Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Idolatry of Worship

 DISCLAIMER:  This article may offend some Protestant Christians who have experienced worship of God in a contemporary service as a positive experience. I honor you for your desire to seek God and understand Him the best that you know how and have been brought up to believe.  This following post reflects my personal experience in the charismatic churches I was part of for over 30 years. It is my sincerest desire as you read this that you would be willing to consider the possibility that another equally valid worship of God can be experienced outside your comfort zone.

I have thought about this topic for probably over 20 years, at least 13 years before I even became Catholic.  I have blogged about it several times but this recent article in a Christian website prompted yet another blog post.
As a musician in a very tight  professional worship band for years, I wrestled with the idea that maybe I wasn't worshiping. Maybe I was performing. Even worse, maybe I was causing the congregation to get into the music by my loud pulsing bass lines, instead of truly being touched by God. Doubly worse, could we be confusing the presence of God with the emotional feeling one gets from being at a crowded concert with your favorite band?
    At one point in my tenure as a bass player I bought a wireless transmitter so I wasn't tethered to the space around my amplifier. Despite my normally shy nature, I was caught up in the moment and went into the mosh pit in front of the stage and starting jumping around (worshiping) with my bass. The congregation went wild!  Most likely because they never thought that  "the timid Russ Rentler" would carry on so, but many times since that moment, if the truth be told, I realized I was was just showing off. It had nothing to do with worship of the eternal God, instead it was all about me! Which is just as bad as idolatry. Under the guise of worship, I was jamming, and the congregants loved it.
    This article brings up the question about contemporary worship and whether "post-modern believers" are making an idol of the entertainment-like worship services, making it more about performing vs serving, especially as pertains to the musicians and worship leaders.  As I read the article, I wanted to yell; "Yes, Yes!" I have been thinking this for years and now someone other than myself is writing about it!
     For years before I became Catholic I had this gut feeling that something wasn't right about the increasing volume and intensity of the music at the churches I attended. I was not moved by it and often struggled with why I was playing music for a congregation when I myself didn't hardly "enter in" except for that exception above. Perhaps this is why the Catholic Mass made so much sense and immediately felt like home to me despite 31 years of charismatic-style worship services.

    There is no performance during Mass. As a matter of fact the Church doesn't allow any changes in the words of the Liturgy. There is no room for the priest to "show boat"  and the music is meant to support the responses and the musicians are not there to DRAW ATTENTION to themselves.  If the music is lousy and the cantor is off key, Jesus still becomes present and His Holy Spirit fills the place to the rafters and beyond. If the guitars are out of tune or the organist left his bifocals at home, Jesus is still made present and He is glorified.  If the priest or deacon's homily is nonsensical and difficult to follow, we are still  going to experience Christ in His fullness.  If I don't "feel" like worshiping, I can still participate in the sacrifice of the Mass and receive all the graces He has for me, regardless of my emotional state.
   Worship that is "in Spirit and Truth" should remain accessible to all, regardless of the age of the participants. When my previous churches leaders are in their 60's and 70's and the worship leaders are balding, grey and out of shape, will they still be able to bring down the Holy Spirit in the same fashion as when they were young, nimble and dare I say, better to look at?  Will the congregants as they age still be able to enter into worship when they become hearing impaired requiring hearing aides that often have to be turned off with excessively loud sounds as occurs in the typical contemporary worship service?  Will they be able to worship in the same fashion when they are arthritic and unable to move with the same flexibility as they did in their youth?
    The Church and its worship should be universal for all times and all people of all ages. I believe the Ancient Church founded on Peter and the apostles and its worship of God found in the Liturgy is timeless and will be here until the end of time. Will today's contemporary worship services, focused on the cult of youth and catering to this entertainment-driven, culture be here in 2000 years?


Blogger Magister Christianus said...

Can you tell me an appropriate decibel level in a church worship venue that holds about 1700? Several times I have thought our praise band was way too loud and have measured the level on my iPhone.

March 05, 2012 9:45 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Under 95 db for sure. check this article by Bob Kauflin,(formerly of GLAD) who incidentally was the worship leader for a church I attended in Philadelphia in the 80's. He was pretty much gone by the time I got there regularly.

March 05, 2012 10:14 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

another excellent resource:

March 05, 2012 10:16 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

BTW how loud was your db meter registering?

March 05, 2012 10:16 PM  
Blogger Magister Christianus said...

Definitely between 90-100, closer to 100. One time we entered, and our seven year old covered her ears. Thanks for the links.

March 06, 2012 5:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is wonderful insight into music in protestant churches and is also is a major reason why I'm dipping my foot in the Tiber!

March 06, 2012 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, as a Lutheran (who actually was raised Roman Catholic), I find myself constantly frustrated by the same things you mention regarding Protestant worship. There is no understanding of the presence of Christ in the Word and Sacrament of the Divine Service (Liturgy), and so everyone seeks the emotional "feeling" rather than faith founded upon the promise of Christ and His forgiveness in these things.

May 04, 2012 2:25 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Dear anon, thanks for your comments.

May 04, 2012 3:42 PM  

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