Charismatic Style Worship: Getting High on Music

Republished June 20, 2003 (first published March 2, 2003)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061

On a research visit to the large charismatic City Harvest Church in Singapore on February 8, I was reminded of the power of rock music. On Saturdays, City Harvest has two services, one at 4:30 p.m. and one at 7:30. I attended the 7:30 session. The music was pull-out-the-stops rock & roll and was the loudest I have ever heard in a charismatic church or conference, even though I have attended many of them. The music featured TWO drummers, electric guitars, a keyboard, and a powerful brass section. Several worship leaders, both male and female, swayed and pranced at the front of the stage.

The several-thousand-seat auditorium was almost full and the people were very, very exuberant. As best as I could tell from my vantage point, almost every person joined in enthusiastically during the worship time, singing, clapping, jumping, swaying to the potent music.

When I walked out of the auditorium and got away from the sound of the music, I actually felt a little lightheaded from not being accustomed to such loud music. It has been more than three decades since I last heard music that loud in an enclosed environment, and that was at a rock concert before I was saved. It was such a relief to get away from the relentless pounding.

I am convinced that if you took away the rock music, churches like this would lose their large crowds almost instantly. Rock music is a drug in itself.


Timothy Leary, the ’60s LSD guru, who was an expert both in drugs and in rock music, testified: „Don’t listen to the words, it’s the music that has its own message. … I’ve been STONED ON THE MUSIC many times.“

Leary was right, of course, about the hypnotic, addictive, sensual power of rock and roll. And notice that he IS NOT TALKING ABOUT THE WORDS, but of the music itself, of the rhythm, the backbeat, the heavy relentless syncopation.

Musician Andrew Salter observes, „Rock music is an IDEAL VEHICLE FOR INDIVIDUAL OR MASS HYPNOSIS“ (Salter, cited from Pop Goes the Gospel, p. 20). Likewise, John Fuller, in his powerful book Are the Kids All Right, warned: „Rock music in particular has been demonstrated to be both powerful and addictive, as well as CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A SUBTLE FORM OF HYPNOSIS in which the subject, though not completely under trance, is still in a highly suggestive state“ (Fuller, Are the Kids All Right? 1981).

David Winter, in his book New Singer, New Song, observes: „An incessant beat does erode a sense of responsibility IN MUCH THE SAME WAY AS ALCOHOL DOES. … You feel IN THE GRIP OF A RELENTLESS STREAM OF SOUND to which something very basic and primitive in the human nature responds.“

Indeed, rock music is powerful and addictive and is capable of producing forms of hypnosis, and who is to say that this is not precisely what is happening in the charismatic and evangelical rock and roll praise sessions?

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