Our Idol is the Worship “Experience”

AlexMcDonaldAlex McDonald is a pianist. But not just any pianist: he made his orchestral debut at 11, earned a Doctorate in Musical Art at Juilliard, recently competed in the 14th Van Cliburn International Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, and is younger than I am! World magazine interviewed Alex McDonald, where he made a staggering point about worship. I hope to come back and revisit this idea in greater detail, but for now, consider his suggestion all of our arguments about music styles in the “worship wars” are just a smokescreen for the idolatry in our hearts.

What role do you think church music should play in one’s experience of worship?

In modern churches, we have a graven image of what the experience of God ought to be like, and we want our music to simulate that experience in us. It could be an organ or a praise team—either can create a God experience that may not have any of God in it at all. But people will feel like they’ve worshipped. And because the existential experience of God is more important to us than the [actual] experience of God, we’re satisfied—wrongly, I would add. If it feels impossible to worship God through styles that are uncomfortable to us, it’s because we’re asking the music to do for us what is actually an issue of the heart. The problem with the “worship wars” is that they’ve hidden the real issue: We are in love with ourselves, and we blame the music.

What do you think? Is McDonald correct in his analysis of the problem in much of modern worship?

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