Article written for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice. Visit our updated website!
The charismatic revival has not just been about signs and wonders, but about worship and music as well. Similar to previous revivals like Methodism and Salvationism, early Pentecostalism had a lot of zeal and passion in their hymns, with a renewed focus on the Holy Spirit and miracles. The African American influences and inspiration from the mission field also impacted the tone of the music so that it became more inspirational.
Things changed even more during the Western charismatic renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, as the Jesus movement incorporated popular, hippie tunes into their worship. This in turn impacted the Vineyard which combined the contemporary style with a focus on singing to God rather than just about him. Today, charismatic churches like Hillsong in Australia and Bethel in California are without doubt the main influences when it comes to contemporary worship music and are really popular especially among the youth.
This style of worship is not without criticism. Songs are commercialized, the concert-like performances are expensive and the worship leaders may receive too much focus. Popular worship lyrics that emphasize God’s majesty and power are criticized for portraying him as too distant and dominant, while songs about human struggles and doubts are rare.
Many Christian friends of mine who have a passion for peace and justice aren’t fans of contemporary worship for these reasons. They might find hymns and older songs more comfortable, often combined with contemplative spirituality and sacramentalism. I, however, have no such longing — on the contrary I love the emotion, passion and power modern worship songs often bring.
It’s quite radical when you think about it. In societies that pledge allegiance to flags and humans, we celebrate the Creator of the universe as eternal King. In societies filled with stressful materialism, we spend hours expressing love to Jesus with no productivity in mind. In societies that are individualistic and stripped of emotion we lay our hearts bear as we weep and laugh, pouring out our inner beings on the worship altar.
As charismactivists we shouldn’t be embarrassed for participating in contemporary worship. And this is of course not to say that hymns and old school worship should be abandoned, but they should not be viewed as the primary form of spirituality for Christians who want to change the world. Passionate worship that resonates with you might be exactly what you need to be filled with the Spirit and spread His Kingdom, no matter what it practically looks like.
For years, I personally have belonged to a charismatic house church. We use different worship songs of which most are contemporary. We don’t have a worship band, fog machines and colored lights, most of the times it’s just me with grandpa’s old guitar. Using this simple style we worship God as the greatest being conceivable, as the most powerful, wise, loving and faithful. That’s revolutionary.
If it is as awesome a love relationship as we say it is – and I believe passionately that it is – how can our worship not be an emotional experience?