A few days ago an old acquaintance made contact and asked for my opinion on the Beyoncé Mass, a church service held in San Francisco at Grace Cathedral last month on (25 April 2018)
Watch clip below.
When some Christians hear the word idol, they often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshipped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, many have replaced the “golden calf” with celebrities, spiritual fathers, prophets and influential people in our day.
Modern day society has managed to cleverly package idolatry as true worship to God and they deliver this idol worshipping to Christians right inside church spiced up with all sorts of bible scripture references to make it all holy-like and appetising to the undiscerning and unwitting Christian.
What we saw on the April 25 Vine worship service, when the Rev. Yolanda Norton, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at San Francisco Theological Seminary, preached the cleverly packaged Beyoncé themed message was sanitised idolatry.
This I would argue, is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God.
We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders.
As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many congregants believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god of one’s own making is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles and drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture.
But hear this and hear it well. The things of this world will never fully satisfy the human heart. They were never meant to. The sinful things deceive us and ultimately lead only to death (Romans 6:23). The good things of this world are gifts from God, meant to be enjoyed with a thankful heart, in submission to Him and for His glory. But when the gift replaces the Giver or the created replaces the Creator in our lives, we have fallen into idolatry. And no idol can infuse our lives with meaning or worth or give us eternal hope. As Solomon beautifully conveys in the book of Ecclesiastes, apart from a right relationship with God, life is futile. We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and designed to worship and glorify Him as He alone is worthy of our worship. God has placed “eternity in man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to fulfill this longing for eternal life. All of our idolatrous pursuits will leave us empty, unsatisfied, and, ultimately, on the broad road that most people take, the one that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).
Some may argue, the Beyoncé Mass is not about worshipping the music star herself, but rather using her body of work to inspire people to attend service, worship God, and empower themselves.
Some may even hazard to say, church must be fun and spicing up worship service with some Beyoncé lyrics will drive up numbers as more people will come to a fun church. Who wouldn’t love a church service, with a lively choir singing everything from Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” to Beyoncé’s “Freedom?
Commenting on the Beyoncé Mass Rev. Harmon also of Grace Cathedral said “the service focused on empowering women of colour and other minority communities by bringing pop music and religious messaging together.” Reverend Jude Harmon also said that Grace Cathedral draws a large LGBTQ and People of Colour crowd. “The church hasn’t been the best about lifting up those voices,” he said. “Honestly, I think Beyoncé is a better theologian than many of the pastors and priests in our church today.”
Reverend Yolanda Norton organised and led the Beyoncé Mass with a passion and energy that can only be likened to that of Queen Bey. She sums up the spirit of the service concisely when she describes herself: “I am unapologetically a minister of the Gospel, I am unapologetically a biblical scholar, and I am unapologetically a Beyoncé fan—and I don’t feel like I need to apologize for any of that.”
I personally get challenged about my personal and leadership idols every year when I read through the middle part of the book of Isaiah.
Chapter 44, for example, is all about the futility of worshipping idols, which in those days, was mostly wood or stone carvings.
So what’s an idol today? You don’t need wood or stone to create one.
An idol is anything that takes our focus and reliance off of God.
John Calvin was spot-on when he said, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”
Discard one, and you’ll simply create another.
However, Scripture is clear there is only one God and He alone is to be served. No other god or idol can compare or take His place.
Let me end by reminding you that the first two commandments of the Ten Commandments prohibit the worship of any other god or idol: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:3–5).