Recently, I did a podcast with a man who was rather critical of the modern church service. He said our modern worship services are like a rock concert followed by a TED Talk.
I was intrigued by this. I have always thought that worship is more than music, more than preaching, and more than liturgy. It’s hard to find a balance between entertaining an audience and leading them in a spirit of worship. So, I am not too critical of most worship teams and services. Yet, it’s a challenge to help people worship. Most people, including myself, worship so little during the week that services on the weekend really become the brunt of our worship times with the Lord.
Now, I realize that’s a broad brush, but most statistics say that Americans in general don’t even read the Bible much during the week. Here are stats that I thought are telling: Around a quarter (27%) say they read the Bible a few times a week. Fewer say they only read the Bible once a week (12%), a few times a month (11%), or once a month (5%). Close to 1 in 8 (12%) admit they rarely or never read the Bible.
So, if worship begins by honoring God’s word to give us a foundation for worship, we have a slow start. Worship must be in spirit and truth. Jesus said:
John 4:24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
Well, let’s start there.
Spirit. This is who we are at the core of our being. It is the inner man of the heart, mind, body, and soul. It is all of these elements combined telling God He is worth more than anything else in life. It is from the spirit that love grows and flourishes. In worshipping God, we must put Him above all things; worship allows us to acknowledge that and keeps it as a priority in our lives.
This is why this person said that most modern church services are rock concerts followed by a TED Talk. The motivation is more an emotive response than it is about dedication and renewal of our love for God. Now, that can be debatable, I’m sure, but it’s a challenge to us that our time together as a church needs to push beyond what is considered worship today to an experience that places God first.
Truth. Truth is about God’s Word, it is the culmination of the Holy Spirit leading, and the Word of God instructing. There is only one truth, and God is it.
People say they want justice and truth today, but the only justice God is interested in is the justice of the heart and the only truth He is concerned about is the obedience we apply to His Word.
In our culture, justice is about race, people groups, or movements, however, justice to God is in His Son. The justice God wants from us is our acknowledgment of Jesus as Savior and Lord. Without this justice, there is no justice from God. His truth exposes what God expects from justice and it begins in our hearts with Him.
So, when our worship is only about God’s benefits to us, which is often the theme of most worship songs, are we challenged to surrender to God? Worship means we tell God something, and then we listen for God to tell us something. We tell God we love Him. He tells us He loves us and imparts truth to us.
This may be a simple way of thinking of worship, but it is the essence of getting to know Him in our worship experience. Often, we leave a church worship setting thinking about how the sermon impacted us, yet, I wonder why we don’t leave church thinking, “How did my worship impact God?” “Was God pleased with my adoration of Him, and am I now more prepared to serve Him with what I heard?”
I realize each week will be different and depending on how I enter worship will affect my attention span, willingness to give myself to Him, and my ability to hear what He is saying to me. He knows our needs, our issues, and our grief, long before we come before Him. Yet the admonition by the Psalmist is to come before Him with singing:
Psalm 95 1Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
Our hearts need to express to God our thanksgiving, our praise, and our honor to Him. I think that is why when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He started with: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallow be your name." Another modern version says: “Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honored “
Worship is honoring God, loving God, and listening to God. All are important in having a meaningful worship service.
I realize it’s a bit harsh to call our worship services ‘a rock concert followed by a TED Talk’ but I think it is a good challenge for every pastor and worship leader to consider worship in the vein of discovering what is honoring to Him. God is honored when His people keep Him first in their lives and express that priority in telling Him they love and obey Him.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler