 2006)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
On Feb. 8, 2003, I visited the largest church in Singapore, City Harvest Church, to observe their doctrine and practice, and I am thankful to the three Singaporean friends from independent Baptist churches who accompanied me on my little tour.

On Saturdays, City Harvest has two services, one at 4:30 p.m. and one at 7:30. I attended the 7:30 session. The music was pull-out-the-stops rock & roll and was the loudest I have ever heard in a charismatic church or conference, even though I have attended many of them. The music featured TWO drummers, electric guitars, a keyboard, and a powerful brass section. Several worship leaders, both male and female, swayed and pranced on the front of the stage.

The several-thousand-seat auditorium was almost full and the people were very, very exuberant. As best as I could tell from my vantage point, almost every person joined in enthusiastically during the worship time, singing, clapping, jumping, swaying to the potent music.
When I walked out of the auditorium and got away from the sound of the music, I actually felt light headed from not being accustomed to such loud music. It has been three decades since I last heard music that loud, and that was at a rock concert before I was saved. It was such a relief to get away from the relentless pounding.

I am convinced that if you took away the rock music, the church would lose its large crowds almost instantly. Rock music is a drug in itself. Timothy Leary, the ‘60s LSD guru, knew a lot about rock music and he testified: “Don’t listen to the words, it’s the music that has its own message. ... I’ve been stoned on the music many times.” And Steven Tyler of Aerosmith says, “[Rock music] is the strongest drug in the world” (
Rock Beat, Spring 1987, p. 23).

Leary and Tyler are right about the drug-like power of rock, and Charismatic worshippers who think they are high on God might very well, in reality, be high on music.

The City Harvest magazine for July-December 2002 contained a section on questions and answers. One question by a new member to City Harvest is instructive.

“I just started attending church a few months back and really felt drawn to the presence of God, ESPECIALLY THROUGH THE TIMES OF PRAISE AND WORSHIP. Yet, each time when I try to meet God in the same way during my personal quiet time AND ‘FEEL’ THE TANGIBLE PRESENCE that I always sense during church services, I always fail. Is this because there’s something that I’m not doing right? Am I not worshipping in the correct way?”

The answer to the person’s question is that he or she is looking for the wrong thing and is confused about the nature of true worship of God. Worship has nothing to do with my feelings or with a “tangible presence.” Those things are easily counterfeited by the flesh and the devil. True worship is to give thanks to God and to serve Him obediently NO MATTER HOW I FEEL AND NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCE.

Abraham doubtless did not feel very good and had no tangible presence when he trudged toward the mountain with his most beloved son in tow with the purpose of sacrificing him in obedience to God’s command, but he was performing a most supreme act of worship. Job did not feel tingly, wonderful emotions when he was sitting in the ash heap scrapping his boils with pieces of clay pots and contemplating the loss of his children and wealth and rebutting his wife’s complaints, but he was worshipping God acceptably and fruitfully when he endured that terrible condition and did not curse God, but trusted Him in spite of how miserable he felt. In that horrible condition, Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” That is true worship. It has nothing to do with being under the sway of powerful music or stirring up high emotions and pursuing a perception of God’s “tangible presence.”

Hebrews 13:15-16 describes true worship: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Note the attributes of true worship: thanksgiving to God in all circumstances, doing good works or obedience to God’s commands, and communicating to those who have needs. One does not need rock music to accomplish any of these things.

I challenge those committed to the contemporary philosophy to give up rock music for one month and serve the Lord without it. If you need rock music in order to enjoy and serve the Lord, you have a serious problem. If rock music is necessary or even important for the service and worship of Christ, what did God’s people do in A.D. 65 or 1240 or 1530 or 1850 or 1945?

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