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Entries in eschatology (7)


On Worship's Boundaries

Just yesterday, Reformed Worship put up a post of mine on worship's boundaries. Next year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and I've been thinking a lot about the pastors, thinkers, and theologians who ministered in the wake of Luther's posting of the 95 theses.

One real "aha" moment of my reading of Luther for doctoral work came in the idea that Luther's articulation of simul iustus et peccator (simultaneously justified and sinful) isn't merely a statement about the human condition, but a statement about eschatology. In other words, it's a statement about the cosmic reality in which we find ourselves. We find ourselves in an overlapping of ages, a "simul" of worlds--the Old World, which is passing away; and the New World, which is breaking in by the power of the Spirit through Christ.

A lot of our errors in worship--a lot of our over extended emphases--can be categorized as attempting to break through the boundaries set by either reverting back into purely "Old World" thinking (forgetting that Christ has come and inaugurated a Kingdom) or pressing too victoriously into "New World" realities (forgetting that the Old World, while passing away, is still here).

Luther's lesser known work, Only the Decalogue is Eternal, is mind-blowing. He is so vivid, so clear, in how he articulates the human experience of this overlapping of worlds.

So...go checkout my post, "Luther and the Eschatological Boundaries of Worship," over at Reformed Worship. Happy Advent.


Review of The Next Worship, by Sandra Van Opstal

I currently serve in a context of tremendous diversity. In the market just two blocks from my house, I regularly hear five different languages—English, Spanish, Portuguese, Creole, and French—and more infrequently hear at least another three. The church I serve doesn’t yet look like our city, but it’s making strides. When I arrived in South Florida over three years ago, I knew that praying through how to engage worship in this diverse climate would need to be on the top of my task list.  For this reason, I wish I had Sandra Van Opstal’s marvelous new book, The Next Worship, then. 

And yet, after reading the book, I have become convinced that reflecting on what it means to “glorify God in a diverse world,” as the subtitle states, is something every church should be doing, no matter how homogenous the culture. The Next Worship is for every church and every situation—not just the ones that care about “multicultural worship.” The book strikes a great balance between theory and practicality. Filled with many stories from Van Opstal’s own rich and experienced ministry, The Next Worship grounds its important principles in real-life (messy) situations.

Founded on the Future 

Van Opstal makes the case that engaging diversity in worship is an eschatological imperative. In other words, what we should be about now is grounded in the what happens in the end: “This vision of the end can only be hoped for and lived into by recognizing how far we are from it, and the beauty and awe we will experience when we participate in it” (p. 35). This vision sees a day when all nations are gathered around one throne. The Next Worship is a strong, convincing case that the future “not yet” is (and should be) breaking into our “already.” I want to share those parts of the book that I’ve found most inspiring, compelling, and convicting for my own ministry, in hopes that you might see the value in picking up this unique resource. 

Fresh Scriptural (even Sacramental!) Observations

I was inspired by Van Opstal’s synthesis of scholarship and exegesis of the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14:15-24 (Chapter 3). She offered important insights into the nuances of ancient Near Eastern culture at play in the parable. For instance, many of the excuses for not attending given by those invited would have been insulting and offensive to the host (p. 57). In fact, it appears that those who desired not to come were conspiring to shut the party down. Our normal read of the parable usually interprets the master’s invitation of those on the margins as the master’s “Plan B,” but certain clues in the text indicate that the master had always intended to invite everyone. He wanted the well-to-do to be seated alongside the marginalized. The point? “The nature of the master is to extend hospitality to all, including those we wish he had not invited” (p. 56).   

Van Opstal then does something that might be surprising to many who converse about “diverse” and “global” worship. She offers, through this parable, a Communion-centric vision of worship. Usually, conversations about diverse worship revolve around leadership and musical style. Van Opstal refreshingly starts not there, but at the Table (pp. 59-60). The Table is where reconciliation begins: “Reconciliation is not something we add to our worship; it is a practice in which we live out our true nature as one new humanity” (p. 61). And now we see the grounds for the conversation—this is why considering diverse worship is important for both multicultural and homogenous churches.

The Prophetic Edge

Throughout the book, there is a prophetic edge to the conversation. Van Opstal points out some of the elephants in the room that typically overshadow conversations like these. Chapter 2, “Is PB&J Ethnic Food?”, exposes some of the biases and ignorance of people like me, who have grown up with the perspective that my (white Western European culture) is the majority culture and therefore gets to constitute what’s “normal.” Her point, which is worth making early, is that we are all ethnic. There is no “normal.”

Hospitality, Mutuality, Solidarity 

The trifecta—hospitality, mutuality, solidarity—is for me the biggest takeaway from The Next Worship. It was an eye-opener. Van Opstal uses these three categories to highlight the ways we go successively deeper into a biblical understanding of what it means to engage in diverse worship in our local bodies:

  • Hospitality  = “We welcome you.”
  • Solidarity = “We stand with you.”
  • Mutuality = “We need you.”

I’ve always heard diverse worship discussed mainly in the first category of “hospitality.” A church’s dominant group welcomes and makes room for members of other groups. But hospitality should move beyond providing appropriate accommodations. A powerful charge: “In a multiethnic community no members should be made to feel like perpetual guests” (p. 63). Solidarity comes “when we identify with another’s community in the practices of lament and joy” (p. 66). And mutuality exists when we can’t imagine life without one another. 

This mutuality is fleshed out in what was for me the most challenging chapter, on shared leadership. Van Opstal discussed the levels/degrees of shared leadership. I found myself wrestling though what the deepest levels of shared leadership would look like in a context like mine. If I’m honest, that vision might very well be years away, but it’s always healthy to hear voices that remind you of what you should be aiming for. Listen to the challenges:

This level of leadership takes an immense amount of emptying on the part of the worship leader. There is no room for pride, fear or control. This takes more time as well; the process is much more involved and requires trust in planning and synergy and chemistry in the service. The worship leader still takes ultimate responsibility for the time. If it fails, the team leader is responsible. If the experience and practice is a success, all team members share in the celebration for having shaped it. Who wants that job? Not many people, which is why this model is rarely practiced (p. 90).

Beyond the Music, Pastoral Leadership

I’m incredibly grateful, as I said before, that the discussion about diverse worship moves in The Next Worship beyond music to the other elements of the service, especially in Chapter 6. More than that, Van Opstal points out what many miss—namely, that form itself is content, that “form is as meaningful as style” (p. 132). 

Chapter 7 offers a wonderful vision of what long-term leadership looks like, how culture-change in a congregation takes place. Van Opstal encourages leaders to embrace discomfort, to honor legacy (a wonderful counteracting of so much ageism that is a part of the culture of worship conversations today). It really is at this point that I felt The Next Worship moved from being prophetic to being pastoral. It’s here that the process is highlighted—the need for constant interpretation of experiences, the reception of feedback, creating a style and worship sensibility that fits one’s local context (p. 152).

Finally, Chapter 8 gives some marvelous helps for actually training and equipping worship leaders. I'll particularly highlight the discussion on emotional intelligence and self-awareness (characteristics we often lack as worship leaders!). 

One Desire and Lingering Questions

As I mentioned above, The Next Worship is helpfully predicated on an eschatological vision. I think the conversation about diverse worship and reconciliation, though, is further bolstered when we set these things more in their soteriological context. To put it more plainly, I’m so convinced by the aim of this book that I had longed to hear it more explicitly and fully set in the context of the Gospel: because God has reconciled Himself to us, we can be reconciled to one another. This is hinted at in places like p. 62, where Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson are quoted, saying, “Worship is the power that opens us up to the possibility of reconciliation.” What, precisely, is that power in worship? It is the gospel—the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:19).

How might this be fleshed out? In the brilliant discussion on hospitality, solidarity, and mutuality, the gospel tells us that before we offer these three things to others, we are first given these things in Christ. In His incarnation, Christ became more than a visitor; He became “an actual stakeholder in the community” (p. 63). Christ identified with us in our lamentation and joy. And in being united with Him in death and resurrection, we are given a seat at the Trinitarian table. Though Van Opstal hasn’t done this, sometimes discussions about justice and reconciliation highlight Christ as example of these things rather than provider of these things. The former has the tendency to reduce discussions of justice to moralism—a list of "shoulds." The latter, I believe, is the only way reconciliation can be achieved. This is why the soteriological vision of reconciliation is just as important as the eschatological one. In fact, the eschatology of justice is inseparable from the gospel: Paul's big surprise in Romans 3 is that the day of future justice/justification (all the same word group in Greek) has broken in to the "now" (Rom 3:21).

Some lingering questions I have pertain particularly to Chapter 6, on the components/elements of diverse worship. Are there, in fact, some trans-cultural elements and forms that all cultures are inspired and compelled to engage? For instance, Van Opstal quoted Russell Yee: “There is not one complete service even described in any detail in the New Testament, let alone prescribed” (p. 121). While this is true, there really is more to be said when it comes to unpacking the biblical vision for worship’s elements and form. I’ve been challenged by Michael Farley’s article highlighting the ways evangelicals tend to interpret what “biblical worship” is and is not. There, Farley points out that there may be biblical warrant for more elements and (especially) structure than we typically think when we simply look at the New Testament for explicitly prescribed forms. If Farley is right (and I think he is), this has some implications for Van Opstal’s discussion on forms and practices (for instance, in her chart highlighting the difference between a Latino church’s order of service and a White church’s, p. 98). Appendix E (pp. 193-194) does list some of these things, but I'd love to see this discussion fleshed out.

Where the Discussion Might Go From Here

Therefore, I think next steps for “diverse worship” discussions involve honest wrestling through the enculturation of historic, trans-temporal, trans-cultural forms and liturgies, which, according to Farley’s helpful exegetical tips, actually stem from God’s work in the (non-white, non-Western) ancient Near Eastern culture of the Old Testament. If we began this honest wrestling, I believe that every culture would have something (perhaps even highly cherished) in our particular worship experiences in need of revision and sharpening. I guess this is a counter-balance to Van Opstal’s important pastoral advice: “Christians must practice the discipline of acknowledging differences while suspending judgment” (p. 99). Yes, and at the same time (and I know Van Opstal would agree), Christians must also be willing to bring the discussion back around to theological reflection on our cultural practices. Diverse worship, in form and practice, needs to be a constant, Spirit-filled, and ongoing dialogue between cultural practices and the Scriptural authority that gives them shape and credence.

* * * * *

In conclusion, I confess to being a semi-active listener to the discussion on multicultural issues in worship, but I still discern that The Next Worship actually pushes the conversation forward rather than rehearsing the same talking points (as good as they have been).  Furthermore, it’s an incredibly useful text. It doesn’t float in the clouds but offers manual-like strategies, tips, and plans that actually help us on the ground level of ministry. Finally, Van Opstal has convinced me that I can no longer be “semi-active” in these discussions, for diverse worship is our shared context now, and the grace of God compels us so.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and I encourage every one of you to go out and get it! I need it. You need it. If part of our job as worship pastors is to prepare the people of God for eternity, I can't think of a more balanced, helpful, prophetic, and pastoral text than this one.

Purchase The Next Worship on Amazon.



Worship as an "Echo from the Future"

I was recently re-reading through sections of Mike Cosper's book, Rhythms of Grace (check out my review here), and I came across this brief concept that he had pulled from a lecture by Jeremy Begbie: 

[Worship is] an "echo from the future," a foretaste of something we'll see come to fruition when Christ returns and all things are made new, a not-yet life that we taste in part already. Today, we gather in exile, in the world but not of it, but one day the exile will end. God will rebuild creation, and not one corner of it will be stained by sin and rebellion. Until then, we have these momentary and imperfect glimpses and foretastes as we gather, hear the Word, and respond together. As flawed and imperfect as these gatherings are, they're the most truthful moment of our week, an outpost of the kingdom and a foretaste of eternity.*

Cosper is beautifully but merely distilling what one of my favorite worship theologians, Jean-Jacques von Allmen described when he called worship an "eschatological event," in his book, Worship: Its Theology and Practice. Eschatology is the study of things to come, and so when we say that worship is "eschatological" or an "echo from the future," we're saying that something of the future breaks into the present.  It's kind of like how we've talked in previous posts about corporate worship being "remembering who we really are" and "the most human thing we can do."  It's this idea that worship peers into that time when God re-creates the world, when He consummates His redemption of all things in Christ...and, in opening up that future portal (I know, it sounds Trekky), some of the future leaks back into the present.  It's like how even in the most sophisticated sprinkler systems, there's always some water dripping back where it shouldn't go beyond the one way backflow valve.  The difference in the metaphor, though, is that God actually intends for some of that leakage to occur.

When the future leaks into the present in worship, it has a sanctifying effect.  This is because, when we are jolted awake out of the slumber that the present age hypnotizes us into, we see what really will be (a world re-created, and a people reclaimed for worship), and we see who we really were created to be (a perfected people providing unceasing worship to the Triune God through loving Him and one another, forever and ever, amen).  It's like humankind rediscovering our OEM's owner's manual that we had long lost.  In it, we see our design, our engineering, how we were made to work, how we operate, what our ends and purposes are.  When we see the glorified Christ in worship, His light shines ALL THIS TRUTH onto us, and we become a bit more "eschatologically sanctified."  It actually changes us, slowly but surely.

Worship, planned well, led well, and faithfully executed in the Spirit, has this kind of power, because God has ordained it so. He gives unique sanctifying privileges to our weekly gathering. He does special work there that He chooses to do nowhere else.  Elsewhere, we can read of the future, study the future, and even ponder the future with others. But only in worship can we most acutely experience the future in the present.  And, to get very direct, the pinnacle of that experience occurs in the two-part event of the preaching of the Word and the Lord's Supper.  

So, the next time you're leading or participating in worship, open your ears.  Listen for those faint backward echos, where the song of the future reverberates into the present.  It's a most beautiful song.

*Mike Cosper, How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 100; quoting Jeremy Begbie, plenary lecture, "Re-Timed by God: The Rhythms of Worship," at the Calvin Symposium on Worship, January 2010.

Worship is Where the Church Tries on Her Bridal Garment

Worship forms trajectory.  If we are a people "in the world, not of the world"; if we are pilgrims and sojourners; if this world is not our home; if we are a people whose perpetual cry is "come, Lord Jesus," then worship is one of the chief contexts in which we're reminded of that.  To put this in theological terms, worship is supposed to be intensely eschatological.  I often mention that worship is one of the chief contexts in which humanity finds its satisfaction for the deepest longings of life, but in this regard, worship is incredibly unsatisfying.  In fact, worship should make us "eschatologically itchy"--it should make us long for the Fullness which in worship we only see in part.

One of the great future events recorded in Revelation that serves as a metaphor for the consummation of the ages is the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev 19).  Theologian Jean-Jacques von Allmen righly calls worship an opportunity for the church "to try on its bridal garments."What a powerful image! Think of the excited bride, putting on her dress in advance and looking herself over in the mirror.  She's not merely thinking, "What a beautiful dress."  She's putting the whole picture of the wedding day together in her imagination.  She's imagining walking down the aisle, saying her vows, seeing the one she loves in the finest of dress.  She's imagining the crowd, the excitement in the air, and the singularity of purpose for which everyone has gathered.  She's anticipating the most important day of her life.

Worship is very much the same thing.  It is allowing the future to break into the present in our imaginations and in actuality.  When we sing, we're caught up in the endless hallelujah of the the heavenly beings who ceaselessly cry, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come" (Rev 4:8).  The music of heaven reverberates in our music.  The prayers of the saints above reverberate in our prayers below (Rev 5:8).  The Word of God preached recapitulates the divine Word, who was in the beginning with God, and was God (John 1:1).  And, perhaps most importantly, when we receive the Lord's Supper, we're tasting a percentage of a fraction of the Feast which is to come.  If we were to draw a Venn diagram, with one circle being "heaven" and the other being "earth," their overlapping section would read "worship."  

So let's get down to brass tacks for worship leaders and planners.  How is the future evidenced in the worship we plan?  Are the songs we sing so focused on "me" and "now" that there is no room for "us" in the "then"?  Do the words of our prayers and songs (they're the same thing, actually) exhibit, somewhere, somehow, a longing for what is to come?  Is our preaching shaping our people to be "eschatologically itchy"?  The trouble is, the real way we find satisfaction in worship is by being reminded of our identity in Christ in such a way that makes us hunger for its completion.  It's ironic.  We are satisfied with the notion not that we are completely satisfied now but that we will be satisfied, and when we rob ourselves of remembering that future satisfaction, worship becomes less satisfying.  Being intensely now-focused robs the people of God of the deepest kind of satisfaction that we can have.

Put yet another way, with other theological terms, good worship reaffirms our justification, energizing our sanctification, making us thirst for our glorification.  "Gospel-centered worship" is therefore necessarily eschatological.  

There are many grids through which we must evaluate the content of our worship services, and the End is certainly one of them.  How much eschatology is in our doxology?  How much longing is in our liturgy?  Does our worship give balance to the fact that we are engaging with a God who not only was and is, but is to come?

There are many practical benefits to eschatologically-oriented worship (meaning to suffering, energizing to mission, strengthening the hope of the saints, etc.), which we'll maybe tease out in another post.  But for now, let's just sit with the question of how well our worship is doing in pointing us down the road.

Can you think of other ways that worship is, or should be, eschatological?


1Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice (New York: Oxford, 1965), 99.

U2 De-prophesies the Rapture in Denver

U2 360 at Invesco Field in Denver (5/21/11), courtesy of WestwordI don’t attend many rock shows and concerts these days.  Ticket prices, plus downtown parking and other expenses, make it difficult on the bank.  Having a four-kid family makes it difficult on the home schedule.  Having a ministry job with naturally fuzzy work/home boundaries makes it difficult on the life-planner.  So, attending the U2 concert at Denver’s Invesco Field this past weekend was no small feat. 

Say what you want about U2.  Sure, the musical style they coined has so permeated modern pop rock (and, as a subsidiary, modern worship) that their sound seems over-used and cliché to artsy ears. (If someone wants to lambaste modern worship guitar playing, all he or she has to do is crack a joke about the ubiquity of the dotted-eighth delay.)  But let’s not forget several things.  They were among the pioneers of that sound—driving, ambient, atmospheric, cinematic.  The Edge was a leader in effects-savvy lead guitar-playing, over against guitar-and-amp, lick-laden, speed-soaked flash.  Lyrically, they’ve always been profound and provocative.  And, they have to be on the short list of the most successful, lasting, and influential rock bands of all time.

For all those reasons, I felt it was worth shelling out the cash to participate in a moment in rock history that I’d value, given my vocation as a church musician zeroed in on the rock genre.  U2 has been planting their mothership 360 stage in stadiums across the world, and, boy, is it a sight to behold.  The production is unparalleled; it is the rock show to end all rock shows.

But what made the show in Denver unique, from a worship/church/theology/culture standpoint, was that here we have one of the more overtly “spiritual” bands in mainstream rock taking the stage on May 21, 2011—the night hyped up by a false prophet as being the date of Christ’s return.  I overheard more than one pre-show conversation among the 80,000-person crowd making reference to all of the end-of-the-world news.  So, the stakes were high.  What would U2 do?  What would Bono say?  Everyone was waiting.

Ultimately, U2 offered a sarcastic yet purposeful response.  They incorporated their song “Until the End of the World,” from Achtung Baby, into their extended lineup.  Verses 2 and 3 are below…a double-entendre of personal story and biblical metanarrative:

I took the money
I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You lead me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You, you were acting like it was the end of the world

In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret, waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you'd wait till the end of the world.

You can see and hear their performance below.  Bono began the song by saying, “This is for the Reverend Harold Camping,” followed shortly thereafter with, “Such a disappointment!”  So, on rapture-night, U2 rang in the pseudo-parousia with a bang. 

In the middle of this song is an extended chanting of “love, love, love,” etc.  I’m not sure what’s behind that, lyrically, but here’s my guess…at least this is my guess as contextualized to the immediate referent, Harold Camping.  If we would spend half as much energy loving and living out God’s mission as we do prophesying doom on this broken world, just imagine the result.

My most esteemed professor, Craig Blomberg, wrote a terrific, biblical response to all of this, which ends up sounding much the same as what I perceive to be the Irishman’s counter of Camping.  After thoroughly explaining why the Bible is clear on the fact that we can’t know the day or hour, Blomberg concludes:

How about we just assume that we might have several millennia of world history left and get on about all the things Christ has called us to do to make the world a better place, from evangelism to social action to everything in between, and once and for all end this escapist mentality that obsesses over a pretribulational rapture and doomsday watches of all different kinds on top of that!  To quote a line from that fun movie of a couple of decades ago, “Network,” “I’m mad as h--- and I’m not going to take this any more!” 

I, for one, raise a salute to all attempts, be they from rock stars or New Testament scholars, to undo the damage wrought by false prophets in this world.  Both Bono and Blomberg have helped remind me to keep the main thing the main thing.  So let’s all get back to work, for goodness sake.




"Overcome" is a Great Modern Worship Song

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."
(Revelation 12:10-11 [NIV])


A few weeks ago, I picked up Jeremy Camp's new worship album, We Cry OutIt's a conglomeration of original worship songs by Camp alongside other known and less-known worship songs across the modern worship spectrum.  The eighth track is a song I had heard and appreciated but (sadly) forgot about--"Overcome," by Jon Egan.  The original version appeared in 2007 on Desperation Band's Everyone Overcome album.  The original version is more musical and moving, in my opinion.

The song is textually "impressionistic" in the sense that it doesn't necessarily flow in subjects and predicates but with connecting thoughts and phrases.  Many times, such songs are too loose, but this one works, and it works beautifully.  It revels in the beauty and victory of Christ the King.  It also tips a hat to the gospel as the primary vehicle of change, growth, and "overcoming" in one's life.  We will probably sing this song heavily in both the Lenten season and Eastertide in 2011.

Seated above, enthroned in the Father's love
Destined to die, poured out for all mankind

God's only Son, perfect and spotless one
He never sinned, but suffered as if He did
     All authority, every victory, is Yours

Savior, worthy of honor and glory,
Worthy of all our praise, You overcame
Jesus, awesome in power forever,
Awesome and great is Your name, You overcame

Power in hand, speaking the Father's plan
You're sending us out, light in this broken land
     All authority, every victory, is Yours

We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb
and the word of our testimony, everyone overcome

Written by Jon Egan
©2007 Vertical Worship Songs (ASCAP)


Hip-Hop Worship, Eschatology, and Aesthetics

This jazzes me on so many levels.  Check out this footage from a recent worship service at Sojourn Church in Louisville, KY. 




The rapper is Shai Linne, whose blog called "Lyrical Theology" shows that hip-hop and Christian thought/worship aren't antithetical.  These videos conjure several stream-of-consciousness observations:

  • Check out the cool way the medium of rap allows for creative twist on a traditional "call and response"...that's ancient future liturgy at its finest!
  • Check out how into it the whiteys are (hey, I'm a whitey...I can say it).  Hip-hop worship doesn't have to be only for the African-Americans.
  • Check out the glimpse of the eschaton--when people of every tribe, tongue, and nation, will be gathered together worshiping around the throne.  Some people would look at that video and say that it's appalling, even blasphemous.  I say: that worship is more heavenly than a lot of the stuff out there.
  • Check out the generous spirit of some seriously gifted artists.  In video #1, you've got an amazingly talented singer and artist, Brooks Ritter, on the far right on the stage.  That guy has a golden voice.  And yet, he's open enough to clap and dance and join in an art form from a different world than his own.  In video #2, the guy in the glasses in the back is Mike Cosper.  That guy is a phenomenal guitarist...and yet, he gives it up for Shai Linne.

As I was growing up, my dad always said (probably tongue in cheek) that rap wasn't music.  I disagreed then, and I disagree now.  Like any art form, you have to understand its rules and paradigms.  Then you discover, as is the case for a lot of things which people broad brush as "not art," that there are expressions within the art form that excel and expressions which fail.  There's good rock and bad rock.  There's good hip-hop and bad hip-hop.  There's good contrapuntal writing and bad contrapuntal writing.  Of course there are transcendent, objective aesthetic values rooted in the being of God, but we must also account for the fact that there is a "relativism" to aesthetics that bids us understand a piece of art within its context.  What are the "rules" of a given art form? And how does a given artist interact with those rules?  Those are the kinds of questions we must ask in our evaluation.  If we did, I think we might find a more generous church toward seemingly "deviant" expressions such as hip-hop in the context of worship.