Men vs. Praise and Worship
By Dale Brown Jr
The Protestant 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 PWM 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 worshiping 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 in doing so, 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 worshiper 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 sixth or seventh 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.”
Men want to worship. Really. Here are seven practical ideas that can help you usher men into the presence of God:
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.
This article “Men vs. Praise and Worship” written by Dale Brown Jr., was excerpted from www.christianitytodaymag.com. Sept. 2009. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”