I am going to vent a little. But you already knew that I was a bit of a crank anyway! I am getting increasingly weary of hearing the term “worship” applied to the portion of a church service devoted to praising God in music and song. I hear people describe that portion of a service as worship, as in “Man, the worship was awesome today.” What exactly does that mean? That the music and words resonated with them as they participated? That it caused them to praise our Lord? This can be a good thing, but I fear that often it simply reflects a person’s enjoyment and approval of the music, the words and the skill of the music ministry folks.
I have known quite a few people over the years who seek out churches based on the style of the music. What I fear that this says about us when we do that is that we are into self worship. We seek out what moves us instead of possibly what actually feeds us. If you like the old hymns and that is what “does it for you,” it can be the same thing. The genre doesn’t matter so much as the attitude of the worshipper. Who is this thing we call worship supposed to be all about? If it is about me and my preferences, then it is self worship. If it is about knowing and seeking God, it is about Him.
In our world people tend to shop for churches like they do for other things, be it food, clothes, entertainment, cars, etc. It is about my choices, my comfort, my desires. Trying to find what makes me happy. That road eventually leads to bad places, probably sooner than later. It can produce spiritual shallowness, and weakness, that is certain. American churches are “discipling” people to be spiritual consumers.
But, beloved, the church is not a marketplace, nor is it all about “me.” It is a community of people linked together by a shared faith in and commitment to Christ and one another. We don’t “do” church, we are the church. Here are some things to remember as we contemplate the church:
1. Christ is our Head and Master. If He is not at the center of what we do and who we are, ! something is wrong.
2. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Not the building.
3. The church must be Word-based. In 1 Tim 4:13 Paul, speaking by the Spirit, exhorted Timothy, a young pastor, to focus on three things: the public reading of Scripture, preaching and teaching. The Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit should be the focal point of our gatherings. When we spend 35 minutes in musical pursuits and 15 in the Word, things are out of kilter. Drama and singing are fine, but nothing can be allowed to usurp the rightful place of the Word in our worship.
4. Listening attentively and asking God to reveal His truth to us is worship too. Read, listen, take notes if it helps. Ask God to show you what the Word is leading you to do or change as you read and listen.
5. When you sing, what are the lyrics about? Is it Him or is it about me and how I feel? Music certainly can be worship if the focus is on Him and what He has done. Many old hymns and contemporary songs and choruses magnify Him and if we are actively seeking and praising Him as we sing it is worship and can be a powerful thing in our lives. But if it is merely fun to sing a catchy tune - not so much.
6. I dislike the term “worship team” to describe musical ministry. Praise Team or Music Ministry is better I think. No one can lead worship. We can point people to Him and try to facilitate worship, but that is a personal issue for each participant.
7. If we are seeking Him as a life priority, a daily walk, our gathering for worship will most likely be sweet to us, profound and even moving. If we live like atheists all week and put our Christian “hat” on Sunday morning, it will most likely be stale, even stilted unless there is some kind of worship “experience” to move or jolt us. And even then, being merely emotionally moved but not spiritually challenged easily ends up becoming self deception.