The Problem of Biblical Unity in Worship

Diversity as represented by hands of different races

The following was a question posted by my friend, Marquel McGhee, Assistant Worship Director at Harvest Church in Sacramento, CA regarding some issues surrounding the issues of what constitutes "anointed" worship. These have been thoughts rolling around in my head for quite a while, and sometimes it just takes a friend to ask the right question for it to all pour out at once. Even though the initial question was pointed to some specific incidents, my answer came out philosophical in nature, and hopefully would germinate further discussion on the topic. I believe that we as worshippers and worship leaders need to wrestle with these questions if we are to serve God and to serve the Church with a clear and an awaken conscience.

FB Discussion on Biblical Unity in Worship


From Marquel Letory McGhee:

I'm only gonna tag a few friends, but I'll take thoughts from any of my friends.

I've been a believer in Jesus for a long time. I've been leading worship for a long time, and professionally for almost 10 years. I realized that I have no idea what people mean when they say, "That was anointed," or "I could really feel the Spirit of God then!" When it comes to music and worship, it seems to me like people only say things were anointed when the song was a song they like, or the music or words meant something to them at that moment.

Don't get me wrong, I believe in the anointing and the presence of the Holy spirit. I'm not even saying that when people say that, the song or dance or sermon wasn't really anointed. I believe it was, but I don't know what people mean when they say that.

I've had the privilege of serving in a lot of multi-ethnic, multi- cultural, multi -generational churches. I haven't usually served in a monolithic church, that is, I haven't served in a church that is all or mostly white, black, young, old, or whatever. And what I've seen is that the different demographics compliment me and the worship depending on the songs that I do. Hymns or an older worship chorus, the older saints tell me how much the spirit was in the service. Newer CCM and current youth or young adults talk about how awesome worship was. Black gospel, and African Americans talk about how powerful worship was.

Years ago, I had a pastor tell me not to do a song because it was too old and out of style. (Song was written in 1991) Then in the same conversation they asked me to do another song that was even older than the one I had done (this one written in 1984) because "God's Spirit is on that song. " I think they just liked the other song.

And that's totally okay! One doesn't have to like every song or style or genre, or sermon or speaker. We're all different people who have different tastes and different preferences. But to imply somehow that the Spirit of the God of every tribe and nation and tongue isn't on a different style or genre or presentation is unfair at best.

I had an older gentlemen tell me "I enjoy the presentation of worship that happens. It's very well done, but it seems like the Spirit is missing. That old song you did on Sunday, oh, I could just feel the Spirit." But I also had a mid 20 something person say "I was so happy that you did (insert modern song name). Worship was so awesome today!"

(Let me say, the language the different generations use is different. So if you respond to this, don't point out that the younger people don't usually talk about the Spirit being on a service or song, or the anointing being on a song or service. It's a way of speaking that changes.)

All this to say, help me, friends. Fellow ministers, worship leaders. Am I missing something? What do you think it means when people say something is anointed or something like that?

Cause I really don't know.

From Peter:

Marquel I think that the reason there is confusion around this subject has to do with theological understanding of worship, or lack thereof. Furthermore lacking is a rigorous examination of our worship theology against the issues of racial reconciliation, social justice, culture, and biblical unity. Okay so I just threw out a bunch of complication here. Please let me explain.

First of all, I will stick with what I know, which is Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal/Charismatic, and primarily Anglo-run or Black-run churches...some maybe moving towards a multi-cultural expression. In my experience with the churches I have served, VERY few of them have found satisfactory answers while they wrestled with all of these issues:

1) what is true biblical worship? What is its purpose? Who is the audience?

2) after we give our pat answers from Systematic Theology class or Sunday School, then the question is, How does this measure up to our Sunday morning experience?

3) WHY do we pick the songs we pick? Why do we sing them the way we sing them? Why are some other songs not picked? If God was the true audience of ONE, does God care which decade a song comes from?

4) Regarding biblical unity: If the worship experience is representative of the dominant culture and/or demographic in the church, what of the minority cultures that are numerically represented? Does the cultural HEART SONG of the minority not hold sway in the general assembly? Are the minority congregants just supposed to suck it up and ASSIMILATE for the greater good? "Minority" here is representative of more than just skin color, but age, ethnicity, social-economic, and even denominational divides.

Ok I'll pause there. I am probably getting myself in trouble. But we can all see that these are seriously troubling questions that require a critical and rigorous examination...behind the motives, philosophies, cultural hegemonies, and power structures that has created the status quo.

If we look at what has changed in how we do church in the past decade, one could argue that the most deciding factor in shaping the worship experience has been church growth principals, demographic studies, data analytics, and marketing best practices. Yes, corporate wisdom applied to ecclesiology. Unfortunately, good business does not necessarily make good theology.

If we go deep into this rabbit hole we might not like what we find, and we might have to find a new ecclesiology.

Sorry Marquel for taking so long to answer this request for discussion. It's a heavy load on my heart, and has been since I started at CCI so long ago, and has never gotten easier, but harder as the Church that we serve has growth more divided, and less aware of these serious issues that are FOUNDATIONAL to our Christian witness to the world. In the end, DIVERSITY is NOT a red/blue, conservative/liberal, or progressive agenda. It is a Biblical Agenda. Reconciliation is Jesus' agenda. I hate the fact that the media, and conservative Christian thought lumps diversity in the same bucket as Tolerance, LGBT rights, and other humanistic philosophies. That is a lie of the devil himself. Biblical Unity is what was prophesied in the book of Revelations. Period.

So the long answer to the original question, what does it mean when someone claims a certain song is "anointed" or similar? Well that is when that particular person has experienced his HEART SONG and his spirit struck a resonant tone. I cherish those moments when I know that I have done the job of glorifying the Father, and in my meekness was able to reach across horizontally and lift up my Brother-in-Christ, utilizing the medium of music, to prophetically touch the supernatural and facilitate the conversation between the Holy Spirit and my brother's spirit. That I believe is our goal. That I believe is our purpose, our calling, and our reason for being. Every person has their own HEART SONG or HEART MUSIC. As we minister, as we build churches and ministries, we hold a GRAVE responsibility to respect this fact, and to navigate how we can serve ALL our brothers and sisters out there in the pews, and not just the ones that the church growth experts say we need to reach, or just the ones that pay the light bills. It is our biblical calling. We answer to one higher than the ones that sign our paychecks. For me as a Levite, I just do what I am supposed to do according to what the Holy Spirit leads me to do. I try to pray and leave the rest for God to figure out for I am powerless to change the things that need changing outside my realms of influence.

If true biblical unity in worship was achieved, ALL people experiencing heaven in a worship environment would become normative, and they wouldn't necessarily need to come and tell worship leaders that they picked the "right" song etc...

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