On worship and fog machines


I was surprised when a young friend told me the other day that most of his friends attended churches that use fog machines. So clearly it’s a trend.

I admit I have never been in a church service where a fog machine was used. So maybe I’m not qualified to speak on the subject. But I’m going to anyway.

I have always felt that we need to cater our music to the generations that are closer to birth than to death. That would be the people who are actually going to be alive when I am dead. They are the church’s future.

But when it comes to worship, let’s make a difference between what really matters and what doesn’t. What matters, for instance, are the words we sing. They say a lot about what we believe. There was a reason the Scots sang the Psalms, and only the Psalms. There was no doubt about the content.

So I ask the question: should not the songs we sing be every bit as rooted and grounded in Scripture as the teaching we hear?

I could make a sad joke about being in churches where most of the fog emanated from the pulpit, but for the moment I assume that most of us are in churches where the teaching is decent and Biblically grounded.

One thing I’ve noticed is that most of the arguments over worship are not about the lyrics but about the music. Music, for the most part, is a matter of taste. Taste is what changes, and that’s where we have to cater to the younger half of the congregation if we want a church capable of reaching the next generation.

And is this is a source of frustration to me. We argue over the things that matter far less -- we argue over style of music, how loud the music is, what kind of instruments we should allow, and so on. But we pass over the far more significant issue of what it is we are actually singing.

The Scots used to sing without accompaniment. There were loads of arguments over scandalous things like using an organ in worship. When I was a young Christian, people left churches when somebody dared to appear on the platform with a guitar. Never mind that the church was filling up with young people and the songs we were singing were largely Scripture put to music.

So where does that leave us with fog machines?

I admit I’m not a fan. For one thing, they seem to be a poor substitute for the cloud that filled Solomon’s temple. But let’s face it, they are part of the periphery, not part of the core.

What is a real problem is if the fog machines represent an attempt to dumb down worship and to make its focus more on making people feel a particular atmosphere rather than leading those people into glorifying the one true God.

Having said that, I would rather be in a congregation with a fog machine singing songs with Biblical lyrics and glorifying God than in a congregation with neither a fog machine nor any sense of what true worship is supposed to be.

At its root, worship is clearly defined by Paul: “Present yourselves as a sacrifice, living, holy and acceptable to God, which is worship, properly understood.” That is my translation of Romans 12:1, and it’s backed by some pretty good scholars.

If you have the foundation right, you’ll get the rest of it as well, with or without a fog machine.

But I’d still like to witness that manifest glory that Solomon saw…