I once remarked that if the trends in "contemporary worship" were carried to their logical conclusion, church services would soon feature karaoke contests.
That remark prompted an outpouring of replies from people who informed me that karaoke was already being used "quite successfully" in their churches. It also sparked the following exchange with a contemporary "worship leader," whose words appear below in brown italics. My replies are in normal typeface:
What verse of scripture forbids the use of karaoke in worship?
My opposition to such methods is not based only on a single proof-text, but on the totality of what Scripture teaches about the principle of worship. Genuine worship aims to please God, not the worshiper. "Worship" designed primarily to entertain or amuse people is not even true worship of God.
In the words of the Westminster Confession, "The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture."
Biblical support? Sure:
- Deuteronomy 12:31-32: "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way [like the pagans do]. . . . Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" [NKJV].
- Psalm 29:2: "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."
- Psalm 115:1: "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."
- Matthew 15:9: "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
- 2 Timothy 4:2-5: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
Want more? I recommend John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel.
And shall we let Spurgeon weigh in?
For us to give ourselves to getting up entertainments, to become competitors with theatres and music-halls, is a great degradation of our holy office."A Call to Prayer and Testimony"
The Lord our God is holy, and he cannot compromise his own glorious name by working with persons whose groveling tastes lead them to go to Egypt?we had almost said to Sodom?for their recreations. Is this walking with God? Is this the manner in which Enochs are produced?
It is a heart-sorrow to have to mention such things, but the work of the Lord must be done faithfully, and this evil must be laid bare. There can be no doubt that all sorts of entertainments, as nearly as possible approximating to stage-plays, have been carried on in connection with places of worship, and are, at this present time, in high favor. Can these things promote holiness, or help in communion with God? Can men come away from such things and plead with God for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of believers? We loathe to touch the unhallowed subject; it seems so far removed from the walk of faith, and the way of heavenly fellowship. In some cases the follies complained of are even beneath the dignity of manhood, and fitter for the region of the imbecile than for thoughtful men."Restoration of Truth and Revival"
In the great day, when the muster-roll shall be read, of all those who are converted through fine music, and church decoration, and religious exhibitions and entertainments, they will amount to the tenth part of nothing; but it will always please God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Keep to your preaching; and if you do anything beside, do not let it throw your preaching into the background. In the first place preach, and in the second place preach, and in the third place preach."How to Win Souls for Christ"
"For the sake of argument (leaving off the Spurgeon quotes), does a karaoke sing-along contradict 2 Timothy 4:2-5, ifand this is a big if, perhapsif the karaoke songs are later tied in to a theme of Biblical exposition? Why or why not?"
If someone wants to sing biblical songs, let him sing them as unto the Lord (Psalm 29:2).
Karaoke is a populist form of burlesque. Taking turns singing for others' amusement (usually badly and without adequate rehearsal) is a cheap amusementthe kind of frivolity that (in effect) has turned churches into cabarets. It's not worship. And doing it with biblically-based songs or hymns only demeans the message.
I also don't get the opposition to pre-recorded accompaniments. In churches where musicianship is limited, recorded music seems like a good idea.
It is not pre-recorded accompaniments per se that I am objecting to. It's the tendency to think of church music as a performance or an entertainment for the benefit of an earthly audience, rather than worship offered to the Lord.
Karaoke as liturgy, like virtually every novelty that has been introduced into our worship services over the past 75 years or so, violates the central principle of all true worship and authentic ministry: "As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God" (1 Thessalonians 2:4).