Monday, October 7, 2013

Worship Him Well

In January my family embarked upon a search for a new church home. We were leaving the comfort of our small-ish, country-ish, traditional-ish church, and we knew that the churches we planned to visit would be different from what we had grown accustomed to. Even knowing that, I wasn't quite prepared for what we encountered.

One church we visited had just moved into a new multipurpose worship center configured much like a theater - dark with a tall stage running across the front. A balcony houses more seating and a coffee bar. The choir stands on risers that remind me of elementary school pageants and school portraits. The stage is set with a full drum set encased in glass and men playing guitars, complete with amplifiers and headphones. Song lyrics stretch out across two large screens on either side of the stage.

Another church had better lighting and a smaller stage. There were no headphones, jeans, or coffee bar in sight. The choir chairs remained empty most Sundays. The tambourine and wooden shaker were sometimes drowned out by guitar solos worthy of a 1970s rock concert.

In all fairness, the music at both churches was theologically sound. Yet even with all the contemporary accoutrements, I left each service asking myself if I had worshiped the Lord well. Had I gazed upon His beauty in the way David meant when he penned Psalm 27?

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.
~Psalm 27:4 (ESV)

I knew the answer. I had been too distracted by the entertainment to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.  I wondered if I was the only one.

Many Christians think of worship as simply the music portion of the service. While that is not the case, music does have the unique task of preparing our hearts to receive the Word. Worship music that is theologically incorrect or played in a way that draws attention to man rather than God is a detriment to the spirit of our worship; such music encourages us to think less of God and more of ourselves.

The Christian's instincts of trust and worship are stimulated very powerfully by knowledge of the greatness of God. But this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack: and that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and our worship so flabby. We are modern people, and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule small thoughts of God. When the person in the church, let alone the person in the street, uses the word God, the thought is rarely of divine majesty. Today vast stress is laid on the thought that God is personal, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of the same sort as we are - weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. But this is not the God of the Bible! He is eternal, infinite, and almighty. He has us in his hands; we never have him in ours. In all its constant stress on the reality of God's personal concern for his people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience and yearning compassion that he shows toward them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of his majesty and his unlimited dominion over all his creatures.
~J.I. Packer, Knowing God, (p. 83)

The casual, coffee house mentality that has invaded the church has rendered the god worshiped there hardly recognizable as the God of the Bible. As we continue our series on worship throughout this month, I pray that we will learn to worship the One, True, Holy God - and worship Him well.


  1. Yes, my husband and I have has a similar experence recently. It was sad what this "modern" church has done to "worship". We could not feel the Holy Spirit. We just prayed during their "music" that even though we didn't feel that God was in this He would be present in our hearts and help us to worship even though we were not being lead to do so. I don't understand the dark theatre atmosphere. God is not dark He is LIGHT! I don't go to socialize at the coffee bar but to get closer to my Savior!

    Great post Melissa!

  2. I just came across Part 2 of this series on worship and came back to find Part 1. Thank you for these thoughts. Our youngest daughter left home this fall, headed off to college. As the daughter of a pastor, she's never had to 'look for' a church; she's always had one. Now, she is going through this somewhat agonizing process. Much to her dismay, she's not finding what she knows she needs. Too much entertainment, too much casual, too much worldliness. She longs for strong, confident, clear worship through music, fellowship, and especially through the preaching of the Word. It grieves my heart, as a father, to watch her grow increasingly frustrated that after two months away from home, she has searched out 5-6 churches without finding one that worships a BIG God. It causes my pastor's heart some measure of anger, both sinfully prideful and, I trust, some measure of righteous indignation, that 'churches out there' just keep missing the point. May the spirit of these posts somehow get out there and to people in these congregations. May God bring us back to Himself.