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Friday, February 3, 2012

Cotton Candy Worship

Cotton candy is a favorite at fairs, festivals, and other places where recreational activities are featured. The treat consists of mostly air, spun out sugar crystals, and food coloring. Although the size can be fairly large, its true solid content is small and is almost always sticky or messy to eat. One might ask, “Why even bother with something that is mostly air and is messy?” The most common answer relates to the sugar it contains. Cotton candy appeals to our “sweet tooth” and addiction to sugar.

Some worship services could be described in the same way: focused on our addiction to entertainment, lots of external fluff, but very little solid content, and anything to make the service more attractive. What might be the signs that we are falling into the patterns of Cotton Candy worship? I’m sure there are more, but I will list a few:

1. The highlight of the service is entertainment.
The temptation to entertain during worship has been in existence for years, but our culture has been so ingrained by an entertainment industry that in many cases the church has seemingly lost its voice of worship to an “American Idol” mentality of worship leaders. Worship and entertainment are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The measure of entertainment is how well it pleases the audience; the measure of worship is if it is pleasing to God. One is “me focused,” while the other is focused on God.

2. Big production, big splash, but little true content. There may be big promotions of sermon series that yield very little solid biblical content, but are filled with great catch phrases and sound bites that tickle ears. The Word of God can be comforting, but at the same time convicting. If the weekly message from the pulpit becomes just another session of inspirational motivation, alarms need to be sounded. Just as cotton candy has little nutritional value, so does the weekly feel-good sound bites.

3. The unwritten theme of the church is “have it your way.” When the music for worship is based solely on the likes and dislikes of those attending, when personal comfort becomes more important than the mission for which Christ has commissioned us, then we need realize we have surrendered to cotton candy worship.

4. When the burden for those who do not know Christ is lost. Subtle substitutes for personal involvement in service and outreach are evident in phrases like, “that what we’re paying ‘them’ for...” True, there are members who are not physically able to be very involved in reaching out and sharing the gospel, but the more common problem is not that people are not capable, but simply unwilling, or driven more by fear and apathy.

As we evaluate what we do, we need to be sure there is substance in the content and that along with the content we include what the truth of the content looks like in our lives when we apply it. We need to remember that worship is that obedience response we give to God to His revealed nature and character, not just the number of goose-pimples we might receive in with the music. We must remember that we have been commanded to make disciples, not just send out substitutes.

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