Series: Praise Chapel

I often feel like a failure as a Northwestern student, because I don’t like chapel. I hate it. I hate praise chapel. My first “I hate Chapel” rant will focus on praise chapel. Stay tuned for other rants about how I hate many chapel messages, many chapel speakers, edit on 1/18/11 and whatnot. And I don’t truly “hate chapel”, but I feel that there are many issues within it.

I hate how many of the songs are “me” centered and not “God” centered. Look, folks, if you’re going to sing a song that worships your alleged divine creator, then sing about what He’s done for YOU. Sing about what He means for YOU. Not what He’s going to DO for You, not how He makes You feel. Your lyrics should worship the Creator, the one You claim to adore.

Second, to me it feels like chapel is a big show. Who can raise their hand the highest. Who can sing the loudest. Who “looks” the most into worshiping. Worshiping is not meant to be a show, and frankly, that’s what praise chapel looks like at Northwestern. A show, and nothing more. I often feel like the lyrics from the Jon Foreman song:

Your eyes are closed when you’re praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There’s blood on your hands
You turned your back on the homeless
And the ones that don’t fit in your plan
Quit playing religion games
There’s blood on your hands

Now, I’m not claiming to know the heart of Northwestern. I’m only a college student and I only see my own heart, and I know there are genuine people there. But we would all be naïve to believe that every one of those students is legit, that every one is genuine. Some are only trying to keep up appearances. Some are putting on a show because the momentary “religous high” numbs the pain in their life, just for a little while. Instead of searching for a true fix, they just go from “God high” to “God high”, with little interest to God in between worship jams.

And for someone who has a sensory processing disorder, praise chapel is complete hell. It’s complete sensory overload for something like that. If you can’t handle loud noise, crowds, or darkness, it’s not the place for you. It’s a place that’s supposed to be safe, but can quickly cause panic.

I’m not bashing cooperate worship. I realize it’s a Biblical concept. However, the way Northwestern goes about it I don’t believe is right, and I believe that changes need to be made. I’m not one to say what the changes need to be, and even if I did no one would listen to be. Apparently I’m a flaming liberal to most Northwestern students, and my opinion holds little water because it’s not the majority opinion. I don’t even claim to be right, and I don’t even know that the others are fully wrong, per se. And I realize that by the end of those post, most anyone reading this likely things I’m an insane heathen or that I’m not right with God.

But I don’t feel that praise chapel is the best thing for Northwestern. It always, from my first time in it, gave me an uneasy feeling. And I can’t put my finger on it, other than some of the thoughts explored here.

8 thoughts on “Series: Praise Chapel

  1. I LOVE this. I have gone to praise services at various "Christian" Colleges in the area. And, it often does feel like a show.

    You are far from a heathen. And some people will get angry with this next comment.

    The Christian church needs more fixing than most Christians seem to see. And I think that's part of what drives people away, is the fact that its so broken, and people can be the loudest jumping hand-raising in the praise services and flicking people off on the freeway while getting trashed every weekend.

  2. well, I don't even listen to Christian music, yet I DO manage to worship Him. I worship Him when I read his Word and when I love my husband and my sons. I worship Him when I share Him with those sons and feel joy at the spiritual journey that Levi is starting on. I worship him when I take joy at the YOU'VE grown into a beautiful woman of God.
    The model of worship that you're describing is an American prescription, not a biblical description. There's not a verse in the Bible that says "sing real loud and shake your bod, lift up your arm and wave to God" You don't catch God by waving your hand. If that's what works for an individual, fine and dandy but it's not an indicator that one is more spiritual than another.

  3. Although I've never been to NW chapel services, I understand and have been at other service that sound similar. It took me some growing up time to learn about worship. It use to be about song and the emotional high it could create. But now that I am older and wiser, it's about what you stated – singing and worship about God, not about me. One thing I appreciate about the music we use in church, it is focused on God and I appreciate it ALOT.

    BTW, when might we see you again?

  4. First of all, you're not a failure as a Northwestern student! I think you have good reasons for your dislike of chapel. I also don't think you are a heathen or that you're not right with God. =)

    But in my opinion, praise chapel has gotten a lot better since we first started at Northwestern. I think they're doing a much better job of doing more God-centered rather than me-centered songs in praise chapel this year. (For one thing, I've noticed significantly less Hillsong!) I do agree that sometimes it feels more like a performance than a time of worship, and I hate that too. I have a hard time focusing on God when I feel like the band is up there performing and trying to impress us rather than lead us in worship. But it's not always like that. It really depends on who is leading worship that day. There's one person in particular who often leads worship and never seems like he's up there to put on a show. He is there to lead us in worship, and that's what he does. It's not about him. I'm always relieved when I get to praise chapel and find out that he's leading worship, because I know it's truly going to be a praise chapel, focused on God as it should be, and not a show.

    Just some thoughts from my perspective. I still respect and understand why you don't like praise chapel, and like I said, I think you have good reasons for not liking it. =)

  5. Eccentricity (I think I know who you are :P), yeah, I agree. I've been to other services in the area and I get a same feeling. Maybe I'm just not wired for that kind of thing, eh? I went to Vespers and it's the same feeling. That it's more of a concert then a worship service. Which there is a time and a place for each and every one. Something just doesn't sit right with me when I see the kids fully "sold out" to Jesus, but then I see them outside of the chapel and acting totally different. The two-sidedness gets to me. I am by NO MEANS saying every student acts like this, because I know know know that that's not true, but I can think of a few examples like that.

    Em, yeah, I know that's how we Americans take worship modernly. Hell, I don't think it would go over too well if we pulled David's and worshiped in our underwear. It's all about finding the balance of the Biblical concept of worship with the world we live in today. It's about realizing that we were "made to worship" per se, but worshiping does not equate waving your hands.

    Sarah, hopefully soon! I'm getting back into the groove and really really want to come back =) I would love to be back in a place that has Christ-centered worship.

    Gracetolight, yeah. I do agree that it's better than Year 1, but I still think there's room for improvement. I think I know the guy you're talking about, and I do believe he's legit. I've debated taking my concerns to the campus pastor before, but I'm not sure. I'm not quite sure how he'd react if I sent him this blog post! Would he want to know that there are students who actually are not comfortable in chapel because it feels too much like a show? It feels too much like they are being crushed and judged for not worshiping like the others?

    It has gotten better, and I as well am glad to see Hillsong on the decline. I would love more Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, and songs along those lines.

    It's not like I'll be back in praise chapel any time soon due to my anxiety stuff, but I repeat these concerns even in the worship in regular chapel. The songs, while not me-centric, I still see the "showiness" in other students. And when you're not the kind of person to be into that kind of stuff, it's frankly rather distracting to try to focus on worship when people are doing stuff around you, you know?

  6. Yeah, absolutely there's still room for improvement. I agree. And you know what? I think you should let the campus pastor know about your concerns. I do think he'd want to know that there are students who are uncomfortable with it. And I definitely agree with the showiness being way distracting even in regular chapel. I know not everybody does that kind of stuff to show off, with some people it's just how they worship and it's genuine, but I share your distaste for the people who just raise their hands and such to look good. Especially when, like you said to Eccentricity, they act totally different outside of chapel. That gets to me too. If you do decide to talk to our campus pastor, let me know. I think overall we pretty much agree on this stuff and I'd be willing to back you up on it if you want. =)

  7. I likely will, and I'll likely start off with an email link to my post. I think it would be easier for him to read it, then for me to just say it to his face. Then go to a meeting with him from there. That would be good. With my schedule there's not much time to meet with him, but this would work well. Plus, I'm nervous about meeting with him even though he encourages stuff like this!

    I do want to state, again, that I do know there are genuine people there! I don't want anyone to think that I think NWC is just a huge show and not legit because that's a far cry from the truth.

  8. It says in the Bible that we should say our prayers in a "closet", thus pointing out that if we are showing off or making some kind of demonstration, it is uncalled for.

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