Men vs Praise and Worship

Here are some things to think about.  I am no expert on music and worship, but I thought this had some good points for us to ponder.  It comes from here.  Let me know what you think.

Men vs. Praise and Worship

The … church is in the midst of something called, “The Praise and Worship Movement,” or PWM for short. The pipe organ is out – the drum set is in. Even traditional churches have seen the writing on the wall and are grudgingly offering contemporary worship services featuring praise singing in an effort to attract the younger generation.

But there’s more to PWM than electric guitars. An effective praise set moves the congregation on an emotional level. It helps the body feel the very presence of Jesus.

Many would agree the PWM has breathed new life into the church. But even the healthiest movements have unexpected consequences. I believe PNW is having the unintended result of feminizing the worship experience – and making it harder for men to connect with God in church.

Many of today’s most popular praise and worship songs are feminine in nature. They envision God as a lover rather than a leader. A lot of these songs would be considered homoerotic if sung by a man to another man. What would you say if a man walked up to you and spoke the words of this popular praise song:

I can feel your presence here with me

Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of your touch

Here in this moment, I surrender to your love

Men don’t call each other “beautiful.” Nor do they talk about being in love with each other. Yet every Sunday we invite men to express their love to a male God using language no man would dare say to another. Even at Christian men’s events the praise music is often feminine in nature.

At the center of the PWM is a new character: the worship pastor. No longer merely a song leader or choir director, the worship pastor’s job is to create an environment where people feel the presence of God. He is second in importance only to the teaching pastor.

As I travel the country I observe that most worship pastors are men. But most of these men haven’t a clue how to lead men in worship. As a result, women are worshipping robustly while most men stand for 20 minutes with their hands in their pockets, dutifully mouthing words that fail to resonate with their hearts.

How did our worship climate get this way? I’ve identified three politically-incorrect reasons:

1. The worship of God is no longer led by priests, but by musicians.

Priests led worship in the Old Testament. They represented a variety of personality types, including intellectual, left-brained men. But today, 99.9% of the worship pastors in America are musicians. Musicians are often right-brained, which makes them more sensitive and outwardly emotive than your average guy.

I’m not running down musicians: I’m one myself. And I know some musicians who are positively macho. But most musicians bring a certain softness – even flamboyance to their leadership.

Because all the worship pastors are musicians, music has become synonymous with worship. Most non-denominational Christians speak of the music set as “the worship time” and the sermon as “the teaching time.” By doing so, we have made singing the only way people express their love to God. This is a dangerous development, because we exclude non-musical types from making a meaningful contribution to worship.

2. Most worship pastors are unknowingly trying to generate a feminine response to a masculine God.

Here’s one of the great, unspoken assumptions of worship today:  more emotional the response, the truer the worship. Great worship results in sensation, passion and good feelings. The worship leader’s job is to help the people generate a warm, gooey feeling in their hearts about Jesus. Tears are the best gauge of God’s presence.

In order to generate this emotional response, many worship leaders repeat slow, dreamlike choruses over and over. And over. Simple songs now run 7 or 8 minutes long. This repetitiveness lulls the congregation into what I call a “worship coma.” This technique is not unlike a common practice in Buddhism known as “mantra” or repeating a phrase over and over. Mantras permit the worshipper to empty his mind and create a feeling of peace and euphoria.

Whether passionate emotion equals true worship is not what I’m here to debate. I’m merely pointing out the fact that if ooey-gooey feelings are what we’re shooting for, worship will be much easier for women than men. Women are much less inhibited about showing emotion in public. They can access their emotions more easily than men. So a worship leader who’s trying to get the congregation to feel something will subconsciously target women, because gals are more likely to respond emotionally.

3. Worship pastors buy into “the guy-on-the-front-row fallacy”

Every church has one or two guys who are totally into musical worship. They usually sit up front. They are the first ones standing when the music begins, with hands outstretched, tears rolling down their cheeks. Worship leaders look out at these two guys and think, “The guys are totally into this. Look at Lenny and Steve!”

But due to the bright lights in their eyes, worship leaders can’t see the row-upon-row of men who are standing with knees locked, hands in pockets. They can’t feel the air going out of men’s spiritual balloons when choruses repeat a 6th and 7th time. Few can imagine the unprintable words that fly through a man’s head when the worship pastor says, “Let’s just lift that song to the Lord one more time.”

So what’s a worship leader to do?

Fortunately, men want to worship. Really. Here are some ideas:

1. Worship in non-musical ways. Tell a great story from battle. Show a video clip from a men’s picture to set up the worship of God. Have everyone take their keys out of their pockets and offer them to the Lord, as a symbol of giving Him everything. Worship is more than just singing!

2. Choose songs with masculine lyrics. Our hymnals are treasure chests of masculine expression: A Mighty Fortress, Onward Christian Soldiers, Rise Up O Men of God. But today it’s mainly love songs to Jesus. Please: balance these love songs with some real red meat. Mine the hymnal, or choose a modern song with a masculine feel such as In Christ Alone or God of Wonders.

3. Choose songs that are upbeat and fun to sing. This is what guys like. The slow, dreamy songs don’t turn the key for most guys.

4. Cut the worship-speak. Worship pastors are notorious for cranking out a lot of religious talk, such as “Isn’t God Awesome!” and “This is the day which the Lord has made, hallelujah!” Real men don’t talk like that. My rule of thumb: imagine yourself leading a group of cynical construction workers. Make sure your worship-speak would sound right to these guys.

5. Give men a destination in worship. What if you began your worship set like this: We’re going to take a big hill today in worship: the sin of pride. As we sing, you’re not just singing words, you’re pulling pride up by the roots. Let the lyrics of these songs melt your proud heart, and ask the Lord to humble you…” Now, if you set up a worship like that, men know what they’re out to accomplish. The worship set is no longer a seemingly random collection of songs. Instead, it’s a battle plan.

6. If you’re looking to hire a worship pastor, consider a non-musician. Hire a person with a gift for creative communication. Let him gather musicians. I know this sounds crazy, but I believe that the definition of worship will be greatly expanded in the coming century as the church recovers more of what it means to give glory to the King.

7. And finally, the big one: Keep songs short and non-repetitive! I know this goes against everything they say at Hillsong and the Passion Movement, but the men will love you for it!

I join the Psalmist in proclaiming, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High.” I challenge worship leaders to help men connect with their maker.

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14 comments on “Men vs Praise and Worship”

  1. Tawn Walker Reply

    This article was sooooo eye opening and TRUE!!!!! I am going to share it with everybody I know. We are offering a workshop in a worship conference and I found this article as I was looking for information about Men in Worship!!!! Keep the information flowing. I know my brothers will appreciate it as much as I do.

  2. Aaron Phillips Reply

    I think this is an excellent article! We have found that taking the old hymns and updating them with modern music and instruments is a very big help. Most younger men have no use for the organ at all, but don’t like the love songs to Jesus either. Updated hymns help to address this.

  3. Sekou Calhoun Reply

    Excellent!!! I was just asked to speak at a praise a worship conference here in Dallas and when I was asked if I had any idea what I would address, I immediately said yes, men and our lack of “praise and worship.” There is definitely a need for men to praise and worship, but as this article so eloquently addresses, men are different from women and the feministic movement during praise and worship services has lulled men into lethargy in regard to praise and worship. This article addresses many Issues we face as men, albeit, much of our own fault for relinquishing leadership to women due to our evident run from our natural position of leadership and from God, the men who have embraced the Lord, are left serving in churches predominately ran by women. So much so that the men who do lead praise and worship either cater to the majority and every now and then pacify the few men in the congregations. We must reposition ourselves as priests over home and church, putting the man back into praise and worship. I would like to add, that as men, even though the songs are feminine natured, we Must learn to remove what we perceive God to be and receive God for who He is. We must make valiant efforts to strip ourselves of our homophobic self-consciousness and disregard the choice of words and focus on the meaning and above all focus on God being God and not a feminine or masculine entity. What you subscribe is definitely needed, but renewing our minds to where we can receive a feminine (emotional) worship experience as well as an masculine (leadership) experience should be the ultimate goal. It would be absolutely victorious, if men could praise and worship the Lord regardless of what song is sang.

  4. Sekou Calhoun Reply

    P.S. I will definitely be using this article for my session at the praise and worship conference!! Again excellent artice!!

  5. Satakipsilim Reply

    I completely agree with Sekou but I may add, how can we men reconcile the Great Commandment that Jesus gave to us “To Love the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul” if we men cannot use those language because they are so feminine. But that is basically what God wanted us to do. Do we limit God to be a male deity, or is it rather that he is neither male or female? Or is it because of the dictate of the society to act like men as we are and it is so unmanly to sing lovesongs I know that this article is about “Why Men are Not In Churches” and probably the songs we are singing are a part why they are not going to church but there are many other factors too. But as mature Christians we should be able to go beyond that, because there are just so many biblical example that we would consider today in our society very unmanly, like when the time Jesus asked Peter 3 times ” Do You Love Me”.

    We need to balance out our selections on what we do in worship and we need to be able to find a middle point on how we do things because there is really a need for us to reach men.

    • doug Reply

      When Jesus said “Do you love Me” three times i viewed that as, ‘do you trust Me’ will you follow me regardless of what you may think or hold to be truth. As a Leader would petition his soldiers, those who aid him in battle. A leader is both strong and delicate. He/She must be able to lead both men and women, because they Have God in them. How does a leader when the heart of a man. We could study ancient leaders. or we could simply study Jesus. Yes men cry, I do not often but i am not opposed to it. I am not emotional first but I don’t hide that about myself. Yes, I love what you say a mature christian recognizes the needs of both men and women and that they both need to be versatile in their worship. but really, do understand if men feel left out of “worship” and this is known around the country, is it not a problem, yes. would love to chat more. I can tell you are a seasoned worshipper.

  6. RJR fan Reply

    Excellent article. I posted a link to it at crosswalk.com, and kicked off a discussion on the topic over there.

    Leon Podles’ excellent book on the feminization of the church blamed St. Bernard, the first writer to suggest that individuals should adopt the bridal posture Scripture assigns to a collective entity, the Church.

    We need to broaden the palette of metaphors we use in our worship. SO many of us are saved as teenagers. and our understanding of God freezes at the adolescent level.

  7. Bobby Reply

    Excellent. I’ve railed against the modern worship junk and this shows once again what we’re facing when we have a society of people whose attitude is we don’t need to sing the big sacred anthems but we’ll be acceptable to the “dippy junk” of high fructose corn syrup songs.

  8. Stefan Bailey Reply

    I don’t think this article really has a biblical perspective of what God wants. God has communicated to us the SCRIPTURES that he LOVES us. That theme of LOVE is throughout the bible. DAVID, a man after God’s own heart, is the worship leader of the bible. Look at his language in the Psalms. He is not picking and choosing his words in the worship of God. He is unashamed when he danced before the Lord IN PUBLIC. I think we need to be concerned about allowing God to change us in worship rather than changing to worship to make us comfortable. Its not FOR US its FOR GOD, and He is madley in LOVE with us, His children. I think this article gives men a reason not to change. Maybe God is calling us to change in this area and BE MOVED BY GOD. Nothing wrong with it. When you’re in LOVE you don’t mind spending time, and being consistant – not merely repetitive, but consistant in worship.

  9. Chris F Reply

    Great article. I think a couple arguments are exaggerated without need (a “male” God?…99.9% of worship pastors are musicians?…), I understand your point and agree wholeheartedly!! The comment you make in regard to worship being led by musicians rather than priests has resonated in my heart for the last two days. I would be remiss if I didn’t at least drop a line and say a resounding, “Thank you” for that confrontation. It is so true. It is a challenge to myself, a worship leader, to be the priest (which starts in my home) and carry that call before the congregation. Priest first, musician second I think.

  10. Adam Reply

    I find some very interesting points in this article and in the following comments. I am one of those men who is “into” worship. I love to sing praises to God whether it be the old hymns (which I love and very much miss in modern worship) or this year’s choruses. I love to lift my hands, to sign and even to dance in my worship expression. I have never learned to use flags, but greatly enjoy them as part of the worship expression. I love to watch and participate in processionals and all sorts of theatrical expressions of worship.

    And I’m really, really tired of the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs. I don’t find them “homoerotic” but understand some (many?) men’s discomfort with them. I’m just sick of them. They’ve been over done. I don’t think the *concept* unscriptural — look at The Song of Songs, look at Hosea. The bride/groom/ beloved/lover imagery is a motife that runs throughout the Scriptures and is a valid expression of ONE aspect of God’s relationship to us both corporately and individually. But many of the individual songs are theologically unsound, and it is only ONE aspect.

    Where are the songs about God as our King? Our Creator? Our Master? Captain of our regiment? Father? Firstborn Brother? The One who bought and owns us? Teacher? Even Savior is under-represented in the recent crop of songs. And God is ALL of those things (and more) simultaneously.

    There are choruses (old and new) that address these various relationship aspects — “The Victory Chant,” “Mighty Warrior,” “God Rules over the Nations,” and many, many others — but they aren’t being sung. Just because a song was written last year, ten years ago or a hundred years ago does not mean it is less relavant for today. Nor does the mere fact that it is old make it better than songs written today — every generation produces its share of garbage along with the jewels. Sift the pile and find the treasures. Bring back the good songs from yesterday. Embrace the good ones from today and tomorrow. And learn to take a critical look at all of them to be able to judge the difference.

    Martin Luther was of the opinion that next to the reading of the Word, singing was the most important thing that happens in a church service. People remember the words of songs. They get down into your soul and stay there. I agree, and that makes me very unhappy about the sloppy or just plain heretical content of some popular worship songs.

    Worship leaders absolutely do need to view their ministry as priesthood. They are teaching the Body. If they cannot tell the difference between good doctrine and bad, between a song proclaiming something to build up the Body and one proclaiming another gospel of humanism or New Age mishmash disguised as Christianity, they need to step aside until they have gained a firm enough foundation in God’s Word to be able to do so. Then take back up the work they are called to do once they are equipped to do it — rightly dividing the Words of Turth.

    Keep the Lover/beloved songs, but add songs to represent all the other ways God relates to us. And let all of them be sound expressions of the whole Gospel from Genesis to Revelation. And it would be really nice if they were musically excellent as well.

  11. Jamiel Cotman Reply

    A little shocked…some, if not most of the comments thus far have been in defense of feminized praise and worship. One in particular that stood out to me as the most solid argument was from Stefan Bailey in April of 2009. He mentioned that, the masculine praise concept permits us not to change, because after all praise is for God, not us. He cites that it gives men a reason not to change. The proceeding remarks followed this tone. Here is what I say, the first order is to reach the men. Feminine praise does not do that. If we don’t reach them, they won’t offer it up to God corporately. When we modify praise and worship to resemble scriptural songs of devotion, which were based on God fighting for us[Psalm 35:1], being a man of war[Exodus 15:3], and being led by the priest not a musician, we’ll see men change! But if the product is feminized to where none of them do it anyway, even though it is for God, he won’t ever get it.

  12. Jamiel Cotman Reply

    Oh yeah…and the thing about making sure the music is acceptable to construction workers is brilliant! I’m so feeling that..

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