7 Signs Your Church May Be Covered in Wallpaper Worship

by Danny Byram, author of Wallpaper Worship 

Wallpaper music—music that is piped into a dentist’s office or a supermarket—is pleasant to the ear but does little for the spirit. Wallpaper worship has taken our churches by storm. On any given Sunday, walk into an evangelical church and watch the congregants observing as opposed to participating. As sincere as the musicians seem and as great as the music sounds, many people in congregations are not connecting to the songs. In fact, the music is so slick and professional that it is designed to be listened to; participation is optional, except for the brave few who might lift their voice. And, house mixes are so loud and overproduced that congregants will not be heard anyway. So why try? It doesn’t seem to matter to the musicians.

Wallpaper worship is like a code language, telling us in the seats, “It isn’t important to us that you participate. We’ll do this for you.” In his classic book Worship Is A Verb, Robert Webber says that worship is not “something done to us or for us, but by us.”

From what I have witnessed as I have traveled the world visiting churches, Christian conference centers, and military chapel services, churchgoers are experiencing wallpaper worship in congregations as large as ten thousand and as small as one hundred.

Many across the landscape of present-day church leadership say that this kind of non-participatory experience is what the current culture demands. As well-meaning as that explanation is, it ignores the bigger picture. The issue is rooted in a fundamental point that what we have been calling worship may not be worship at all. The church has redefined worship to fit a cultural model instead of a biblical one, much to the ignorance of many newly churched believers and to the dismay of mature worshippers who have been around long enough to know the difference.