As of late, I have been watching a documentary series on the Reformation. The series began with John Wycliffe and then moved on to John Huss. Of course, I am an inspired by the boldness and tenacity of these men to preach the truth in the face of ridicule, exile, and even death. As I watched, however, another subject kept coming to mind, worship. As I listened, one of the arguments by the roman catholic church against translating the Bible into English(the common tongue) was that it was unworthy of God. It would not inspire the awe and reverence The Word deserved. In fact, the Catholics were known for attempting to inspire reverence to God by many things. Another one of their attempts at this was building ornate churches and cathedrals to create an atmosphere of awe. When one walks into one of these old cathedrals it is hard not to feel small. Many of these buildings do inspire a sense of awe and wonder.
However, the awesomeness of God is not contained in or represented by buildings. He is not better represented by certain dialects or languages. He has chosen to represent Himself by the Word and His Son, Christ Jesus. The Catholics at this time were trying to create or manufacture an experience. One that would leave the people feeling fearful of the judgement of God and the power of the Roman Catholic church. I fear that we in the modern evangelical church are doing the same thing. I see the word “experience” is found attached to the word worship all too often.
Worship has become a “thing” a noun. We work hard at creating the right “atmosphere” and choosing the right song set at the right time, to maximize the emotional effectiveness of the sermon. We categorize worship into styles and genres. How is what we are doing anything different then what has already been done in the past? I am not against old or modern music. However both “styles” are often used an attempt to either usher in what is seen as the glory days of the past “when God moved” or manufacture a new experience. In any instance, If what, we do gives people a feeling of awe and wonder instead of them being blown away by the Gospel message and majesty of God, we have given them an experience all right, but let’s not dare attach the word “worship” to it. Worship always results in movement. There is no worship without obedience. We need to stop proclaiming “the spirit moved mightily in worship today” based on a feeling that was intended from the beginning to be created by the atmosphere and song selection. The true proof of the movement of the Holy Spirit in our worship is repentance followed by obedience to the Word. I think the pressure to create an experience is a symptom of a larger problem. Our churches are filled with people who want Jesus’s love and forgiveness without the righteous living and radical obedience that comes with it and pastors are all too eager to create a name for themselves by growing attendance instead of disciples. Read what the Lord said to the prophet Amos.
Amos 5:21-24 (CSBBible)
I hate, I despise your feasts!
I can’t stand the stench
of your solemn assemblies.
Even if you offer me
your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
I will have no regard
for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle.
Take away from me the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice flow like water,
and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.
He calls our songs “noise” and our events a “stench” when our “worship” is not rooted in obedience. Folks, let’s be honest our church culture is filled with worldliness and hypocrisy. Our entertainment is filled with nudity, sex and perverse violence. Even our leaders in the church are proclaiming these things as good and recommend these things to others. Our hearts are focused on careers and our possessions. According to studies, most Christians do not engage in the great commision. Meanwhile, our poor and needy Christians brothers and sisters around the world go without food, housing, and in many cases even clean water. Our missionaries are underfunded and struggle, at times, to feed their own families. I challenge you to read the book of Amos and then ask yourself am I truly worshipping?
Ultimately our focus cannot be on just doing the right things but on our relationship with Christ. However, a thriving relationship with Christ will result in doing the right things because Christ died to redeem us and he will not leave us in the state that he found us. He will shape and mould us into His image for His own glory. So I ask, “are you truly worshipping or are you relying on an experience, Sunday to Sunday in an attempt at feeling closer to God?
Comments, questions, or respectful disagreements are always welcome!
Rest in Him,