I would love your feedback on if the intended message comes across cleanly in this 2 minute video.
I Wanna Be As Smart As a Rock
You have likely heard the expression, “Dumb as a rock”. I feel extra special because my coach in high school told me I was dumber than a box of rocks. It took many years, but I now know what that expression truly means. It can be found in the Bible… At least, this is how I’m defining it now.
I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
This was Jesus’ response to the pharisees who were telling him to quiet down His disciples. They were praising Jesus. ‘Stop them from praising Jesus!’ ‘no, if they don’t do it, the rocks will’. In other words… Jesus WILL be praised. The question remains as to who will be doing the praising?
I have a range of emotions when I visit this passage. First, I’m excited. I think of other scriptures that talk about mountains bowing down before the Lord and paths straightening, and trees singing. Wouldn’t these be sites to behold! (psalm 98, Nahum 1:5, Micah 1:4, Isaiah 55:12, 1 Chronicles 16:33, Psalm 96:12, Matthew 3:9, Psalm 148:7, etc).
I don’t believe God created those things to be animated. But the fact remains that God did create those things and I believe that He can have them do whatever pleases Him. In short, it’s not beyond His ability to have the forest dancing if He chooses to.
So when I think in terms of God’s power and abilities, and all of His creation praising Him in unison… I get excited. But then I get very sad. Because if the rocks are singing praises, then it means someone else chose not to. Back to my high school coach… if he put in my backup, that meant I was sitting on the bench.
I would rather play. If I was on the sidelines, it means I messed up. I didn’t do my job. Not only was I not in the game, I was sulking in my poor performance and worrying over who all I let down. I think of Jesus on the cross and and how He knows who loves Him and thanks Him and praises Him for all that He did for us. And to think of someone choosing not to partake in such an event… It’s completely heartbreaking.
So when I think of the rocks clearing their throats and warming up their voices, I can’t help but wonder who would choose not to sing? Who would take themselves out of the game and sit on the bench on purpose? Was the cross not splintery enough? Was the beating not convincing? Were the miracles unimpressive? Was it too much love He showed? The healing, the forgiving, the resurrections… were these not our cup of tea?
Can you imagine a scenario where someone in this world saved your life? A real human made of flesh and blood performed a heroic action, and because of them you now live where you would have otherwise certainly died. Would you just walk away? Would you withhold a thank you or a hand shake? Upon seeing this person in your life, would you take a different path to avoid them?
I claim you would run to them and embrace them. They would have to ask you to stop hugging them. Some of us are so grateful, they may seek a restraining order 😉
Jesus will be praised. Either we will thank Him directly, or a box of rocks will take our place. Surely we are smarter than that? How embarrassing. Right there on the bench sits our backup. Our replacement. If we can’t muster up enough faith and courage to put God in His rightful place, God has crafted a stand in that will get the job done.
And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
How about right now? Can we remember what Jesus did for us in this moment? Can we say thank you? Can we open that mouth of ours and let nature take a break? Will you kneel before the throne? Or, will the gravel be taking your place?
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.John 4:23
I know many will question whether the rocks will actually, physically, literally sing. First, I would say, if God tells them to, they will. I’m not willing to put God in His place by predicting how that will play out either way. But I will offer that it doesn’t change the message. Whether the rocks are simply witnessing a failed generation neglecting the Savior, or whether they will get an encore, the core of the message remains in tact. We were built to praise. We were given vocal chords and lips and tongues and rhythm and hearts and brains and freedom and salvation… If we don’t put all of those together and praise God, a great travesty has occurred.
Consistently in scripture nature points to God. The heavens, the skies, the seas, the creatures in the deeps, the stars… are we at least doing what the rocks are doing? I want to be constantly pointing to Him. Praising Him. I want to at least be as smart as a rock.
Photo by Oliver Paaske on Unsplash
Do We Worship in HD?
I just returned from a trip to New York where I was privileged to attend a Hillsong conference. Upon return, the questions are very similar:
“Wasn’t the worship just amazing?”
“That was a completely different experience, wasn’t it?”
“It’s hard to go back to ‘normal’ church after that, isn’t it?”
They aren’t necessarily bad questions. I understand the intent. I would ask the same. But I think it tends to mask an inherent misunderstanding of how worship works.
First of all, I should mention the obvious, and the reason for the questions. It was amazing. It was in the Brooklyn Barclays Center. So several thousand voices were lifted in unison to our God. How could that not be awesome? With such an arena comes logistical niceties. The sound was impressive.
Each time the drums kicked I could feel it in my chest. With a steady beat, it felt like I had an involuntary pacemaker keeping me going. I wondered if, when the next song ended, would my heart continue on its own, or would it just give up and let the sound system do the work for it?
Seeing people throw off man-made divisions in both humanity and in the scriptures and rally behind the name of Jesus alone was something I wont soon forget.
But there is a temptation to think that worship, actual worship… was better, or different, or deeper than it was at any other location in the world at that given time.
The Spirit of God was there. But He didn’t ride on the subway all by Himself. He didn’t hail a taxi. He didn’t descend through the rafters into the midst of a special venue. He wasn’t there waiting on believers to show up.
He walked in through the doors wearing bluejeans, leather jackets, baseball caps, and monogrammed t shirts.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)
All over the world the Spirit entered sanctuaries, synagogues, churches, living rooms, coffee shops, and with the voice of man praised God the Father and Jesus Christ, our victorious sacrifice. Did it mean more in one location? Was the price of salvation less in Texas? Did the Prince of Peace suffer less for Canadians? Do Egyptians have less to be thankful for?
There is one God. There is one King. There is one Savior. There is one Christ.
He is worthy of honor, glory and praise. It might sound different. It might look different. But the power behind the worship… The impact of the lowering of ourselves while lifting Him up… That happens on another level, and everyone, everywhere has access to that.
Crying out, “God I need you!” means the same in Brooklyn, Nashville, Albuquerque, or on your knees in the closet of your home. It involves the heart. It includes the soul. It’s communication to God bypassing all third parties. The power behind prayer… The awe of worship… the humility of self reflection… the honoring of God… those are tied to the cross.
The cross happened once. It is finished. It does not happen again in Detroit on a Tuesday because someone planned for it to. It’s eternal. It’s all reaching. It’s for everyone. And it means the same everyday. It’s power is not diminishing, nor is it enhanced by the works of man. And how that affects you, is not based on your location or your event, or your titles. It’s only impact is a direct result of your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Was the conference amazing? Yes it was. Will worship be any less next Sunday? Not a chance. The same God, made the same sacrifice with the same Son, and even though I’m a sinful and unworthy person, I will call on that same trinity to accept the gift of forgiveness, adoption, and eternal life with a living God.
It was awesome to see thousands of believers singing to God. In truth, millions do it every day. I love to imagine the angels roaring in cheers over baptisms and souls gained. What I can’t wait for is the worship with all believers united in song. All of us. Together. The whole world over. We don’t need to travel to a sports arena to make this happen. It happens every moment when we reject the flesh and tune in to the Spirit.
It’s nice to have New York experiences. It’s nice to have mega churches. It’s nice to have thumping sound systems. It’s nice to have tons of space for lots of seats. But none of that changes worship. The Spirit doesn’t change with your budget. The Spirit doesn’t change with location. The Spirit doesn’t change to be what we want. The Spirit is ready for worship. Any time you are ready. And the magic… the miracle… the awesome… That already happened. Our thankfulness for it, our praise, it should reflect the gifts received the same every morning day and evening.
The enemy wants you to wait for the right song. He will tell you the building isn’t ready. He is known to whisper about quality, volume, people sitting near you, leadership issues, tittles, and all manor of reasons to not worship. Excuses. Delays. Lies. We have a direct connection to God and a life changing eternal experience awaits our choice to properly use it. Bluntly put, if coming before the Lord and worshiping is a ‘downer’, or it isn’t ‘fun’, or it’s not quite ‘awesome’ enough… you haven’t been worshiping.
Thinking of worship in terms of quality is like thinking of God in terms of quality. It’s our direct praise to Him. It’s our level of appreciation for Him. It’s positioning ourselves in the correct place in direct relation to His place. So can He waver in terms of God-likeness? Is God in HD one day and SD the next? Does God sour? Was the cross an 8 out of 10 because it was cloudy and too many people showed up? Very, very bluntly put… worship is either everything we have from us to God all of the time… or its sacrilege.
You want a New York experience? Do you want a Jordan River experience? Do you long for something powerful and life-changing? For most of us, its about 3 feet lower than we stand. Those things happen on our knees… and nothing challenges their ‘amazing’.
We are Who We Worship
I see a worshiper fall into that eternal space between worlds. As she sings her voice trembles over the notes that her powerful vocal chords effortlessly blew through moments ago. But now, her emotions no longer control her. She has passed through that threshold between worshiping to God and worshiping at God. She invited God’s presence and it consumed her. Hands shaking, mouth quivering, the song continues with new strength and yet with more humble awareness.
Someone gets up from their seat and walks across the auditorium. They want to pray for someone. That person is just over there, so their feet follow their convictions. Uncomfortable, inconvenient, distracting? No, those thoughts never enter his mind. He wants to pray, so he goes and prays. Tapping his friend on the shoulder mere words are spoken before an embrace occurs followed by broken, heartfelt, emotional prayer. Deep prayer. Honest. Cleansing. Godly prayer.
Three families gather around rows of chairs to take communion together. The layout of the building isn’t consistent with what they are wanting to do, but chairs get moved, people step out of the way, and compromise gets them all huddled together to sample a meal of eternal proportions together. Each one bows, prays, and honors their fallen and risen King.
This is the church. Family. We chose each other when we chose God. Now we live life together. We pray together. We confess to each other. We support each other. We are Christ to each other. We strengthen and encourage. And then we go into the world sharing the amazing love of God to all humanity. The pharisees followed rules and policies. I’ve been to many churches that structured 3 songs, a prayer, a sermon, etc. Jesus seemingly did the opposite.
Not that structure is wrong, but He seemed to always find Himself opposing the religious elite. It wasn’t about the temple, it wasn’t about their status, it wasn’t about their order and structure… and they were deeply offended. But He kept on. Washing the feet of a woman, eating with the sinners, healing on the sabbath, speaking against human created traditions. He didn’t have time for customs, He had a world to save. And while the power comes from Him, He passed that torch on to us. “Go into the world…”.
And I can’t help but wonder, what does God think of this? It’s for Him. His commands followed. His will sought. His name praised. We know He doesn’t puff up or get ego issues. Will this act receive the “well done, my good and faithful servant” we all long to hear? Will He cry? Will He well up with Fatherly pride? I can’t say for sure because those are our actions. Those are the things sinners do when we share in a glimpse of something good and right. But what does an almighty and Holy God do when He is worshiped?
Let me offer something that might not sound right at first. We are who we worship. And by that, I don’t mean we are part of the trinity God-head. I’m not elevating us to equality. But in a different way, we do tend to become like those we cherish. Have you ever noticed you talk like your idols? Does your accent change when you spend a few years in a new region? You’ve certainly heard the phrase, “you are what you eat”? And just like that phrase, I’m not suggesting that we are literal peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the flesh.
But, if that is all we eat, we do take on the attributes of the food. High carbs, high fat, high calories… so are we if that is what we choose to eat. We take on the characteristics of the choices we make. What happens when you switch to lean meats, veggies, water, and fruit? You shed off the old food and become the new food. Fat is lost. Calories are lost. Carbs are lost. Old clothes don’t fit any more. People look at us and say, “WOW!!!!, you look like a different person!!!”
And this is what happens as a result of worship. When we truly worship, we commune with God. We are in His presence. Just like eating the bread and drinking the cup during our Lord’s Supper, we take on the attributes, we consume them. We put Godly things into our lives. We invite the Spirit into our lives. And we change. We start to take on those Godly attributes and before we realize it… impatience is lost. Greed is lost. Pride is lost. Hate is lost. Sin is lost. Our old lives don’t fit us anymore and before we even realize it, people look at us and say, “WOW!!!!! you look like a different person!!!”. And we really are.
We died to our old way of living and now have a new lifestyle that is fully enveloped by Jesus. So, in a way, we are what we worship. To the greatest extent that we fall under grace. We aren’t God… but we are Godly. We aren’t Christ, but we are Christian. We aren’t perfect… but we are forgiven and made right… and that puts us right back at the beginning of this blog… How can we not worship Him with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, body, and spirit?
A relationship with God is not extra credit. It’s not optional. It’s critical to the entire plan of salvation. Don’t let worship be your vocal talent and nothing more. Don’t believe that your extravagant prayers are flattering to God. He wants to be consumed. He wants to be eaten up (so to speak) 😉 If you aren’t getting anything out of church, ask what you are putting into it. If you aren’t sharing with your fellow believers, start today. If you are ashamed or embarrassed to invite people to your family of God that happens to meet in a random building… you might not be the relative you thought you were.
It’s OK to be in these situations… as long as we understand its not OK to remain in them. If you don’t love your church… you have witnessed your first red flag. Start with God, open your honest heart to Him and work your plan and His from there. He gave His Son, our response in worship is our thankfulness for that gift. It CANNOT be stale, uninspired, or Spirit lacking in nature. Worship like we are mere men and women. Worship like we address a God. Worship as though He not only came to us, but He brought an unbelievable gift.
Any Given Sunday you can Worship. Do you?
3 Lyrics that help define worship
O come O come Emmanuel.
This song begs a simple question. What do you mean when you sing these words? For some, they are asking God to hurry the end times. To allow Jesus to return to earth as prophesied. Others believe that our God is supernatural and that He can intervene today. They believe that prayer works and when you ask God to do something, He is able and actually WILL do things. A third group will sing the words and not give them much thought. To them its a pretty song, or perhaps they think they are singing on behalf of someone that lived during the days of Jesus.
When I sing these words, my soul leaps. It’s as though I was lying dormant, choosing one boring, meaningless task after the next. And then I chose this one… to call on my Savior. And the response within me is, “YES!. Finally! This is exciting. You have called on the power of the living God. Oh, how I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next. Do you realize He can do ANYTHING!”
I have to confess that there are times where I have “worshiped” and never thought to ask Jesus to be a part of it. I just did what i wanted my way. Or I just followed others in their plans. These words are a request. We are asking the Lord to be a part of what we are doing. We can worship a God who is far off in heaven. Or, we can invite Him to join us and worship a present God in the moment.
This may make some people uncomfortable. They worship a God that they believed healed sick and rose from the dead, but don’t believe He can do the same today. They find Him bound by scriptures and willfully helpless to answer our call. They pray prayers asking God to heal the sick but don’t actually believe He has the power to do so. They believe they were baptized by the Holy Spirit, but don’t believe that He lives within them. And while I don’t want to tell anyone that they are wrong in how they worship…. I can’t help but ask the questions… mostly, why?
Why sing to a God that won’t answer? Why pray to a God who doesn’t listen? Why worship a God that lies dormant? Why quote scripture that promises answers to prayer when faith and belief in that promise are lacking?
When my friend said, “come here”. It wasn’t a philosophical quandary. It was a request. When we ask Jesus to come visit with us… why doesn’t it mean exactly what we sing? Can’t it?
Our eternal goal is to be with God. If you believe in the Bible, you know we are partly connected to Him already. Made in His image (gen 1:27). Filled with the Holy Spirit (acts 2:38). And, sanctified to be with Him. Asking Him to join us in worship… I would claim that is where worship starts. The birthday party begins with the lights off and all of the guests hidden. The actual celebration happens when the guest of honor walks through the door and we all yell “Surprise!”. What an odd party to have if the person wasn’t even there yet. Why should worship be different? And do note that it is a celebration. Come, o Come, Lord. We want to honor you. We want to worship you. We have so much to be glad for. Honor us with your presence so we can say thank you.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
I love this part because its straight forward and yet its not often we consider the flow of worship. From our soul directly to God. This speaks to me as I have a history of including middle men in the process that were never intended to be there. My prayers are tailored to those present. My singing is hushed for fear those around might hear how God forgot to bless me with any semblance of vocal talent. My contribution is folded and concealed.
Its not about the habits, some may actually have merit. Its about the awareness. Its about the presence of our hearts and minds. Are we thinking about the pitch, the tempo, the crying baby, the order of worship… Soul to God cuts out all of this and gets right down to business. This verse reminds us that we need spiritual binders. This is what horses wear so that things that happen around them, in their peripheral vision, don’t distract them from their responsibilities. It physically blocks line of sight so they stay focused on what is directly in front of them.
God Should be directly in front of us. And we should be singing TO Him. Not about Him, we have already welcomed Him, invited Him to our worship. If we sincerely meant that, wouldn’t it be horrible to invite God to a time and place where we are concerned about what others think? Where we hold back our emotions and give God a half hearted, location awareness offering. Don’t read into this disorderly worship. God can be praised by the masses in orderly worship. It’s our hearts that give us away when our minds are in other places during this time.
Soul to God. I’m a visual person, so to me it looks like this: Soul —> God. We don’t have to ignore our fellow Christians during worship. We don’t have to exclude them. Worship was designed, I believe, to build up both God and Church. We don’t worship because we want to be built up, but it happens during the process when we worship to build up God. Our praise for Him tends to have a healing effect. (but this is a whole other issue). The power of this line of text is simple. Your worship is your offering to God. How much do you want to give? Do you remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira? They kept a portion for themselves. Just as they were expected to give all they had financially, we are expected to give all that we have in worship. Some of us have become very good at tithing 10% effort, or 10% volume, or 10% listening.
Engaged directly with God you can give a true offering of self.
Fall on your knees. (O Holy Night)
Have you ever tried to fall on purpose? Most of us spend a great deal of effort to stay… up. Falling, in most cases, would be painful, embarrassing, and possibly costly. If I were to kneel right now, I would first look for a pillow. At my age, kneeling gets painful after a short time. I would also slowly lower myself to the ground, grabbing surrounding structures for support. You would definitely hear a grunt or two as I made my way down. Why? because the last thing I want to do is fall. And of course, I would need help to get back up.
Kneeling, is an action. Its a choice. And its also a process. Even the young and healthy will knee methodically. Falling is a response. The body no longer has control any more. If it did, the default reaction is to try and remain up. The mind checks out and the soul takes over. The overwhelming emotion in the correct placement between God and man has a cause/effect relationship. It is not logical. It is not fair. The sacrifices made are not fathomable. But when we place ourselves as we belong at the feet of Jesus and the story of His life and sacrifice hits deep within our soul our body reacts accordingly. We fall. Its overwhelming. Its unbelievable. Its insurmountable. And when we finally align our hearts with God’s good and perfect will we know our true place.
We are the saved. We are the free. We are loved. And we can’t physically stand when the reality of such power harnessing so much love hits us. To fall on your knees is to say, “I give up… everything!”. There is one thing I need, and it is a desperate need. I need Jesus in my life. Everything else is useless.
Falling to your knees is crying’s bigger brother. Most of us don’t choose when we cry. There are a few good actors that can flip that switch, but for the rest of us, its an emotion that comes when prompted by our surroundings. A sad movie, a heartfelt song, a devastating situation. Tears come without our permission based on how we perceive the situation at hand. The phrase, “uncontrollable laughter”, or “uncontrollable crying” has merit. We don’t control those things. They are responses, not thought out actions. Falling to your knees is a response. In the frame work of worship, its the bodies way of saying, the heart, mind, and soul are where they belong right now.
Disclaimer: If you don’t fall to your knees… don’t read anything into that. But imagine the spiritual and emotional state of someone who does. Stand before the real throne of God, and not an empty one. Imagine your reaction to Him. Accept His sacrifice. Accept His love.
Invite God, praise Him directly and genuinely, and then respond to His presence in your life. This is worship to me.
Who do we Worship?
Much longer than I prefer to write, but am hopeful will spark some inner debate with individuals or outer debate within our churches…
I just couldn’t do it. Smoke filled the air. Lights beamed down. Some were solid colors, others were strobe. The room lit up to match the musicians jamming on the stage. Twirling drumsticks, spotlights…It was a rock concert. And for a rock concert, it was good. But I went to worship. And, while I believe some there were worshiping, others were being entertained as part of the mission statement of the event. And I wondered, where did all of this come from? When did worship become a rock concert? And… is that wrong?
I know a lot of worship leaders who share in one sentiment as they plan the worship experience for the church: “They are gonna love this!”. Let’s dissect that phrase for a second, but I promise to stop after the very first word. “They”. Who are we worshiping? Let me ask another way. Who is worship for? Ah, now we get a different set of answers. I’m certain most of you will claim we are worshiping God. But when I ask who is worship for, we get a wider variety of answers. Is it for us? So we can recharge/refuel before going back into the world? Is it for us? So we can hold each other accountable/bear witness/pray for each other? And there is some truth in that worship has a reciprocal way of benefiting us as well… but only as God sees fit to return our holy worship into healing and answered prayers. Let’s investigate just a tad…
“Sing to the Lord” – 1 Chronicles 16:23. Sing to who? Us? Each other? Ourselves? Sorry, it says to sing TO the Lord. The music, the songs, the lyrics, it’s for Him. I’m as guilty as anyone. I want certain songs, I want certain styles, I want specific times, places, and arrangements. At times, I think each one of us has forgotten the ultimate purpose of worship. It’s not intended for us. There is an episode of The Office (U.S) version in which the boss Michael Scott wants to throw a birthday party to celebrate one of the employees. He is so excited and can’t wait to enjoy his favorite dessert, mint chocolate chip ice cream, even after the birthday girl tries to explain she is allergic. He is too consumed in the details to understand how useless his celebration will be when it’s all done to his liking and not in honor of the birthday girl.
Sound familiar? I like this song. The preacher doesn’t like to let out late. The Adam’s family is offended by this topic, etc. That would be but a tiny portion in a plethora of examples of us celebrating God on our terms.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” – John 4:23
This verse interests me. It assumes there are false worshipers. People who are worshiping, but not correctly. It also says that we will worship, who? The Father. Also, on a side note… The Father is seeking worshipers. He wants people to worship Him. He doesn’t just like it when it happens… he is seeking it out. Can we worship around laser beams, espressos, and the most recent pop songs? Perhaps. But there is a true worshiper that seeks to worship God in the way He is seeking to be worshiped. And it’s all about God.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12.
And while I think I could quote another 60+ scriptures quite easily, I’ll stop here. This one cuts to the meat of the matter pretty quickly.
Worship is a sacrifice. It is giving up what we want and what we enjoy and giving to God what He wants and what He enjoys. Yet building after building, town after town, worship leaders just can’t help themselves. I truly believe they mean well. But they structure the worship service into 2 things that are both completely wrong. 1. The church members and what they like. And 2. Getting the unbeliever into the building. (Think of the movie, Sister Act 2 where they stop with the boring old singing and start with new instruments and lively songs and all of the sudden the community comes in off the streets to enjoy the concert). Is that a problem? YES! People are using flair, panache, and other techniques to lure in people. That isn’t the type of fish God wants. Our bait is the love of Jesus. Our “lure” is the cross. When we start trying “tricks” or “gimmicks” we stop worshiping God and we start off on our own agenda. It boils down to conformity.
Not only are we to sacrifice as our way of life to conform to God, the same verse explicitly prohibits conforming to the world. Yet again, oh how many times the phrase has been uttered; “We can’t reach the lost if we don’t make worship fun and/or exciting”. Translation: How can we conform to the lost to reach them? Here is the true sad part. Jesus reached the lost by being completely different from them. He was Godly, and no one had ever seen that before. They followed a man of God. If we would stop trying to act like the world, in the name of God, we might actually be able to offer people something they can’t get anywhere else.
This isn’t meant to be condemnational. I know that many church leaders mean well and have tremendous hearts. But what I hope some will take away from this is that God didn’t use a metaphor when He expected us to remain apart from the world. Not separate! But apart. Different. Holy. With the Spirit in us. Loving the sinner and still condemning the sin. Honoring the FULL word of God. Exemplifying the Savior.
I see it in almost every church I walk into. A capella worship is no different. You can over-amp the choir and lose the message just as easily as a rock band. You can decide that the Lord’s supper is time consuming and only do it once a month or twice a year. But allow me a little jab here, because let’s be honest, it’s deserving… we always have time for the collection plate, don’t we? Keep your reasoning… you can’t explain to a non-believer why we do communion so quick, or so little, and yet there is always time to ask for money. What’s worse, if we believe we should be molding and ‘updating’ worship around the “times”, why don’t we use paypal, billpay, drop checks in a drop box, etc. The one and remaining constant in most of our churches is how we ask for money, rather than the living God. (and while you may want to refute that, try telling the unbeliever that witnesses it first hand and doesn’t understand all of the rationales that we have created over the years).
Whether its intentional or not, I can tell you why we bump communion from many of our churches. It’s because, deep down, we aren’t there to “truly worship”. Like the “true worshipers” John spoke of. When men and women get together to discuss the how’s and why’s of church and decisions are made based on what people like or who will be offended, or any other structure, there is a grand danger of NOT coming to a conclusion that will be a true sacrificial worship to God.
I would like to encourage us to drop the microphones, the laser lights, the fog machines, the drum kits, the fancy bulletins, the projectors, and even move the podiums off the stage. Let God fill the stage. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God, what is God’s (Mark 12). Is the church not God’s? Worship is God’s. What is pleasing to Him? He wants humility. He wants the broken. He wants us to know our place and to serve Him. He wants us to remember the life and blood of His son. He wants praise for Him. Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 34) and He wants our worship for Him and Him alone.
What has caused me to write this, isn’t that we have various worship styles that I don’t like. Rock concerts isn’t the topic or the issue. What has caused me to write this is that I don’t believe very many churches go through the exercise to make sure their offering to God is complete. As quoted above in Romans, God doesn’t want our money as an offering, He wants us to give of ourselves. We are the offering, a living offering which requires our whole being.. And that doesn’t start by demanding worship styles, caving to secular structure, or worrying about what society thinks. More and more churches are choosing the easy path (the wide one) and deciding that it’s better to blend in than stand apart.
People followed Jesus because they never saw anything like Him before. He was a man of God. That is what we need to bring people into our churches. They need to see Jesus. We need to be Jesus. He offered himself up as a sacrifice and refused to adopt the traditions of the people. He worshiped God as God demanded. Rather than contemplating the legality of the drums or the societal objection to the pitch pipe, open up the heart to God and give to Him your all. And equally, exercise the arms of the church. The arms of the church have 2 purposes. 1. To lovingly accept and embrace all who are willing to come to Jesus. And 2, to firmly hold back and refuse any who would falsely preach against God’s undeniable word. (acts 13).
One thing we tend to forget in the church, is that we are still at war. The enemy is deceitful and full of trickery. And while his fate may be determined, ours has not yet. We can choose to seal our fate now in the decisions we make. But the choice to follow Christ is not one balanced around some entertainment with friends. It is a sacrifice and God expects much from us. It is not our job to make the gospel palpable for non-believers either. It is our job to share the love of Jesus with them. They will make the decision for themselves if they want to make such a sacrifice or not to follow Him.
This is not a treaty to promote throwing out the baby with the bath water. We have some sound and reasonable acts of worship that should not be torn down. What this is meant to be, is an exercise that challenges us all to drop the man made worship outline on the floor and start from the ground up, asking, are we doing this for God or ourselves? Is our outreach based on entertainment or the milk that a new believer needs? Will I get what I want, or will I give to God what He wants? Do I look like non-believers? Have I shown them Jesus? Have I let go of my pride and truly sacrificed to show them what our Savior is like? Am I doing this for God? Do they understand they have to make sacrifices too? Do they know they HAVE to leave the their lives of sin and conform to the Lord? Is your message constant and consistent with God’s never changing law?
Scary question time. Does my church look any different than the rest of the world? Non believers have seen people sing, pray, dance, etc. Many have sat through sermons before. In short, they have seen it all. Everything but Jesus, that is. Does your church look different than anything else they have seen before? Is your church the body of Christ serving God? Will the fruit of your work yield more soldiers for God who yearn to sacrifice for Him, or when the harvest comes, will they just want one more song?