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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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Blended Worship

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Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
Vassar, Michigan
"And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play." (Exodus 32:1-6)
Perhaps the most surprising and interesting aspect of the story about Israel and the golden calf is in verse 5 of Exodus 32. It says that "When Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD." The abominable activity around the idol that day was called worshiping the Lord! Aaron named the calf "Jehovah."

I am not completely stupid. Some time ago I figured out what must be behind the announcements on church signs that two kinds of services are offered on Sundays: one "contemporary" and the other "traditional." The difference is that the "contemporary service" will use rock 'n' roll music, and the "traditional service" won't. Of course church music in the rock style is commonly called by other names, such as "praise music" or "contemporary Christian music" (C.C.M.), but I know it's rock 'n' roll. Anyway, I realized that the idea of having separate "contemporary" and "traditional" services has been adopted so that members who object to rock in church can be placated for the time being. As they gradually die off, the distinction between the style of services can be eliminated. But now churches have introduced what they call the "blended service." In this arrangement, the program includes both rock and regular hymn book songs. Without a doubt, "blended worship" is a bad thing. Combining good with bad doesn't sanctify the bad; it defiles the good. Rock 'n' roll is a style of music that is inconsistent with Biblical religion. To use it at all in church is a mistake, and to try to "blend" it with appropriate styles of Christian music is particularly objectionable!

My objection to rock music does not come from the places I received my formal education, nor from the fundamentalists who have influenced me over the years. It arises from the fact that I myself was a "sixties rock 'n' roller"! In the early 1960s through the arrival of the Beatles in America and the whole "British invasion," I was captivated by rock music. I know what it is. Rock is a music style that promotes rebellion and sex. Its creators and secular performers have admitted or proclaimed this fact for decades. They are not ashamed of it. The only ones who claim that rock is a morally neutral medium are Christians who like it. It was my salvation and new relationship with Jesus Christ that turned me away from rock 'n' roll. Therefore I cannot justify its use in a Christian setting. In his 2002 book, Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, "former worship leader" Dan Lucarini stated that a "blended service" is impossible to make work. He said that traditional and contemporary services have opposing purposes and emphases. Traditional evangelical services emphasize the preaching of God's Word. Contemporary services emphasize the music. Songs are selected for a traditional service on the basis that they would please the Lord. Songs are chosen for a contemporary service primarily because the people like them. Success is determined for a traditional service when people say the Word of God has convicted them. Contemporary services are considered successful when people say they "really worshiped God today" (subjective experience rather than objective truth as the basis of determining success).(1) Can two such service philosophies be "blended"? Lucarini, who repeatedly tried to do so in several churches, says not.

"Unwittingly, we have created an unnatural clash of incompatible music styles unlike anything you would hear anywhere else in the world. With blended services, we have created two sets of musicians with different skills. Now began the competition for the hearts of the congregation: the battle of the bands, so to speak. Given the fact that we were already performing enough CCM to stir up the sinful nature of many in the congregation, it was predictable which style would win the battle. Contemporary styles always prevailed over traditional, because it fed the sinful desire of our flesh."(2)

The issue of "blended worship," however extends well beyond questions of church services and music styles. Worship, after all, is more about life than it is about church! It is very doubtful, in fact, if the New Testament authorizes churches to have "formal worship services." Acts 2 says that the original church meetings were for "doctrine [teaching] and fellowship," for the "breaking of bread," for "prayers," and for "praising God" (verses 42 and 47). Certainly the early Christians worshiped God in their hearts, but their meetings did not pretend to define ritual as worship. Formal worship (associating a prescribed ceremonial form with the worship of God) was an Old Testament practice, and not a New Testament obligation. Remember that the rituals and ceremonies in the Law of Moses were "a shadow of things to come," while "the body" that cast the shadow was Christ (See Colossians 2:13-17). The temple worship forms symbolized the person and work of Christ, as well as the principles of the Christian life. What the priests of Israel practiced in their ceremonies was symbolic of what we can do in reality! Old Testament formal worship points to New Testament worship "in spirit and in truth."

The "woman of Samaria" who met Jesus at "Jacob's well" (John 4) tried to argue with Him over the differences between her religion (the Samaritan) and His (the Jewish).

"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." (verse 20)
See how Jesus responded in John 4:21 and 23.
"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father . . . But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him."
Worship is not something a person does in this place or in that. If it happens at all, worship happens in the heart ("in spirit and in truth"). Issues of worship, therefore, are more about the spirit of an individual than the services of a church.

Blended worship, whether in a church service or a Christian's life, is an abomination to God. It cannot work. It didn't please God in Exodus 32 at the foot of Mt. Sinai, but rather provoked Him to anger (Read all of the chapter and see). From this chapter we should learn that you cannot blend the worship of God with things that offend Him.


The chapter opens with the people of Israel expressing an attitude of rebellion against the man God had put over them.

"When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him." (verse1)
God is offended by rebellion against legitimate human authority. Romans 13:1-2 says,
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."
In the Garden of Eden after the Fall of Man into sin, God instituted the system of human authority and ordained that all of us submit to it (Genesis 3:16-See also I Peter 2:13 through 3:6). People who resist those in authority over them (in the home, in the church, in society) are resisting God! And you cannot blend rebellion with the worship of God. Yet many today make light of authority, and go about escaping and resisting it at every turn. Church members avoid the authority of the church and its leaders by switching churches. Some Christian wives escape the authority of their husbands by filing for divorce. Teenagers in the church youth group rebel against their parents openly. Of course, nobody can stop people from rebelling against authority (until the rebellion rises to the level of crime against the state!), but no Christian should think that he can please the Lord or truly worship Him while in a state of rebellion!

Moses represented the style of leader that many Christians despise today. He took his orders from God. He loved the people of his congregation (as you will learn from verses 7 through 14 and verses 30 through 35), but he never compromised with their sin. A godly leader is one who knows what is right and insists that his followers do what is right. See the power of a godly leader in verses 19 and 20.

"And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it."
One man, Moses, "made the children of Israel drink" the water polluted by the powder of the idol! How did he do it? When a leader knows from God's Word what the right thing is, sinful people cower at his authority (Look up Proverbs 28:1).

Aaron, on the other hand, represents in this chapter another kind of leader. His leadership in the absence of Moses was that of the man who tries to determine what the people want, and then helps them accomplish it.

"And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD." (verses 3 through 5)
He might have been considered more of a "people person" than the stern and sometimes reclusive Moses. However, Aaron did not really have the people's interests in mind. He was actually looking out for himself. See how he turned against the people when Moses confronted him.
"And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief." (verses 21 and 22)
There is a great need today for God's people to support and follow godly leadership. We cannot blend rebellion with the worship of God!


A big lie was told that appears at the end of verse 4.

". . . and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."
The "molten calf" and the "gods" it represented did not deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt! They actually represented the bondage itself! What an awful falsehood was behind the religious feast of that day. Remember always that the true God is the God of truth. Lies offend Him. We cannot mix false doctrine with worshiping the Lord, and hope for Him to be pleased.

It is terrible how loose preachers have become with what they teach in even fundamentalist churches. God will never smile on lies.


See in verse 6 how the people worshiped God that day.

"And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play."

The Hebrew word for "play" at the end of this verse can mean to "laugh" and carries the ideas of merriment and sport. Without question, everybody was having a good time. The problem was that self-indulgence is the opposite of true worship.

See what the New Testament says about this particular incident. I Corinthians 10:7 says,

"Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."
Notice that the sin of idolatry is forbidden in this verse. Notice further, however, that the idol is not even mentioned! Apparently the idolatry was in how the people worshiped God. Later in I Corinthians, the church is rebuked for how they observed the Lord's Supper. They had made it into a party preoccupied with gluttony and drunkenness.
"When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not." (1 Corinthians 11:20-22 )
The Apostle denies that this travesty can be called "the Lord's supper." Self-indulgence is not worship. Certain amounts of innocent "play" may be appropriate in the life of Christians, but it can never be identified with worshiping God! And yet this is exactly what "contemporary" church services are trying to do! Because the music makes the people feel good, they think that they are involved in worship. They just can't "worship" when they sing the old hymns, which strangely have been used in expressing worship by millions of believers over the years. The "worship" people feel in "contemporary" services is the same emotional (and physical) charge unsaved people get at rock concerts! Look at what is said about the music that was sung in Exodus 32.
"And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp." (verse 17)

It sounded like "a noise of war."

The prophet Amos preached against the same kind of "blended worship" in Israel some seven centuries later. In chapter 5 of his book, Amos records the reaction of God to the idolatrous worship of the Northern Kingdom, which centered around golden calves and professed to be directed to Jehovah.

"I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." (verses 21 through 24 )
The phrase, "the noise of thy songs" uses the Hebrew word for noise that refers to commotion, tumult, and clamor-unpleasant noise. Blended worship developed loud and disquieting music that pleased the people but offended the God of order and holiness. Self-indulgence is never part of true divine worship!


It is easy to follow the progression of things at the festival Aaron organized that day.

". . . they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings: and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play . . . Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, and he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear . . . he saw the calf, and the dancing . . . the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies) . . ." (Exodus 32:6, 17, 18, 19, 25)
First, there were sacrifices and offerings to Jehovah. Then the people indulged themselves in food and drink and "play." Soon they were shouting and singing. Then the music moved them to dance. The dancing then led them to take off their clothes! We see that Moses regarded the nakedness of the people as a "shame" (verse 25), which is always how the Bible treats nakedness (Look up Isaiah 20:4, Habakkuk 2:16, Revelation 3:18, and Revelation 16:15).

Is nakedness still a valid issue today? Should the churches deal with questions about clothing? It should be noted that the word for "naked" in Exodus 32:25 is a Hebrew word that means "uncovered." Rarely does the Bible mean "nude" when it says "naked." Nakedness is not being clothed enough, and it is an important issue throughout the Bible.

The second chapter of the Bible says that Adam and Even "were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25). When they sinned, "the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (Genesis 3:7). Because the aprons they made were not adequate to cover their nakedness, God made "coats of skins, and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21). From the beginning, nakedness has been an issue with God. In Exodus 20, after the Ten Commandments are given, the Lord instructs Israel about the building of altars. Acceptable altars of sacrifice must not be made "of hewn stone" for the sake of beauty. God was to be the object of worship, not the altar. Also, priests were not to "go up by steps unto mine altar" so that their "nakedness be not discovered thereon" (verses 24 through 26).

The high priest was given ornate ceremonial garments to wear as he performed certain duties at the temple. These "holy garments" were "for glory and for beauty" according to Exodus 28 (verse 2 and 40). After describing each of these articles of clothing, this chapter requires that the high priest and his sons wear "breeches" (verses 42 and 43) "to cover their nakedness." The breeches were not for symbolism or ceremony. They were for covering. The Scriptures even detail what was required to cover male nakedness. The breeches were to cover "the loins" and "the thighs." You cannot worship God improperly clothed. Nakedness does not blend with devotion to the God of the Bible. From Genesis on, the issue of nakedness involves reverence for God more than sexual temptation! Innocent creatures, such as Adam and Eve were before the Fall, had nothing of which to be ashamed. Therefore being naked involved no shame. Immediately when they became sinners, shame took hold of their minds until they found clothing. Covering the body indicates shame for what we are as sinful creatures. This proper and pious shame (Notice "shamefacedness" in I Timothy 2:9) leads to the covering of nakedness among God-fearing people. When groups of people rebel against God, they tend to take off their clothes.

Nakedness is definitely an issue in evangelical churches today. Dan Lucarini links immodest dress to the introduction of "contemporary" worship teams. "Am I the only one who has noticed that some of the ladies in the worship teams or performing special music are wearing provocative dresses or tight, revealing clothing, and doing so on the platform in full view of the congregation? They are imitating secular female artists who dress that way to tease and tempt men."3

But there is a problem with immodesty in the more strictly fundamentalist churches, too. Too many Christian women and girls are letting the trendy stores in the mall decide how they dress. Too much skin is allowed to show on the top by low necklines and wide armholes, in the middle by short tops and sagging bottoms, and at the bottom by short skirts, short culottes, and just plain shorts! Clothes worn by many believers are too tight and otherwise too revealing even when not too much skin is showing. There is a real problem with nakedness among believers today, and the main problem is that it offends God. We cannot blend the worship of Jehovah with nakedness!


In verse 21, Moses calls all of this unacceptable behavior "so great a sin." You can't blend sin with worshiping God!

Which of the Ten Commandments did Israel break that day? Certainly they broke the first and second. They also broke the third commandment by assigning the name of the Lord to their feast, and thus taking it in vain. Perhaps in some sense several of the others were broken, too. They deceived themselves into thinking that they were worshiping God while in the process of committing sins!

How many scriptural commands are openly broken today by people who say they love and serve the Lord Jesus? How many sinful activities are practiced in secret by those in "full-time Christian service"? We do not know the answer to these questions, but God does. And He will not accept the worship, sacrifice, or service of those who willfully disobey Him and refuse to repent (See I John 1:6).

Worship blended with sin is an abomination. To call it the worship of the Lord when rebellion, falsehood, self-indulgence, immodesty, and commandment-breaking is involved is to provoke His wrath. We simply must not do it.

Finally, Moses presented the solution to the ugly mess he found. Verse 26 tells us how he stood and cried out,

"Who is on the Lord's side?"
In response to this call, "all of the sons of Levi" came forward, publicly renouncing the attempt at blended worship. The next several verses tell how God used the forgiven tribe of Levi to help cleanse the congregation of idolatry.

The solution to illicit blending is always separation! See this in Ephesians 5:11 as well as II Corinthians 6:17. The challenge that separated the light from the darkness at Mt. Sinai was in the question, "Who is on the Lord's side?"

When we take God's side on questions of right and wrong, we can truly worship Him. The real issue to be decided in the questions of rebellion, truth, self-indulgence, nakedness, and sin is whether men will be on the Lord's side or not! Will we fool ourselves into thinking that we are worshiping God when we are at odds with Him in one of these powerful matters? Will you take the Lord's side about authority, doctrine, self-denial, modesty, and righteousness? Will you quit the business of blended worship? If Christians will see these matters God's way and take His side, they will have His approval and blessing, and call it a revival!


  • Dan Lucarini, Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, Auburn, MA: Evangelical Press USA, p. 120

  • 2. Ibid., p. 122

  • 3. Ibid, p. 70

Monthly Article
August 2003
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data

Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)

Articles published in the;
Sword of the Lord
Baptist Preacher,
Christian View of the News,
Pulpit Helps,
Maranatha Watchman
Church Bus News,
and other national periodicals.

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