This post by Stephen Barbour called “A Ritualistic God” is interesting in several ways, but I was really grabbed by this passage about how we sometimes expect the music itself to do the heavy lifting when it comes to worship:
Let me be clear though, all churches have rituals. They do, whether you like it or not, your church, my church, we have ritualistic ways of encountering God.
I spent my early twenties in an ambient worship band (think ‘Explosions in the Sky’ if they had the slightest knowledge of the art of musical crescendo…yes we were that excessive) and we knew how to get the Spirit to show up. Play some songs to pump everyone up…create some atmosphere (God really likes reverb and delay pedals) and then hit everyone with that 6/8 song (the Spirit loves 6/8) with that really repetitive bridge and it’s a near guarantee that good stuff will happen. Assuredly we will do that song every week (as a ritual) because we knew it would work…until it doesn’t, and then we would have to find that new anointed 6/8 repetitive bridge.
This continual ritual of doing something to convince God to be with us was the opposite of freedom. It was the opposite of light and easy, plain and simple, it was hard work. The weight and responsibility of God’s felt, and experienced favour and presence was placed on the shoulders of four young, messed up twenty year olds.
If we’re relying on the music to get us into a state of worship, it’s probably not really worship. That emotional state can be a perfectly valid response to the music, but that doesn’t mean we’re glorifying God.
The rest of Stephen’s post is worth a read as well. Check it out here.