Worship, Or Not!

Warning: Rated PG-13 by the Meisheid Internet Rating Service for strong opinions.

I have been reading some things that have gotten my juices flowing. These readings are radical thoughts, these musings of Michael Spencer. I should say they are radical in today's Christian market, and I say market because that is what Christianity has become, at least from my perspective, a place where believers shop around looking for the experience that meets their demands and when they find it they say, "We are being fed." Or, "We have found real worship." Or they say some other nonsense along the same line of thinking.

I remember once having a discussion with a Christian of over twenty years at a former church, who was complaining and considering leaving our fellowship. When I asked him why he was leaving, he said, "I am not being fed." I looked at him for a few minutes and I know he was expecting me to commiserate with him about what he thougt was average preaching and uninspired worship. But against my previous attempts at not stirring up controversy, I said rather forcefully to him, " You have been a Christian for over twenty years, so don't you think it is time you do some feeding of those in real need, rather than complaining about not being fed yourself? After twenty years shouldn't you have matured in Christ a little further than that?" Needless to say he was not at all pleased and my challenge did not cause him to change his mind and he left. He went somewhere else, seeking a deeper experience of God. Sad, but all too typical.

Let me say, come, let us reason together. Worship as a Christian still in, but not of this world, is not an experience of God, moving into His presence, defined by some overwhelming internal feeling, similar I must say, to drug highs for those who came out of that environment like myself. No, it is instead the offering of ourselves to God; it is giving, applying everything we do and are to God. And as such, worship is living the life of a Christian for Christ, no matter what you are doing, if it is done to the honor and glory of God. Worship is work and play when done to and in homage to God. As a result, true Biblical worship is other-centered, God-centered, definitely not self-centered. It is never what you experience, but instead what you give to God. Worship is, or saying it another way, worship is being when that being is being in God in Christ. Only God says "I AM." Worship is us saying, "You are." Worship is not EROS, our own ecstatic experience of enjoying the other, even if that other is God, but AGAPE or the self-sacrificial giving of ourselves.

Now don't misunderstand me, I am not saying worship never creates experiences. What I am saying is that if there is an experience, it is the result of God's gift to you, not a demand to that He must be meet or an expectation to be sought after and most assuredly, not the purpose of what you are doing. To use an old analogy it is the fruit, not the root and if you seek it you have turned everything upside down. If that is so and you are seeking the experience, then you have distorted your pursuit of God into a nothing more than a fix for your experiential, existential habit. That is not worship, that is addiction and it is not to God but to your own self-centered experience however produced and maintained. You have turned everything bassackward.

Yes this is an indictment and it doesn't dwell on the solution, but first demands that we admit the sin, repent and then we can think about the proper course to follow. You say I am wrong and this is not sin. OK. Show me a scripture that backs up your experiential-based worship context and we can talk about it. As for my argument, let's start with Acts 2:42. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Hmm… Where is that ecstatic worship in the overwhelming presence of God? Are you ready to think seriously about what God may or may not want from you in this matter?

See Also: If you liked this you might also want to read The Church of the Self and The Church of Baal.

  8 comments for “Worship, Or Not!

  1. September 30, 2004 at 9:32 am

    I think you are right about the churches comsumerism. We have some friends who just got saved. They wanted to change churches and they asked themselves the following question:
    “Where can God use me the most?” WOW and they were like six months old in the Lord. That is the kind of question people should ask regarding where to labor for the Lord.

    BUT

    I think you are not right about experience in worship. I talk about the experience of Edwards and Worship as part of our sanctification process. Here,I think is a better way to say what you mean.
    We have ultimate goals. How do I serve the Lord and His Kingdom?
    Then we have prximate goals (short-term): How can I get full of the Knowledge of God and His word so I can serve him?
    The yound self-centered Christian friend is not well founded in the big ultimate purpose of serving God or he whould not have abandoned the field of his current labors over whether ‘he was getting fed’. He or she is a consumer. That is true. But experience in worship is a very good way to cme to know God and come to a greater knowledge of His majesty and moral excellencies.
    brad

  2. September 30, 2004 at 1:29 pm

    I think sometimes that this is the biggest problem in evangelicalism today. It’s prominent especially among the younger generation that I work with on campus. This might make me reconsider what I look for in a church when I finally get around to finishing my Ph.D. and moving to another area. I may have to find a church that our family can contribute toward and complement, which will probably end up being a church that has problems I very much don’t like. I’m not looking forward to that, and I’m sure I’ll have to have some standards about it, but I think we have an obligation to be part of a church not for what we approve of in it or what we can get out of it but for how we can build the body. That’s why those who use the name ‘Christian’ but refuse to be part of a local church don’t seem to me to understand what it means to be a member of the body of Christ.

  3. Chuck
    October 2, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    I struggled with the getting fed part for a while and then realized that I need to feed others somehow. Haven’t found that yet, but I’m working on it. God bless. LOL, sorry but I’m a Red Sox fan, hoping they end the curse of Ruth/Buckner soon.

  4. October 22, 2004 at 1:53 pm

    Congratulations on your Red Soxs’ winning the American League pennant. Miracles do still happen, even to Boston.

  5. Dick Bentley
    April 1, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    I’ve got a radical concept for you. There is no revealed God. The whole definition of God is like a shell game – “who made the universe” is translated into “who made God” and then you’re willing to say “There is no answer/I don’t know the answer”. If you had any intellectual integrity you would admit you don’t know in the first place!

    Stop living your life according to obviously false fairy tales. Grow up. And stop rationalizing your hate and anger as anything to do with “The Bible”.

  6. April 1, 2005 at 11:49 pm

    I’ve got a radical concept for you. There is a revealed God and my intellectual integrity is just fine thank you. Interestingly enough, I have grown up and come to terms with my need for my God. I have no hate and anger and if you don’t like the Bible that is your call. You places your bets and you take your chances. I would not want to be in your shoes when the payment comes due, sorry. But, there is still time to repent.

  7. April 19, 2005 at 2:45 am

    What God wants FROM his servants is completely different, than what God gives TO his creations. Worship music helps us to remember the wonders of God. “To do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” is what “the Lord requires.” Neither is healthy, I believe, without the other.

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