Praise and Worship Music: Banging Jesus on Sunday Morn

praise and worship music

Warning! Snark, sarcasm, humor and offense ahead.

When I started attending a Christian church in the late 1950’s, hymns, hymns, and only hymns were the songs of the church. In the 1960’s southern gospel music started to influence what was sung on Sunday morning. From there came the Gaither era, the contemporary Christian era, and finally the praise and worship era. Drums, guitars, praise teams, and worship leaders are standard fare in churches now. Seniors tend to not like it, millennials think it is boring, and baby boomers say, FINALLY, rock music in the church.

Over the last eight years I spent in the ministry, the churches I pastored used a blended worship approach. We’d sing hymns, but we also sang a lot of praise and worship songs. My three oldest sons played bass and guitar, so they became the church band. At the time, I thought it was wonderful, but now that I am years removed from singing love songs to Jesus, I have a far different opinion.

Just for fun, I clicked the Praise and Worship channel on Rdio. I listened to many of the songs we sung years ago, mixed in with new praise and worship songs. As I listened to the instrumentation, I couldn’t help but notice how the songs stirred my emotions. It’s the instrumentation that gives the syrupy, Jesus is your boyfriend lyrics their sexual appeal. I thought, these songs are love-making songs. And that is exactly why so many Christians love them. Hymns generally appealed to the intellect. Praise and worship music makes no pretense of appealing to the intellect. The music is meant to agitate the emotions, putting the listener in a frame of mind that makes it easy for Jesus to  have sex, commune with the believer.

Many praise and worship songs are little more than aids for spiritual masturbation. Often the lyrics are shallow and repetitive, focusing on self and not God. Some of the lyrics are so shallow that just by changing a few words you can change the song from a love song to Jesus to a love song to your boyfriend or girlfriend. Take the song (Trading My Sorrows) Yes Lord by Matt Redman. The next time you are making love to your significant other, speak or sing these lyrics, changing the word Lord to the name of your partner:

We say yes lord yes lord yes yes lord
Yes lord yes lord yes yes lord
Yes lord yes lord yes yes lord amen

Make sure you sing it loudly so the neighbors will know it is your lucky night.

The draw of praise and worship music is its emotional appeal. Visit a local we are the hippest church in town and observe the effect the music has on parishioners. All around you will be people lost in the love of Jesus. Some will be so enthralled that they begin making love to Jesus, not caring a bit that they are participating in the equivalent of a YouPorn video. It’s emotional sex with your clothes on.

On one hand, the effect this music has on parishioners reflects the power of music to move our emotions. When Polly and I attended a Darius Rucker concert last year, both of us noticed the emotional connection attendees made with the music. Both of us were stirred emotionally by the music. The problem with praise and worship music is that it is sold as a way to get closer to God. Uncounted Evangelicals go to church on Sunday to get their emotional fix. Forget the sermon. They are there to wrap their arms around Jesus and do a slow dance with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is in this highly emotional state that parishioners are open to whatever their pastor is selling that day. While worship leaders will likely object and say that the music prepares the believer to hear from the Lord, I am convinced the music is used, whether purposely or ignorantly, to weaken defenses and make it easier for parishioners to “hear” what  the pastor, uh I mean God is trying to tell them.

The music puts the parishioner in an altered state. This is by design and any pastor or worship leader who tells you differently is lying. Even with hymns, it is possible for the songs to elicit a specific emotional response. The ebb and flow of the average worship service is a highly designed and scripted affair meant to achieve a certain goal. If this is not so, why don’t churches start their service with the sermon? Instead, the music is used to open the heart (mind) of the listener to whatever the pastor is going to say. By manipulating emotions, the pastor has a greater chance to get those under the sound of his voice to do what he wants them to do. Again, if this is not so, why do most pastors and worship leaders choose songs that perfectly dovetail with the sermon? Why not take requests from the floor if what song is sung doesn’t matter?

But it does matter. And it is not just the music. Modern church services have turned into tightly scripted affairs. Sound, lighting, and program structure is used to set the mood, no different from me coming home and finding the lights dimmed, candles lit, rose petals on the floor, and the sweet voice of Karen Carpenter quietly wafting through the air. The former is meant to help the parishioner get lucky with Jesus. The latter is meant to remind Bruce that sometimes the ballgame doesn’t come first. ๐Ÿ™‚

Even in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, a sect known for hating contemporary music, certain songs are used to elicit an emotional response from the congregation. The goal is the same regardless of the style of music. Through emotional manipulation the words of a man are more easily received. In most cases, little harm is done. But, sometimes, by manipulating the hearer’s emotions, they are led to make decisions or do things they wouldn’t have ordinarily done. Those slobbering IFB preachers were right about secular music. Certain “satanic” songs can lower inhibitions and pave the way for a romp in the sack with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Such evil! But, what they don’t tell you is that certain “godly” songs can lower inhibitions too and pave the way for a romp in the sack with Jesus.


  1. Kerry

    Nice post Bruce. I was going to call you Bruce “Garlock” During my christian university days Frank Garlock was all about the wicked sinful rock and roll music. Did you ever know this guy in your circles? I knew you could not be a fan of his because even Karen Carpenter was outlawed in my circles! Ha! Having said all this, I do essentially agree with your point, but having been part of a praise and worship team for many years, I was definitely one of those that found the music the most essential part of the service.

    Thanks for giving me a flashback to often pleasant memories.

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I was familiar with Garlock. While I fellowshipped a bit with the Bob Jones crowd, I was considered liberal by some of them. Music was one of reasons they thought I was liberal. I didn’t buy Garlock’s extreme views. I could always tell if I was in a Bob Jones church by how they murdered the music. One pastor told me that if you can tap your foot to the music it is sinful. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Charles

    Bruce said: “Those slobbering IFB preachers were right about secular music. Certain โ€œsatanicโ€ songs can lower inhibitions and pave the way for a romp in the sack with your boyfriend/girlfriend.”

    I agree with you on many things Bruce—but not this one. I will give you that music can move emotions, but I think this is an old wives tail that is not true. The thing that most concerns me I guess is that even though you have left “fundiedom,” you still retain an amazing number of fundie beliefs (either consciously or subconsciously). For example, you still hold tightly to the belief that Christian fundamentalism is the only “true” Christianity, just as every fundie does. It seems to have never occurred to you that because the fundies are so utterly wrong on damned near everything else they claim—the odds are enormously high that they are wrong about this one too. You also hold to the fundie belief that the KJV Bible and the Bible alone (literally interpreted) are the sole basis for Christianity and the Christian faith.

    I guess my thought on it is this. You still have a lot more internal bullshit left to purge. I know a lot of it is probably subconscious from being brought up in the fundie realm from your first moment of Babydom. That is understandable, and I do not fault you for it. Fundiedom is a tough place that leaves enormous tattoos that are hard to extricate.

    The following song and video does zero to move me sexually or otherwise. It is really good music and lyrics that are well written and well crafted—but that is about it:

    By the way, this was the last on-camera saxophone work Clarence Clemens did right before his untimely death. I miss Clarence.

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Sorry Charles, you are far from the kingdom of God AND from understanding my view of Christianity. By all means make your own judgments, but no one who has spent serious time reading my writing would EVER say that I think fundamentalist Christianity is true Christianity. Neither would I say your version is either. It has its own set of problems. (i.e. I consider it reductionist and intellectually lacking)

      The great thing about the Bible is that it can be made to say anything. That’s why there are so many sects, each thinking they are right. You are no different in this respect than the fundamentalist. You think you are right and they are wrong. Me? I don’t care one way or another because I think the Christian God is a myth. I write to help others, not prop up a particular religion. Since I was an Evangelical for most of my life, it is what I write about.

      As far as music is concerned, I spent a lifetime singing, leading, playing music. I stand by my observations. The recent post about Marjoe Gortner perfectly illustrates how music is used to emotionally manipulate people.

      I am not sure what you hoped to accomplish by leaving this comment.

    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Also, please show me where I said what you claim I said about the King James Bible? You are definitely misunderstanding my writing.
      That said, I do think the Abrahamic religions are text based religions. No text, no religion. The Bible, the Old Testament, the Quran, and other written texts are the foundational documents of these religions.

      Without the Bible there is no Jesus. If you believe in some sort of Christian salvation, redemption, future punishment and reward, then those beliefs are based on the Christian Bible.

      I don’t care what someone believes about Jesus any more than I care about what someone thinks about Taylor Swift. But, if someone says a man named Jesus is God, virgin born, a miracle worker, and a man who resurrected from the dead after he was executed, then I am going to ask for proof of these fantastical claims. And that Charles takes us back to the Bible. No Bible, no Jesus. No Jesus, no Christianity.

    3. Angiep

      “I will give you that music can move emotions, but I think this is an old wives tail that is not true.” Huh? I’m confused; do you agree or disagree? I think there is little doubt that music does influence people emotionally; it is not an old wives TALE (not “tail”)!

  3. Kerry

    AMEN!!! Preach it Brother Bruce! NO BIBLE. NO JESUS. NO JESUS, NO CHRISTIANITY! How much clearer could you possibly be! Clearly Charles has not read much of your postings. Had he, there would be no such misunderstandings of what you believed, and what you now believe.

  4. Monty

    Having played in “worship” bands for nearly 17 years, I can tell you Bruce speaks the truth on this matter.
    Here’s my take on the whole “No-drums/No-Music-With-A-Beat” Fundie philosophy (I should know….I also attended a Hyles church for years… AND I’m a drummer lol!). I think k a lot of it is racism based.
    If you look at history, many in the South were terrified of Rock music when it first hit. Why? Because it caused their kids to dance to the black mans music (For the sake of not offending anyone here, I’m being total P.C. here…it was put more bluntly at the time). Take that with the rise of white American Fundies in the 50’s and there you go.
    I could be wrong tho. I remember one time in Hyles Church the pastors daughter was sitting in front of me and we had a Southern Gospel group playing. As everyone was clapping, I leaned over and told her that everyone’s clapping in 4/4 time, which is the beat of most Rock music. She whipped around and sternly told me it was Southern Gospel and not Rock music lol!

    1. HeIsSailing

      Monty, that is pretty much my experience from the 1970s. We all knew what ‘Rock n Roll’ was a euphemism for. I would not say it was racist though, as much as segregated. I sometimes attended a black baptist church because the pastor’s son was a friend of mine (I am mixed white and hispanic). The music there was incredible! and listening to that kind of music it was just obvious where ‘Rock n Roll’ music came from! That frantic beat and dancing would have made most of the white pastors I knew panic!! Just different traditions.

    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      You bring up a good point that I had forgotten about. I remember preachers calling rock music jungle music. What they meant was black/nigger music.

  5. HeIsSailing

    Bruce says, “Some of the lyrics are so shallow that just by changing a few words you can change the song from a love song to Jesus to a love song to your boyfriend or girlfriend. Take the song (Trading My Sorrows) Yes Lord by Matt Redman. The next time you are making love to your significant other, speak or sing these lyrics, changing the word Lord to the name of your partner:”

    Bruce, it goes the other way too. Off the top of my head, I can think of 5 rock musicians who left fame behind to become Christian rock musicians. A couple of these guys have rehashed their old best selling singles to a new Christian audience just by changing a few words in the lyrics. The most egregious example I can think of is Mark Farner from the band Grand Funk Railroad. They had a reputation as one of the biggest partying bands back in the early 1970s. At some point, Mark got a serious hard-on for Jesus and in the early 1990s he revamped one of his million sellers ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ and just like that, he sold another million singles. That’s Double Dipping for you..!!

    Original rock hit:

    When I hold her in my arms
    You know she sets my soul on fire
    Oooh, when my baby kisses me
    My heart becomes filled with desire
    When she wraps her lovin’ arms around me
    About drives me out of my mind
    Yeah, when my baby kisses me
    Chills run up and down my spine
    My baby, she’s alright
    My baby, she’s clean out-of-sight

    Rehashed gooey version for Christians:

    When He holds me in His arms.
    You know it sets my soul on fire.
    Oooh when my Savior’s lovin’ me,
    My ol’ heart becomes filled with desire.
    When He wraps His lovin’ arms around me
    About drives me out of my mind.
    Yeah when my Saviors liftin’ me
    Chills run up and down my spine.
    Well my Jesus, He’s alright.
    My Savior is clean outta sight

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for pointing out the rock song remakes. Over the years I heard a lot of remakes, songs like Bridge Over Troubled Water. Just add Jesus and Jesus, rather than drugs, becomes the bridge over troubled water.

      In my contemporary Christian music phase, I listened to a lot of Steve Camp. He is quite the rip off artist. The lyrics might be original but the guitar licks are rip off from secular rock songs.

      Much of the Christian music industry is just a sanitized version of the secular. Years ago, I managed a Christian bookstore. There was a chart on the wall that had secular bands in one column and the Christian replacement band in the other.

      Christian music is often a poor imitation of the secular. That’s why a lot of Christians listen to Christian AND secular music. That said, there are a few Christian bands I still like: Third Day, Small Town Poets, Caedmon’s Call, Derrick Webb, to name a few.

  6. Monty

    Yep….played this one dozens of times!!

    1. HeIsSailing

      GaG. Some Kind of Wonderful was on constant rotation on KJOY radio back in the early 1990’s. The cheap substitution of a few words to take advantage of an earlier hit just seemed – I don’t know – too easy if that makes any sense. It was about this time that I was seriously questioning the music from my local Calvary Chapel’s ‘praise band’, which all seemed to be the same kind of musical love affair with Jesus.

  7. Charles

    Geez. I am one of the biggest fan’s of Bruce’s writing, and I get attacked for making a simple observation—not at all meant as an attack on Bruce. I have spent more than 20 years on a clinical psychologist’s couch, and I know something about those internal psychological demons (like Christian fundamentalism). They take up residence deep in the subconscious mind, and they color the things we say and do—no matter how much expense or effort one’s conscious mind has taken to purge them. Some element of them is always lingering nearby with its Crayola Crayon and itching for a crack in the conscious mind exterior where it can express itself and color a situation. The next time you visit your psychotherapist, take a copy of this comment and the one above with you and ask them if I am right. I am a master at reading the subconscious farts that people break in their speech and writing. Your defensive reaction is normal, and I expected it—but was very surprised by the INTENSITY of it. I might have done the same with my own psychological issues though. The sad part is that no matter how long we live, the subconscious demons never really leave us. That was the hardest thing for me to learn in all those years of therapy. They never really leave us. The best we can do—and really the only thing we can do—is try to understand them better, manage them better, and try to catch them when they try to manage us or let out a brain fart to color a situation. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.

    That being said. I would like to repeat that I am one of the biggest fans of your writing. I have read tons of your blogposts and referred them to other people—and it was not my intent to engage you in any sort of theological showdown at high noon—as you appeared to want to believe—although I know assorted religious jerkwods do try to do this with you for some odd reason. I am quite familiar with your positions on a wide range of issues. I was making a simple point about clinical psychology and subconsciously latent personal demons. That was all.

    Have a great weekend—and lighten up. Not everything everyone has to say is an “attack on Bruce.” I know you have been attacked so many times by so many people that it just comes as a knee-jerk response to lash out. I am your friend and not your enemy—and no—I have not desire to convert you to my religious beliefs or those of anyone else. You are a big boy now, and we big boys are fully capable of making our own decisions about a variety of things. It is part of the perks of being older and being a “BIG BOY.”

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      The problem I had with your comment is that you made factual errors, ascribing to be beliefs I do not hold, wither consciously or subconsciously. Now, it yo had said, that I can, at times, display fundamentalist thinking, I would have readily agreed with you. However, you focused on two facts that simply are not true. That’s it. I still love you. ๐Ÿ™‚

      My counselor and I have spent many an hour talking about fundamentalism. Some days, I think I am the teacher. ๐Ÿ™‚ His knowledge of Baptist fundamentalism has certainly expanded since he and I have been talking. He still can be surprised when I tell him about some the bat shit crazy beliefs I had.

      Have a great weekend. And, please keep reading. ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Appalachian Agnostic

    A local station plays a program on Sunday with an announcer who plays pop hits from the past thirty years or so and ties the titles or repeated phrases from the song in with Christian teachings. He might play “With Open Arms” by Journey, then talk about how Jesus wants to welcome you with open arms. I have a mixed reaction to this show. One one hand, it is as bland and boring as a bowl of oatmeal because these are the same songs I have heard for over half my life. Not only that, but the Christian messages are old hat as well.

    On the other hand, I remember a time in my teens when I would go to church on Sunday morning, then listen to Kasey Kasim’s Top Forty on Sunday afternoon. Though our preacher did not usually rant against rock and roll, I still felt guilty for listening to it. It amuses me that these two formerly incompatible Sunday traditions have now merged into this weird hybrid form of entertainment.

  9. Monty

    I remember watching live a sermon by Jack Schaap about the evils of Rock music. Guess he glossed over the evils of having sex with under age girls.

  10. Suzanne

    *Grumbles* Oh great, now I’m going to have to listen to some Delirious and News Boys to get my Holy Spirit Crack Rock on and think sexual thoughts when all I wanted to do was just get high on my own endorphins.

    Many, many years on worship team there and yeah, there is some truth to your words.. but music is a good release for emotions, a safe release..

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yes, music can bring out a wide range of emotions. I’ll hear certain songs and my my mind will go back to when I first heard the song. My emotional response can be joy, sadness, tears, etc.

      Many Christians will play secular music to set the mood for their lovemaking, yet they fail to see that some church music set the mood for their lovemaking with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

      1. Suzanne

        I think it’s because we really do not want to think about the words ‘lovemaking’ and ‘God’ in the same sentence.

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