For months I had attended a mid-size Baptist church. Two pianos and an organ directed by a song leader who stood at the pulpit are all that comprised the “worship team”. Each week we sang a few hymns and one chorus; no one raised their hands, no one clapped – it was all very stoic compared to the charismatic style I grew up with.
We sang heartily.
We raised our hands, keeled, wept, and clapped.
Week after week I walked out of that church longing for what was familiar.
One day while chatting with my mom on the phone, I complained, “I haven’t truly worshiped in months! I feel so dry!” She asked, “Why haven’t you been able to worship?”
“Its the church I go to”, I blamed. “The worship is so canned and somber. They sing old hymns and even the choruses are dry.”
“It’s not your church that’s the problem, it’s you.” She said with a very serious tone. “If you truly had a heart to worship, you could worship to whatever they sang, no matter how they sang it.”
Her words hit me straight in the gut, because I knew they were true. I had become a worship snob. And my bad attitude was what prevented me from worship.
I appeal to you, dear worshiper, to examine your heart today.I get it. Some churches do stuff that distracts as an effort to involve people in worship, some worship leaders alienate segments of the church with their personal philosophies, and have made the worship celebration feel more like a concert while the battle on worship wages on through the ages.
We can come up with dozens of excuses as to why we don’t worship. But at the end of the day we are responsible for our worship!
The blame game doesn’t really work with God – ask Adam. No, when it comes to corporate worship, we can lay aside distractions and center our heart and focus on God if we really want to.
That day in Indianapolis, India I learned that there are 3 things worship isn’t.
1. Worship isn’t just a style of music
Worship is is a state of the heart. The modern “god” of music – so revered by the past several generations – has reduced worship down to a style of music. But it’s so much more than that!
I have sat in churches where everyone around me was holding on long conversations while the worship band played, but as soon as the band began to sing their favorite song they jumped up and raised their hands only to resume their conversation when the song was over.
It’s not a style of music. Worship isn’t Southern Gospel, Singspiration, Scripture Songs, Hosanna, Vineyard, Bethel, or any number of the popular worship artists today.
Worship is the state of our heart. And this is the premise of my book Live Worship. It’s a lifestyle that we live 24/7. It’s what we are, not what we do!
And when our hearts truly live worship, we can visit a church that stoically sings hymns or a church with loud music and simply center our heart on Jesus!
2. Worship isn’t for my pleasure
One of the hardest ministries to lead in the church is the music ministry. I used to want to run and hide after church was over, because I knew I’d be cornered by people expressing their opinion about the choice of songs, style of music, or how the band played that day.
Being a worship leader can be so discouraging because you will please and displease everyone on any given Sunday – but mostly you hear from those whom you’ve displeased.
And while there is much I disagree with when it comes to modern worship in the church today, we must not forget that worship isn’t for our pleasure! We don’t come to church to sing our favorite songs or favorite style of music.
We can do that at home!
We come to church to honor and glorify Jesus Christ! And we can do that whether we sing “The Old Rugged Cross” or “How Great Is Our God”.
When we leave church disappointed that they didn’t sing any of our personal favorites, worship has ceased to be about Jesus.
3. Worship isn’t optional
Yes, Worship of God is a choice, but worship is not optional.
We all worship something. Whether it’s Almighty God or any number of “other gods” – which can be determined by anything that we love more than Him.
Mankind was made to worship. Whether he chooses to worship the One and Only God or to engage in demonic worship – which is the worship of anything or anyone apart from God. Because the decision to not worship God is the decision to worship Satan.
Does that seem a little extreme?
This is exactly what God was saying when He said this words to Saul,
“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
Refusal to worship God is rebellion against Him, for He commands our worship. Rebellion is the same as witchcraft – worship of Satan.
Worship is not optional.
So, before we place too much blame on the church and professional worship bands, let us examine our hearts to see if we have become selfish or snobbish about worship. Let us ask ourselves if we truly have a heart to worship.
And as we come together each week in corporate worship, may we lay aside those things that distract and discourage us from truly entering in to God’s holy presence, and fix our focus on Him, and Him alone!