This is not going to be a very popular post. It’s going to step on some toes, but it’s something that needs to be said. Lately I’ve encountered many Christians who have said things like …
“We changed churches because our new church had kid’s worship.”
“I’m looking for a church with a rock band.”
“I need a church that has after school events for the kids.”
“I love my church. They have a Starbucks right as you walk in.”
To be clear, I’m not saying that rock music is bad, or that churches should not seek to engage children. Obviously, I love rock music (heck, I sing on a heavy metal album), and obviously I love kids, and I love teaching them about Jesus. I also love coffee.
However, the purpose of church is communion with God; building your relationship with Him, listening to Him, talking to Him, considering His desires, and focusing on Him.
Imagine with me that you’re planning a birthday party for a dear friend. Your friend loves Jane Austen movies, tea parties, and French food. You however find all that stuff rather boring. You decide to plan a party that will be more fun for you. You book a laser tag and arcade venue and order pizza. Oh, and instead of giving her the latest Jane Austen movie she doesn’t already own, you get her the collectors edition of Space Balls.
How do you think your friend will feel at her party?
Does she feel like her best friend doesn’t actually know her at all?
Ladies, imagine it’s your wedding anniversary. Instead of the roses and candlelit dinner you were hoping for, your hubby shows up with a handful of beef jerky and tickets to some new action movie you’ve never heard of.
Guys, imagine your wife has planned a big surprise weekend celebrating your promotion at work. Maybe you suspect tickets to a football game or your favorite band’s concert. Instead, she buys you a large basket of colorful string and teaches you how to make granny squares.
See where I’m going with this?
Church – the worship of God – is God’s special day. It’s the time we allot once a week to focus on Him, listen to His Word, pray to Him, and glorify Him in a manner that makes Him feel understood and valued.
If we really love God, we’ll want to make Him happy. Worship, therefor, isn’t about us. It’s not about our hyper spiritual experience, our entertainment, or our warm fuzzy feelings.
It’s about God.
And yes, true worship of God will cycle back to us and spiritually feed and fulfill us. That’s good. That’s Biblical. But true worship can only be accomplished if God is the central focus and an active participant.
Now, I’m not saying worship needs to be stuffy and boring. No. However, if we only worship God in a way that makes us happy, makes us comfortable, and keeps us entertained, we’re overlooking God. The Lord becomes a footnote at his own party.
God is not some entity floating arbitrarily around in the ethers with a vague idea about His own preferences and an altruistic need for everyone to feel happy whether or not consideration is given to His feelings. He’s a being – a very ancient, all-powerful, and all-knowing being – and like you he has distinct desires and developed opinions.
This should give us pause.
This should make us think.
This should make us wonder, “How does God want to be worshiped?”
If God was planning a party for Himself, what activities would happen? Who would he invite? What types of songs would be sung, and who would sing them?
Would God want the adults in one room and the kids in another? Should everyone sing or only those who are talented vocalists? Should our songs focus on how we feel about God, or about how God feels about us, or both? Should it be a giant party with a rock band, laser lights, and a bounce house? Or does God want us to sit down, calm our hearts, quiet our minds, and listen thoughtfully to His Word?
At this point, if you haven’t already stopped reading, you may be feeling judged. Please don’t. What I want you to do, sisters and brothers, is think hard about this one. Search the Word. What has God told us, in The Bible, about how He wants to be worshiped? Has He told us anything? Has He told us only a few things? Has He told us everything we need to know?
And don’t just look at one verse or a handful of Psalms. God expresses His will organically throughout the entire Scripture.
How did King David worship? How did Moses and Elijah worship? How did Adam & Eve worship? How did Paul worship? How does the New Testament describe worship services lead by Peter, Timothy, or John?
Church isn’t about you. It’s not about me. We shouldn’t be asking, “Did Jennifer feel extra spiritual this Sunday? Did Jennifer sing her favorite songs? Did Jennifer discover Daniel’s new diet plan? Did Jennifer feel super righteous and generous when she tithed? Did Jennifer feel super humble and holy when she went up for the altar call and became a Christian for the tenth time?”
No. Because it’s not about me and it’s not about you.
When evaluating the worship service at your church, ask, “Did God feel appreciated? Did God feel understood? Did God feel listened to and heard? Did God feel like I invested my time, attention, thought, and heart into His interests today? What did God say, how did I respond, and how does God feel about that?”
Does Jesus feel like I’m being His friend?
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Peter 2:4-5