A Warning from 1929 about Making the Worship Service into a Form of Entertainment

Bethany Temple (Evertt, WA)

The orchestra at Bethany Temple in Everett, Washington, circa 1928-1932, featured musicians such as Myrtle Peterson Robeck on piano (left) and Levi Larson on trombone (right). 

This Week in AG History — June 1, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 1 June 2017

What role should music play in the church worship service? A 1929 Pentecostal Evangel article affirmed the value of music, while warning against the tendency to make the worship service into a form of entertainment.

The article observed that, in many quarters, “much of the worship offered to God is governed by what the people want rather than by the divine plan.” What is the “divine plan”? According to the article’s author, Canadian Pentecostal pioneer George A. Chambers, a worship service should include prayer, music, preaching of the Word, and an experience of the “real presence of God.”

Chambers was not opposed to the contemporary worship music of his day. He affirmed the joyful singing accompanied by numerous musical instruments for which early Pentecostals were known. He was concerned that, in some quarters, a certain professionalism was creeping into the church, which emphasized performance over the presence and power of God. He cautioned that musical performances sometimes overshadowed the other elements of the worship service.

According to Chambers, various musical numbers — including solos, duets, and orchestral selections — sometimes receive so much attention “that the Word of God is often relegated to 20 or 30 minutes’ time, and if its discussion is protracted beyond that the people show their disapproval by retiring from the service.” He noted that music often attracts people to church, but added, “Crowds are not always a sign of blessing and of God’s presence.”

Chambers’ concern for the church in 1929 seems quite applicable 88 years later. Noting that the earliest Pentecostals were known for their deeply spiritual services, he encouraged readers to rediscover the deep spirituality that birthed the movement. He lamented the tendency to replace a reliance upon the Holy Spirit with a reliance upon modern methods and advertising, quipping, “It used to be ‘follow the cloud!’ Now in many places it is more or less ‘follow the crowd.’”

Chambers encouraged readers to read 1 Chronicles 13-15, which documented how Israel learned the importance of worshiping according to God’s plan. The church, he believed, could benefit from the lessons provided by Israel’s example. While there are many ways to organize a worship service, Chambers’ article reminds Pentecostals to rely on the Holy Spirit and to keep the necessary elements in balance.

Read Chambers’ article, “Doing a Right Thing in a Wrong Way,” in the June 1, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Also featured in this issue:

* “Diamond Cut Diamond,” by Harry Steil

* “Scriptural Warnings,” by P. C. Nelson

Click here to view this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

5 Comments

Filed under History, Music

5 responses to “A Warning from 1929 about Making the Worship Service into a Form of Entertainment

  1. Yes, you do need the authority of the Word to have acceptable worship. The Word says to sing and make melody in your heart. It also says to SING psalms and hymns. The only mentions of musical INSTRUMENTS is in the Old Testement along with animal sacrifices and the keeping of many days and festivals. We are not under the Old Law.

  2. Elizabeth

    This is chilling, that an 88 year old article, contains such applicable and valuable elements for us today. Lord help me to worship You in truth and in spirit in my own little corner. Amen

  3. SK

    The Greek word for “psalms” in Ephesians 5:29 and Colossians 3:16 indicates music played to instrument accompaniment, according to Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words. The article is a much needed reminder for how we should get back to a biblical focus in worship today.

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