Bring Your Own Sacrifice, Part 1
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves”. Matthew 20:12
When God gave the law to Moses and Israel, He instituted special days of feasting, one of which was Passover.
During Passover every adult male was to bring a sacrifice from his family’s herd- a lamb, or if he could not afford one, a turtle dove or pigeon. It was supposed to be clean and without any growths, mutations, or spots. He would give it to the priest at the tabernacle (later the temple). The priest would sacrifice the animal and give it back to the man. He would then go eat it with his family and worship God, thanking Him for His provision.
There is an exception in Scripture that if a family was traveling a long way they could sell their animal, and bring the money to Jerusalem. They would then exchange the coin for an animal to sacrifice. This gave birth to a new industry. Money changers developed special coins exclusive to the temple. When people came to exchange their coins, the money changers would charge a high exchange rate.
Even for the people who brought their own sacrifice, there was a problem. Temple inspectors would be quick to point out flaws in a family’s animal. They would say, “Your sacrifice isn’t acceptable, you need to purchase a temple animal”. This was especially hard on poor families who could only bring a turtle dove or pigeon. They were told their best wasn’t good enough, and were forced to pay for another sacrifice.
Lastly, this all took place in the outer court of the Gentiles, which was supposed to be reserved for non-Jews to worship God. God never intended to be exclusive to the Jews, but the temple leadership filled that space with animals and money changers and tables.
Knowing all that, you can imagine why Jesus was so enraged. He says in Matthew 20:13:
“It is written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robber’s den”.
I believe the example of the money changers applies to our mindset of modern worship music.
We no longer sacrifice animals. Jesus was the last Lamb needed. Instead we bring our praise. In today’s church service, music and singing is part of our corporate act of sacrifice, like tithes and offerings. But more and more, music on Sunday morning is expected to be bought at the market, not made in-house.
Bands now play to a click with multi-tracks that sound “just like the album”. The guitar player and keys player have downloaded sounds that are “just like the album”. The band is playing through arrangements that are- you guessed it.
For churches with resources, recreating the album is the goal. When the new “it” single drops, they buy the charts, download the tracks and the synth patches, and play the song that Sunday. Some churches have producers for their Sunday mornings to make sure that everything is tight, polished, and unblemished.
I can tell you from experience that this method of “doing Sunday” is a lot of work. But it is also a huge misdirection. A church worship band can hit all their cues, and leave exhausted after 3 services having never considered the more important question: Was that the sacrifice we were meant to offer?
In Jesus' day sacrifices were offered as a family. Your church is a family (or so we hope). If you believe God gave your church its own identity and heart, wouldn’t you want the sound of your worship team to reflect your family’s heart? That is what we hope our pastors do. They spend time in the Word, in prayer, and with their congregation so that they understand God's heart for their people. Why do we expect our sermons to be tailored to the church family, and expect our corporate worship to be commercial?
Now please understand me, I am not criticizing big churches and worship teams who sell their music. They are being faithful with what they have been given. God bless them for their work. But it is a lie to believe that God wants big churches to be creative and original while your little team just focuses on playing the right notes.
This is the proverbial hill I will die on:
Church worship teams should be full of players, singers, and songwriters who are dedicated to releasing the sound God put inside of them for their church, on their own land, with their own songs.
Because that is what God deserves.
There will always be songs that become anthems for the world church. But there’s a space for that already. It doesn’t need defending. Homemade worship needs defending. I submit that churches and worship teams rethink what is expected of us. Maybe God didn’t intend for us to buy our sacrifice from someone else. Maybe He wants the best from our own house.
If you agree, and especially if you don't, please leave a comment below.