Author: Jeremy Riddle is a worship pastor and songwriter in Anaheim, California. Through his teaching, he is seeking to return a correct focus to evangelical worship. Riddle was formerly a member of the Bethel Music collective. He runs a podcast about worship with Matt Redman.
The Reset (2020) is Jeremy Riddle’s manifesto calling for purity of worship in the church, especially in the evangelical and Charismatic movements. The Reset begins with a call for repentance:
The sound is huge. The personalities are large. The stages are bright. The crowds are enthused.The Reset, pp. 1–2
But so often, all I can hear is noise. All I can feel is grief.
Riddle is raw, but he has not issued this book without profound thought on the subject. He shows keen discernment in pointing out that much of our worship is driven by entertainment, emotions, and personalities.
Many times, I have sensed a strange, inappropriate relationship beginning to form between worship leaders and the people they’re leading. I’ve observed when people become increasingly pulled into the tractor beam of someone’s personal charisma, and when that leader begins to feed on that (I believe mostly unknowingly), they begin to lead people into intimacy with “themselves” instead of intimacy with Him. The more the celebrity worship leader model grows, the more common this becomes.The Reset, p. 30
He seeks to draw us back to the God we worship. We must get to know who it is that we worship by going back to the Bible. We must not confuse a God-sent revival with mere enthusiasm.
Again, Riddle sees church stage productions as following the lead of the secular entertainment industry. In my own opinion, the stage itself may be one of the greatest obstacles we have set in the place of worship. Historically, it is a Frankenstein’s monster cobbled from the Old Testament altar—which was unknown to the first-century church—and the stage, used in the secular rock concert. The use of cameras during prayer meetings and altar calls shows that our sense of reverence hangs by a very fine thread.
Heaven is going to a dazzling, colorful, bewildering, and mesmerizing place. But there is one massive difference between heaven and earth right now, and that’s who’s on the stage.The Reset, p. 100
Riddle writes all this not as a bitter outsider, but as someone who is still a well-known worship leader in the American evangelical church. The book is published by Riddle’s church, which adds to its unpretentious flavor. Perhaps Riddle wanted to practice what he preaches by remaining accountable to a church, rather than a more financially-motivated institution such as a traditional publisher. I get a sense that Charismatic publishers like Destiny Image might not appreciate his message!
On that point, later in the book, Riddle steps “out of his lane” (p. 97) to address further practical issues within evangelical worship, including: the “Christian” music industry, worship time as a “performance”, stage production, worship leaders as “artists”, ticketed worship events, cameras during worship, and the role of social media. He sees “Christian” music as entirely unaccountable; we need spiritually-accountable content-creators if we want music that reflects Jesus in a broken world. I greatly appreciated these discussions, written as they were by someone who has seen “behind the curtain” of “Christian” record labels. Throughout the book, Riddle does not shy away from naming specific practices in modern worship that are ungodly and humanistic. In that sense, this book is truly prophetic.
Finally, Riddle sees worship as “the forerunner” within the church (p. 80). If our worship tells us the direction our Christian culture is drifting, what is it telling us? And is it something we are unwilling to hear?
In my own experience, ungodly musicians with no true discipleship are so often tolerated to keep the “ship afloat”; if Riddle is worth listening to, then worship is itself a form of discipleship, and we need to exercise great care in who we put behind the helm.