Chuck Colson Heckles Worship Leader

Charles_w_colsonI have seen this from Colson’s site and on several blogs in the past month or so. (Now posted at Christianity Today: Soothing Ourselves to Death). Radio host, author and and former Nixon adviser Chuck Colson wrote how he heckled a worship leader in a worship service.  Colson seems to draw a line when Christian entertainment moves in and he attacks contemporary Christian music as "slipping across the line from worship to entertainment"  Somehow it is an "either or" issue for Colson, not a "both and" in his article.  I think teaching can and should be entertaining–at least in the respect that it holds people’s attention and accomplishes the act of teaching. I finally feel the timing to put my two cents in on this.

Colson’s opening line:

When church music directors lead congregations in singing contemporary Christian music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked.

He loses me right here.  Especially the part about shouting out loud, "NO" to the worship leader.  At least he is honest about his views.  But what I sense the real story is here is that Colson is miffed that his brand of talk radio is passe, perhaps. Here he shows those cards.

This trend is evident not just in theater-like churches where musicians—with their guitars and bongo drums—often perform at ear-splitting levels. It’s also true of Christian radio, historically an important source of serious preaching and teaching.

I think that a discussion about the content of music is great and thinking is truly important.  But there is nothing wrong with the tool of what he calls "entertainment" which literally means "to hold ones attention."   There is nothing wrong with also connecting to the soul.  (See my post:  Right and Left Brain Worship).

Judging the motives of music people is a stretch by Colson.  This is an example of why his voice, which has a needed and tremendous perspective, is getting ever dimmer with the next generation.


When will our seasoned conservative voices such as D.A Carson or Colson learn to lose their caustic demeanor they show and have a real dialog with the next generation?   This is so much needed.

HT: Heart Soul and Might

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

28 comments

  1. Great comments Rich. I think much of what fellas like Chuck Colson and others are dealing with is fear. Fear of what they don’t understand. It’s so disheartening and disappointng to hear men of faith like this behave in such a way. I’m open to a discussion, but not a one sided conversation.
    Great post man.

  2. Great comments Rich. I think much of what fellas like Chuck Colson and others are dealing with is fear. Fear of what they don’t understand. It’s so disheartening and disappointng to hear men of faith like this behave in such a way. I’m open to a discussion, but not a one sided conversation.
    Great post man.

  3. Great comments Rich. I think much of what fellas like Chuck Colson and others are dealing with is fear. Fear of what they don’t understand. It’s so disheartening and disappointng to hear men of faith like this behave in such a way. I’m open to a discussion, but not a one sided conversation.
    Great post man.

  4. Great comments Rich. I think much of what fellas like Chuck Colson and others are dealing with is fear. Fear of what they don’t understand. It’s so disheartening and disappointng to hear men of faith like this behave in such a way. I’m open to a discussion, but not a one sided conversation.
    Great post man.

  5. Hey Rich, I’m new to your blog and I like what you’re writing. Let me make a few comments in Colson’s favor.
    First, let me say that I’m a Christian musician, too, but of the boomer age — way older than you, way younger than Colson.

    I’m involved in leading worship at my church and, like you, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what worship is all about, and how we can do it better.

    There is a lot of worship music and practice that is so heavily oriented towards me — my emotions, my feelings, my experience — that it fails to turn my eyes and heart to God. And, worship is an act of adoration towards God, after all.

    There is also a lot of worship music that is insipid, even embarassing from a musical point of view. We’re often content to bring 3rd rate songs to God as worship when we can do much better, and should.

    One of the things we do at my church to recapture the great history of faith in the hymns is rearrange them with a more contemporary feel, so they can be fresh to the older generation and attractive to the younger.

    We need to remember to sing new songs to God and not always fall back on the oldies, whether that means hymns of the 1800’s, or last year’s big CCM hits that we’ve sung a hundred times.

    Worship is too big a subject for my comment here, but I know you agree that it’s a very important topic. We need to get it right, we need to do it well, so that God is honored by what we do as his church. And we need to try hard to accomplish the very tricky balance of musical tastes and generational differences for the sake of unity.

    Thanks. I’ll be back again.

  6. Hey Rich, I’m new to your blog and I like what you’re writing. Let me make a few comments in Colson’s favor.
    First, let me say that I’m a Christian musician, too, but of the boomer age — way older than you, way younger than Colson.

    I’m involved in leading worship at my church and, like you, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what worship is all about, and how we can do it better.

    There is a lot of worship music and practice that is so heavily oriented towards me — my emotions, my feelings, my experience — that it fails to turn my eyes and heart to God. And, worship is an act of adoration towards God, after all.

    There is also a lot of worship music that is insipid, even embarassing from a musical point of view. We’re often content to bring 3rd rate songs to God as worship when we can do much better, and should.

    One of the things we do at my church to recapture the great history of faith in the hymns is rearrange them with a more contemporary feel, so they can be fresh to the older generation and attractive to the younger.

    We need to remember to sing new songs to God and not always fall back on the oldies, whether that means hymns of the 1800’s, or last year’s big CCM hits that we’ve sung a hundred times.

    Worship is too big a subject for my comment here, but I know you agree that it’s a very important topic. We need to get it right, we need to do it well, so that God is honored by what we do as his church. And we need to try hard to accomplish the very tricky balance of musical tastes and generational differences for the sake of unity.

    Thanks. I’ll be back again.

  7. Hey Rich, I’m new to your blog and I like what you’re writing. Let me make a few comments in Colson’s favor.
    First, let me say that I’m a Christian musician, too, but of the boomer age — way older than you, way younger than Colson.

    I’m involved in leading worship at my church and, like you, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what worship is all about, and how we can do it better.

    There is a lot of worship music and practice that is so heavily oriented towards me — my emotions, my feelings, my experience — that it fails to turn my eyes and heart to God. And, worship is an act of adoration towards God, after all.

    There is also a lot of worship music that is insipid, even embarassing from a musical point of view. We’re often content to bring 3rd rate songs to God as worship when we can do much better, and should.

    One of the things we do at my church to recapture the great history of faith in the hymns is rearrange them with a more contemporary feel, so they can be fresh to the older generation and attractive to the younger.

    We need to remember to sing new songs to God and not always fall back on the oldies, whether that means hymns of the 1800’s, or last year’s big CCM hits that we’ve sung a hundred times.

    Worship is too big a subject for my comment here, but I know you agree that it’s a very important topic. We need to get it right, we need to do it well, so that God is honored by what we do as his church. And we need to try hard to accomplish the very tricky balance of musical tastes and generational differences for the sake of unity.

    Thanks. I’ll be back again.

  8. Hey Rich, I’m new to your blog and I like what you’re writing. Let me make a few comments in Colson’s favor.
    First, let me say that I’m a Christian musician, too, but of the boomer age — way older than you, way younger than Colson.

    I’m involved in leading worship at my church and, like you, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what worship is all about, and how we can do it better.

    There is a lot of worship music and practice that is so heavily oriented towards me — my emotions, my feelings, my experience — that it fails to turn my eyes and heart to God. And, worship is an act of adoration towards God, after all.

    There is also a lot of worship music that is insipid, even embarassing from a musical point of view. We’re often content to bring 3rd rate songs to God as worship when we can do much better, and should.

    One of the things we do at my church to recapture the great history of faith in the hymns is rearrange them with a more contemporary feel, so they can be fresh to the older generation and attractive to the younger.

    We need to remember to sing new songs to God and not always fall back on the oldies, whether that means hymns of the 1800’s, or last year’s big CCM hits that we’ve sung a hundred times.

    Worship is too big a subject for my comment here, but I know you agree that it’s a very important topic. We need to get it right, we need to do it well, so that God is honored by what we do as his church. And we need to try hard to accomplish the very tricky balance of musical tastes and generational differences for the sake of unity.

    Thanks. I’ll be back again.

  9. Hi Charlie,
    I would agree that we should not sing to much about “me” but our faith and worship are a union with Christ. For instance, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…” What I see is a need for both. It is not an “either or” thing but a “both and” thing.

    Also, when we get foreign people and generations that have had no connection with our western, white heritage, we need to be open to things beyond our ethnicity. Our faith is bigger than our hymnody and our racial heritage. (Sounds like a topic all on its own: ethnocentric verses ethno-transcendent worship.)

  10. Hi Charlie,
    I would agree that we should not sing to much about “me” but our faith and worship are a union with Christ. For instance, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…” What I see is a need for both. It is not an “either or” thing but a “both and” thing.

    Also, when we get foreign people and generations that have had no connection with our western, white heritage, we need to be open to things beyond our ethnicity. Our faith is bigger than our hymnody and our racial heritage. (Sounds like a topic all on its own: ethnocentric verses ethno-transcendent worship.)

  11. Hi Charlie,
    I would agree that we should not sing to much about “me” but our faith and worship are a union with Christ. For instance, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…” What I see is a need for both. It is not an “either or” thing but a “both and” thing.

    Also, when we get foreign people and generations that have had no connection with our western, white heritage, we need to be open to things beyond our ethnicity. Our faith is bigger than our hymnody and our racial heritage. (Sounds like a topic all on its own: ethnocentric verses ethno-transcendent worship.)

  12. Hi Charlie,
    I would agree that we should not sing to much about “me” but our faith and worship are a union with Christ. For instance, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…” What I see is a need for both. It is not an “either or” thing but a “both and” thing.

    Also, when we get foreign people and generations that have had no connection with our western, white heritage, we need to be open to things beyond our ethnicity. Our faith is bigger than our hymnody and our racial heritage. (Sounds like a topic all on its own: ethnocentric verses ethno-transcendent worship.)

  13. I have come across this argument before. I agree with you that the discussion could, and probably should be about lyrics or the content of the music. However I don’t agree with you in the since that it is okay for the style of music to be entertaining. I had this discussion once before with a member of our church council. I could I guess talk for a while about this, but I think I could sum it kind of up with a statement/question. When trying to entertain from the stage, “to hold ones attention”, should the performing of the music do so, or should the lyrics that we sing to God do so? I think the entertainment, “to hold ones attention”, is what occurs through God and us, and the members on the stage should just try to promote not to distract that. Play as loud as you can, but with correct God centered, God Glorifying lyrics.

  14. I have come across this argument before. I agree with you that the discussion could, and probably should be about lyrics or the content of the music. However I don’t agree with you in the since that it is okay for the style of music to be entertaining. I had this discussion once before with a member of our church council. I could I guess talk for a while about this, but I think I could sum it kind of up with a statement/question. When trying to entertain from the stage, “to hold ones attention”, should the performing of the music do so, or should the lyrics that we sing to God do so? I think the entertainment, “to hold ones attention”, is what occurs through God and us, and the members on the stage should just try to promote not to distract that. Play as loud as you can, but with correct God centered, God Glorifying lyrics.

  15. I have come across this argument before. I agree with you that the discussion could, and probably should be about lyrics or the content of the music. However I don’t agree with you in the since that it is okay for the style of music to be entertaining. I had this discussion once before with a member of our church council. I could I guess talk for a while about this, but I think I could sum it kind of up with a statement/question. When trying to entertain from the stage, “to hold ones attention”, should the performing of the music do so, or should the lyrics that we sing to God do so? I think the entertainment, “to hold ones attention”, is what occurs through God and us, and the members on the stage should just try to promote not to distract that. Play as loud as you can, but with correct God centered, God Glorifying lyrics.

  16. I have come across this argument before. I agree with you that the discussion could, and probably should be about lyrics or the content of the music. However I don’t agree with you in the since that it is okay for the style of music to be entertaining. I had this discussion once before with a member of our church council. I could I guess talk for a while about this, but I think I could sum it kind of up with a statement/question. When trying to entertain from the stage, “to hold ones attention”, should the performing of the music do so, or should the lyrics that we sing to God do so? I think the entertainment, “to hold ones attention”, is what occurs through God and us, and the members on the stage should just try to promote not to distract that. Play as loud as you can, but with correct God centered, God Glorifying lyrics.

  17. If we bore people in worship, we are really in trouble. Meaning, if we do not “engage” the whole person, we are not leading them anywhere. This is why sights, sounds, smells, music, prayers, posture and so forth are all important. Music just happens to be an easy target.
    Since sermons are part of corporate worship, lets plug that idea of entertaining folks in there. Does it water down a sermon to add an illustration that engages people?

    The people on the platform are just prompters of worship. But, to prompt, you have to get everyone on the same page. So, you have to see that there is a tension or balance that must be managed.

    Lyrics are indeed important. But, if the music is not an authentic expression of those lyrics, then it may just not work. We need to lead the whole person. So, lyrics by themselves will not achieve much.

  18. If we bore people in worship, we are really in trouble. Meaning, if we do not “engage” the whole person, we are not leading them anywhere. This is why sights, sounds, smells, music, prayers, posture and so forth are all important. Music just happens to be an easy target.
    Since sermons are part of corporate worship, lets plug that idea of entertaining folks in there. Does it water down a sermon to add an illustration that engages people?

    The people on the platform are just prompters of worship. But, to prompt, you have to get everyone on the same page. So, you have to see that there is a tension or balance that must be managed.

    Lyrics are indeed important. But, if the music is not an authentic expression of those lyrics, then it may just not work. We need to lead the whole person. So, lyrics by themselves will not achieve much.

  19. If we bore people in worship, we are really in trouble. Meaning, if we do not “engage” the whole person, we are not leading them anywhere. This is why sights, sounds, smells, music, prayers, posture and so forth are all important. Music just happens to be an easy target.
    Since sermons are part of corporate worship, lets plug that idea of entertaining folks in there. Does it water down a sermon to add an illustration that engages people?

    The people on the platform are just prompters of worship. But, to prompt, you have to get everyone on the same page. So, you have to see that there is a tension or balance that must be managed.

    Lyrics are indeed important. But, if the music is not an authentic expression of those lyrics, then it may just not work. We need to lead the whole person. So, lyrics by themselves will not achieve much.

  20. If we bore people in worship, we are really in trouble. Meaning, if we do not “engage” the whole person, we are not leading them anywhere. This is why sights, sounds, smells, music, prayers, posture and so forth are all important. Music just happens to be an easy target.
    Since sermons are part of corporate worship, lets plug that idea of entertaining folks in there. Does it water down a sermon to add an illustration that engages people?

    The people on the platform are just prompters of worship. But, to prompt, you have to get everyone on the same page. So, you have to see that there is a tension or balance that must be managed.

    Lyrics are indeed important. But, if the music is not an authentic expression of those lyrics, then it may just not work. We need to lead the whole person. So, lyrics by themselves will not achieve much.

  21. A great song will have marriage of both lyric and melody. It can’t be an either/or, but has to be a both/and. Most music that is going to equally engage both the heart and the mind will have that kind of marriage – and if our goal is to compel people’s thoughts toward God, we really need to strive to engage both heart and mind often. Not just musically, but in everything we offer during our gatherings. (and often our discussions on worship boil down to music style, when biblically, worship is every part of life.)
    I think our use of the word “entertaining” gets at the motives behind the activity… And if our motives are to simply entertain for entertainment’s sake, then i would have a problem with it. But if our motive is to do something with excellence that people enjoy – and in so doing, enjoy and find great satisfaction in God – then it’s a good thing. And if I’m also participating in that which I find entertaining, and I am compelled to a greater recognition of God’s greatness, then all the better! It gets to the heart… and we all need to be our own judges on this. Only God can see inside the heart of another. We need to take care that our own motives are in the right place, and let God work on the hearts of others. However, for those of us that are leaders, we are gatekeepers of sorts… and are charged with the stewardship of the gifts of those on our teams as well as the heart of our body of believers. This is where we’re called to use discernment and make Spirit-led decisions that hopefully will ultimately bring glory to God. If man receives the glory, we’ve not done our job well.

    Getting back to Colson’s argument… you can have “guitars and bongo drums” and have great heart motives that glorify God… In the same way that you can have a pipe organ, choir and traditional hymns and with impure motives that seek to glorify the organist, choir or song leader. It’s ultimately not about style or instrumentation, but about pointing to Christ and advancing God’s glory.

    Thanks for the discussion Rich.

  22. A great song will have marriage of both lyric and melody. It can’t be an either/or, but has to be a both/and. Most music that is going to equally engage both the heart and the mind will have that kind of marriage – and if our goal is to compel people’s thoughts toward God, we really need to strive to engage both heart and mind often. Not just musically, but in everything we offer during our gatherings. (and often our discussions on worship boil down to music style, when biblically, worship is every part of life.)
    I think our use of the word “entertaining” gets at the motives behind the activity… And if our motives are to simply entertain for entertainment’s sake, then i would have a problem with it. But if our motive is to do something with excellence that people enjoy – and in so doing, enjoy and find great satisfaction in God – then it’s a good thing. And if I’m also participating in that which I find entertaining, and I am compelled to a greater recognition of God’s greatness, then all the better! It gets to the heart… and we all need to be our own judges on this. Only God can see inside the heart of another. We need to take care that our own motives are in the right place, and let God work on the hearts of others. However, for those of us that are leaders, we are gatekeepers of sorts… and are charged with the stewardship of the gifts of those on our teams as well as the heart of our body of believers. This is where we’re called to use discernment and make Spirit-led decisions that hopefully will ultimately bring glory to God. If man receives the glory, we’ve not done our job well.

    Getting back to Colson’s argument… you can have “guitars and bongo drums” and have great heart motives that glorify God… In the same way that you can have a pipe organ, choir and traditional hymns and with impure motives that seek to glorify the organist, choir or song leader. It’s ultimately not about style or instrumentation, but about pointing to Christ and advancing God’s glory.

    Thanks for the discussion Rich.

  23. A great song will have marriage of both lyric and melody. It can’t be an either/or, but has to be a both/and. Most music that is going to equally engage both the heart and the mind will have that kind of marriage – and if our goal is to compel people’s thoughts toward God, we really need to strive to engage both heart and mind often. Not just musically, but in everything we offer during our gatherings. (and often our discussions on worship boil down to music style, when biblically, worship is every part of life.)
    I think our use of the word “entertaining” gets at the motives behind the activity… And if our motives are to simply entertain for entertainment’s sake, then i would have a problem with it. But if our motive is to do something with excellence that people enjoy – and in so doing, enjoy and find great satisfaction in God – then it’s a good thing. And if I’m also participating in that which I find entertaining, and I am compelled to a greater recognition of God’s greatness, then all the better! It gets to the heart… and we all need to be our own judges on this. Only God can see inside the heart of another. We need to take care that our own motives are in the right place, and let God work on the hearts of others. However, for those of us that are leaders, we are gatekeepers of sorts… and are charged with the stewardship of the gifts of those on our teams as well as the heart of our body of believers. This is where we’re called to use discernment and make Spirit-led decisions that hopefully will ultimately bring glory to God. If man receives the glory, we’ve not done our job well.

    Getting back to Colson’s argument… you can have “guitars and bongo drums” and have great heart motives that glorify God… In the same way that you can have a pipe organ, choir and traditional hymns and with impure motives that seek to glorify the organist, choir or song leader. It’s ultimately not about style or instrumentation, but about pointing to Christ and advancing God’s glory.

    Thanks for the discussion Rich.

  24. A great song will have marriage of both lyric and melody. It can’t be an either/or, but has to be a both/and. Most music that is going to equally engage both the heart and the mind will have that kind of marriage – and if our goal is to compel people’s thoughts toward God, we really need to strive to engage both heart and mind often. Not just musically, but in everything we offer during our gatherings. (and often our discussions on worship boil down to music style, when biblically, worship is every part of life.)
    I think our use of the word “entertaining” gets at the motives behind the activity… And if our motives are to simply entertain for entertainment’s sake, then i would have a problem with it. But if our motive is to do something with excellence that people enjoy – and in so doing, enjoy and find great satisfaction in God – then it’s a good thing. And if I’m also participating in that which I find entertaining, and I am compelled to a greater recognition of God’s greatness, then all the better! It gets to the heart… and we all need to be our own judges on this. Only God can see inside the heart of another. We need to take care that our own motives are in the right place, and let God work on the hearts of others. However, for those of us that are leaders, we are gatekeepers of sorts… and are charged with the stewardship of the gifts of those on our teams as well as the heart of our body of believers. This is where we’re called to use discernment and make Spirit-led decisions that hopefully will ultimately bring glory to God. If man receives the glory, we’ve not done our job well.

    Getting back to Colson’s argument… you can have “guitars and bongo drums” and have great heart motives that glorify God… In the same way that you can have a pipe organ, choir and traditional hymns and with impure motives that seek to glorify the organist, choir or song leader. It’s ultimately not about style or instrumentation, but about pointing to Christ and advancing God’s glory.

    Thanks for the discussion Rich.

  25. …I have been blessed to participate on a few occasions with other saints in the praise and worship of God in ways that really had little or nothing to do with worship forms at all. Spontaneous shouts of praise, and spoken worship, reading aloud scriptures from Revelation or Psalms that describe God in His glory, etc.
    I would fall on the “walk in excellence, engage the culture, but focus on Jesus,” side of the worship spectrum, however, I lament that our (American) church requires excellent, culturally engaged, worship in order to focus on Jesus. Some of the most personally intense times of worship for me have been in languages I could not understand, or next to people with little or no musical ability. Of course, I also succomb to the typical American, “Why did they play that song again…”

  26. …I have been blessed to participate on a few occasions with other saints in the praise and worship of God in ways that really had little or nothing to do with worship forms at all. Spontaneous shouts of praise, and spoken worship, reading aloud scriptures from Revelation or Psalms that describe God in His glory, etc.
    I would fall on the “walk in excellence, engage the culture, but focus on Jesus,” side of the worship spectrum, however, I lament that our (American) church requires excellent, culturally engaged, worship in order to focus on Jesus. Some of the most personally intense times of worship for me have been in languages I could not understand, or next to people with little or no musical ability. Of course, I also succomb to the typical American, “Why did they play that song again…”

  27. …I have been blessed to participate on a few occasions with other saints in the praise and worship of God in ways that really had little or nothing to do with worship forms at all. Spontaneous shouts of praise, and spoken worship, reading aloud scriptures from Revelation or Psalms that describe God in His glory, etc.
    I would fall on the “walk in excellence, engage the culture, but focus on Jesus,” side of the worship spectrum, however, I lament that our (American) church requires excellent, culturally engaged, worship in order to focus on Jesus. Some of the most personally intense times of worship for me have been in languages I could not understand, or next to people with little or no musical ability. Of course, I also succomb to the typical American, “Why did they play that song again…”

  28. …I have been blessed to participate on a few occasions with other saints in the praise and worship of God in ways that really had little or nothing to do with worship forms at all. Spontaneous shouts of praise, and spoken worship, reading aloud scriptures from Revelation or Psalms that describe God in His glory, etc.
    I would fall on the “walk in excellence, engage the culture, but focus on Jesus,” side of the worship spectrum, however, I lament that our (American) church requires excellent, culturally engaged, worship in order to focus on Jesus. Some of the most personally intense times of worship for me have been in languages I could not understand, or next to people with little or no musical ability. Of course, I also succomb to the typical American, “Why did they play that song again…”

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