I love attending different churches and experiencing the various liturgies and forms of congregational worship. I attend where I attend not because it is a particular denomination (although it is denominational), but because the congregation actively participates in the liturgy. That is not the case in many other churches I’ve visited where the congregation is more of an observer than participant. I am not judging or criticizing. It’s just an observation, but it’s not for me.
A recent visit to such a church is what prompted this post. As soon as I walked in I was immediately impressed with the elaborate setting and prominent placement of the “stage”. Great lights, state of the art sound system, not to mention the well-stocked merchandise and media center I had to walk through before entering the auditorium. Jesus at the temple came to mind almost immediately. OK, cutting to the chase, the music was fabulous, the sound was awesome and ranked up there with some of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. I left feeling very entertained. Most of the comments I heard were about how great the music was, the guitar player’s chops, the choreography and videos were amazing and how disappointing it was that the praise team didn’t come out for an encore. Huh?
I love music. I love music during worship. Heck, I’m a geetar-totin’ worship leader myself. But what I had just experienced was a concert, not a worship service. Call it what you want, but from the forced walk through the merchandise, the coffee bar, the multi-media ads, etc. the focus was clearly not on God. Having said that, I’ve been to churches with similar set ups where the focus was indeed God, but it is not the norm.
I had a discussion with a friend of mine who is also a geetar-totin’ worship leader and he shares my sentiments. He also passed along this article. Not sure of the source, so if you know, please let me know so I can give proper credit.
Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to write about a condition that I believe is endemic in our Western churches.
There is an erroneous idea today that the main reason we attend worship is to “get something out of the service”, rather than going there to give our worship to God. This is a selfish motive on our part. This is the reason people cannot be satisfied with the worship service when their emphasis is not on the proper object of worship, God. People want to “do their own thing” in the worship of the church. What the Bible has to say about worship for many people is of little consequence as long as they are happy and feel good. We must be concerned with what God says on how He is to be worshipped instead of what we might want to offer Him.
The United States has produced the most entertainment-oriented people the world has ever known. We have more forms of amusement than has ever been know to man, but we still want more. In our age everything is designed to appeal to our emotions and to entertain us. We seem to have forgotten our worship service is to bring glory and honor to God, and not to entertain ourselves. When we have choirs to sing to us and concerts to entertain us, we are not worshipping God; but we have become the spectators who are being entertained. Worship is not a spectator event. We dare not become spectators, because in worship it is God who is the spectator. People have the roles reversed. People expect divine will to conform to what seems right in their own eyes. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes.” The emphasis is how can the worship service be made more entertaining to people to please themselves and not God.
Worship to God is holy and sacred. To pervert and corrupt it with entertainment and what we can “get out of the service” in trying to please and gratify ourselves is nothing short of blasphemy! The sacredness of true worship must not be sacrificed on altars of entertainment-oriented quartets, choirs, and other entertainment groups. We are as Hebrews 13:15 says to “Offer the sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” In worship we must be the participants, not the observers. We want to please and entertain ourselves. In Galatians 1:10 the question is asked, “Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Worship is God-centered not man-centered. When our worship is to please God instead of ourselves, then and only then will our worship be much more meaningful and spiritually uplifting to us and acceptable to God.
When people seek an “emotional high” from worship and don’t get it, they are disappointed and start blaming the song service, the preacher, etc. The world wants their worship service to be “more entertaining”, thus they are failing to worship God in spirit and in truth. Where in the Bible can we go to show that our worship is designed to please the worshipper. The desire to have an experience or an encounter along the lines of mysticism also gives little regard to what God says in the Bible.
Our worship to God requires commitment on our part. People had rather worship Christ as a babe in a manger than Christ as their crucified savior. Their worshipping Christ as a babe in a manger requires no commitment on their part. They feel they can put Him in a box and live the rest of the year as they please. But worshipping Christ as our crucified savior requires commitment, a complete change of our life, and a willingness to do all that He says. Jesus says in Matthew 10:37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” God and Christ must be first in our lives, and this requires that we be committed to them.