Back To The Altar

Corporate Worship. 

Psalm 95:6-7  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

I recently asked two friends of mine,  – who are both fulltime professional Worship Leaders –  what corporate worship looks like and if it is important.  Their responses of course revolved around music and as we attempted to delve deeper into the subject matter, it became pretty evident that both guys, 30 years of experience between them, could not really articulate what corporate worship is and why it is important.  Church politics aside, these were the best answers they could muster up:

  • Well, we’re supposed to; the bible commands us to worship Him. (where?…”let me look it up…”)
  • Because God is worthy of our praise and worship
  • we were created to worship Him
  • Leading worship is the ministry i feel called to, therefore I do
  • Its not about the music but, it’s about coming together with fellow believers and giving praise to God in unity; as one body.

Now, those are all fine church answers but, I can tell you that I was pretty surprised at their responses and lack of depth.  Not philosophical depth as one might count deepness, but in the aspect of biblical truth.  I fear our culture and current evangelical trends are pandering to a sickening level of pragmatism that is slowly but effectively killing worship.  As churches turn sunday worship time into a narcissistic event focused on self instead of on God, we cannot help but create idol worship in His house and our own images are the focal point.

I have observed that there are two things destroying worship in the church…

1. Our self-centeredness

2. Pragmatism.

Both of those are currently dominating what is called evangelicalism today.  Self-Centeredness is almost always prevalent in our worship services…specifically during the musical portion.

See if any of these sound familiar:

>I can only worship God when the music is in a comfortable range for me.

>only when “I’m in the mood”

>I Couldn’t worship because the music was too quite

>the music was too loud for ME

>there were too many hymns for MY taste

>there weren’t enough hymns that I like

>it was too rock and roll this morning for ME to worship

My, My, My, Me, me, me, I, I, I…it’s disgusting.

One of my most favorite worship songs is, unfortunately, also one of the most perfunctory.

If we were all honest with ourselves, those words would be changed to, “It’s all about me…__Insert Name__…and all this is for Me; for my glory and my fame…it’s not about You…cause you should do things my way…”

The people are not entirely to blame here though.  Many Churches are abandoning true worship for the sake of appeasing the culture.  Many churches are now interested in discovering what the non-worshiper wants; the one who has no relationship to God whatsoever.   Modern churches have come to measure their success on how many non-worshipers they can get in their buildings on Sunday.  They count them very carefully and they write books on how to get MORE non-worshipers into their worship services.  The more the better.  All of these tactics simply make the non-worshiper sovereign in defining what the church does and how they do it.  On the other hand, you have Pastors who are too afraid to move from Organ led worship to Piano, or from piano to Guitar, or even to incorporate drums in their worship music for fear of the congregation’s reaction.  I don’t believe we should ever do anything in worship to offend anyone.  But worship cannot be dictated by the congregation’s selfish and hedonistic preferences.  Pastor’s, including worship pastors, must be led by God, not their congregation’s dirty looks when a song is played that they don’t necessarily prefer.

Here’s a story of a Ruler who tried to please the people rather than please God.

1 samuel 15:23-24 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”

Saul got off easy.  About eight or nine verse later, Agag was hacked to pieces before the Lord.  The result of selfish and fearful decision lost Saul his place as king and self-centered Sunday morning performances will land us no closer to God, no matter how many “worship bumps” the worship leader is able to cause.

The Word of God, however, calls us to God-centered-spiritual worship.  There is an illusion going on here that this man-centered, pragmatic, non-worshiping assembly of people called a church has the power to change people’s lives; that a non-worshiping, lost and luke-warm gathering of people, designed to appeal to non-believers has power to bring those non-worshipers into a relationship with God.  It’s highly unlikely, however, since a non-worshiper attending a non-worshiping church would have no idea what true worship really is.  The reality is, “the greatest evangelistic power resides in the true worshiping church; a gathering of God’s people, genuinely worshiping Him, has the greatest collective power in the world to make the gospel believable and effective.” (chuck swindoll)

I think a symptom of this is so-called Christians who believe their faith is a “Personal, Private matter.”

By the way, if you have a private, personal faith of your own, you will take it to hell.  Believers do not come together as people who have a personal private faith… we come together as people who have made a public confession of our faith which is not empty, but is placed directly in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the gospel that is related to Him.  That’s why when I sit in a church service and the pastor has a “response time” or an “Altar call,” I shake my head when after the “Sinner’s prayer” is conducted, the phrase then comes out…

“With every head bowed and every eye closed…no one looking around…”  Why not be looking around??  Are we not to be excited that someone else has joined the kingdom!?!

I understand it can be an intimidating thing for an individual to raise their hand or look up and make eye contact with the pastor whilst a whole congregation of strangers and/or family members are looking around, but I HIGHLY doubt the angelic beings of heaven are sitting around with their eyes closed and their heads bowed, every Sunday in eager anticipation, that God will eventually have a staff meeting and tell them all how many souls were saved last week.

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

We, who with unveiled faces, should all be looking around the room during the response time, eagerly waiting to see a hand go up and then have the whole church erupt into ecstatic applause bursting forth with shouts of rejoicing and celebration that another soul has been added to the Kingdom. 

Plus, a cook out for every salvation wouldn’t hurt. 

Just Kidding….kind of…..

I try to keep these things to a max of one thousand words and we’re at a little over 1,200.  So I’ll conclude this thought on Thursday, June 28th.


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