Every Sunday churches around the world sing, pray, preach, and fellowship together. Many of these churches do these same things in drastically different ways.
- Some sing hymns. Some sing choruses.
- Some have full bands and orchestras. Others have organs and choirs… or even sing a cappella.
- Some dim the lights. Others don’t.
- Some sit in chairs. Others sit in pews.
What is the difference and why has such importance been placed on our tastes?
I am not suggesting that having variety in our worship styles and environments is a bad thing! I am actually a huge proponent of it… but we have to be careful when having so many choices to make in regards to where we worship, who we worship with, and how we do it that we don’t allow it to cloud out who we are worshipping and why. When faced with so many choices we have to be intentional in remaining centered on what worship is… we have to fight the consumer mentality that plagues the masses of our culture.
We must change our worship culture. We have to fight the “what can I get from this” mentality. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… The primary focus of worship isn’t to serve us!
Nowhere in Scripture is worship described as something primarily focused on OUR enjoyment? So… how do we fight to change our worship culture into one that glorifies Christ? Let’s think together.
- Stop evaluating corporate worship off our opinions.
“Worship wasn’t very good today.”
What does that statement really boil down to… and whose fault is it
Worshippers and worship leaders alike have to fight this mentality. Do we judge our worship based off our opinions on how “well” the songs were executed, how “well” the congregation received it, or how “outwardly” people displayed their worship?
Are we judging then based off our preferences and emotions, or the truth spoken of and the praise poured out to God?
Let me speak to the worship leaders for a second… Do we pick particular songs because our band plays them good or they transition well into each other to create a seamless experience? Obviously neither of these things should be entirely ignored, because as faithful leaders we should strive for excellence… even in our planning! But, they shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. We shouldn’t target or aim or services around songs that we know “go over well.” Instead we should be designing services that reveal things about God and allow our congregations to pour out raise according to those revelations.
Sometimes it is a real battle to use our music to both glorify God and serve the body while fighting against using it to glorify ourselves and serve our needs and preferences. Sometimes as congregations we have to move past the outward “sound” of our worship and evaluate the heart and purpose behind it.
- Put the “Us” before the “I.”
Do we neglect to sing along in worship or dislike songs just because they aren’t our “cup of tea?” I mean… I totally get the worship was debate going on. New versus old… contemporary versus traditional. But in the end don’t all of our “worship” songs seek to fulfill the same purpose?
Move past yourself and allow God to create in you a love of serving others…even when it means in worship style!
My pastor once used an illustration where he said that a pastor of a church in the middle of a worship war asked the adults in his congregation one Sunday morning who was willing to die for their kids. Every single hand went up. Then he followed up the question with the question of who was willing to change their traditions and worship styles/ preferences to better reach and serve their kids.
That thought is sobering.
What are we doing? Who are we truly serving when our worship is self-centered? Our purpose is ought to be simple: to worship in spirit and truth, glorify the Father, and encourage the body. That takes sacrifice and a shift in priorities away from satisfying our own interests and preferences.
God-focused. God-centered. Theocentric.
Robert G. Rayburn once said,
It is fundamental that we recognize that all true Christian worship must be theocentric, the primary motion and focus of worship are Godward.
What does having a theocentric focus in a worship service mean for us? Its simple… our services should not be about the lost, the saints, or any experience. Instead it should be solely focused upon God. Now obviously in a service that is focused on God there will be much to glean from for the lost, the saints, and it is likely to be full of encounters and experiences… but we aren’t focusing on or targeting those things!
As worshippers our concern should be both His praise and His presence. We are drawing near to Him not only to glorify Him but also enjoy Him. True worshippers have the desire displayed in Psalm 27:4-5,
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
Church worship isn’t something done for the congregation… it is something done by the congregation!
Hebrews 13:15 says,
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
We should seek to “draw near” to God in worship… not seek to satisfy ourselves.
James 4:8–10 says,
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Hebrews 10:19–23 says,
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
In Scripture we aren’t called to make ourselves comfortable or to be “seeker sensitive.” Instead we see passages like Psalm 29:2,
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
And Psalm 100:1-2,
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
In Matthew 4:10 Jesus said,
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”
Who does your worship serve? Yourself or God?