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Michael W. Smith Urges Churches to Be 'Vertical'

By Charisma News Service

CBN.comPopular Christian artist Michael W. Smith says believers must fight stale familiarity and embrace the fresh spirit that is blowing through the church -- whether with a contemporary or traditional worship style.

A Christian pop musician for most of his career, Smith finally went full-fledged praise and worship with the release of Worship, the best-selling Christian album of 2001 and 2002. But public worship is nothing new to Smith.

He has written and performed some of the most popular praise and worship choruses, including "Agnus Dei," "How Majestic Is Your Name" and "Thy Word."

Smith has led worship at his home church, New River Fellowship in Franklin, Tenn., and others for most of his life, and has incorporated worship segments into his concerts since his earliest days as a performer.

"I'm always reluctant to say: 'OK, we're going to have a worship service,'" Smith told "Ministries Today" magazine for a September/October report on worship in today's church. " 'We're going to worship now.' Worship is a lifestyle; it's not just music. It's how you treat God at the grocery store, around your lawyer, your doctor."

Smith, who has 28 No. 1 singles since 1983, racking up 40 Dove Awards, two Grammys and selling more than 10 million albums, said genuine worship music "takes you to the throne room of God." "

Forget the charts -- what's selling, what's being played on the radio," he said. "When music helps you enter into the presence of God, you know it. It's you and God."

Smith adds that he supports contemporary and traditional worship styles. "I've heard some people argue that you can 'let go' more with contemporary music," he said. "I don't think that's a valid argument. You can let go just as well with traditional music. If there's a problem with the older stuff, it could be just that we're too used to it."

When it comes to the worship part of church services, Smith believes a church's senior pastor sometimes has too much authority.

"I hate to put it this way, but the worship guy has to have as much clout as the lead pastor does," he said. "That's how important music is on Sunday. That's my opinion; I could be wrong ... But Sunday morning needs to be up-vertical prayer songs and pouring our hearts out to God."

Smith is also concerned with "some churches, especially large ones, that are very closed to change."

"They've been doing things the same way forever," he said. "Why consider anything new? But they're missing a great movement of God. I really believe all this new interest in worship -- the people getting interested and the new music that's coming out -- it's all a great new thing God's doing.

"I'm not saying you should forget the things God has taught you, but God is doing something new right now, and it's wonderful," Smith added. "Can you hear it? It's in the music."

Copyright (c) 2003 Charisma News Service. Used by permission. For news, features, and inspirational stories from a Christian perspective, log on to Charisma & Christian Life.


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