The comedian, Flip Wilson, used to portray a character he called, Rev. Leroy. He pastored the church of “What’s Happening Now.” Unfortunately, Rev. Leroy’s tribe is more fact than fiction.
A church in California advertises their worship service as, “God’s country good time hour.” Following the sermon they do line dancing with a live band called, “The honkey tonk angels.” Another church in the Midwest had their pastoral staff put on a wrestling match during the Sunday morning service. These are not aberrations but typical in far too many churches. Corporate worship is going through a major revolution as we try to put on a service that is “user friendly.”
John tells us that “God is a Spirit and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. True worship involves both the intellect and the emotions. It focuses on God and not on ourselves. Someone has said, “Worship is when the spirit of man, the immortal and invisible part of man, speaks to and meets with God, who is also immortal and invisible.”
In reality true worship can embrace much of what we do everyday. It is far more than what we do within the confines of the sanctuary.
The great Olympic champion, Eric Liddle, was asked by his sister, “Why do you spend so much time running?” He responded, “God made me for a purpose, to be a missionary to China, He also made me to run fast and when I run I feel His pleasure.” Everything we do should be an offering to God and done for His glory.
When it comes to corporate worship “preaching the word” should take first priority. In the New Testament we are instructed repeatedly to “preach the word”. Paul said, “He was made a minister so he could carry out the preaching of the word.
Preaching is an irreplaceable aspect of corporate worship. The entire service should revolve around the proclamation of the “word.” There is a time and place for dramas, music etc. but when these things take the place of preaching the “word” spirituality declines and we move into the entertainment business.
Today, we have redefined the role of the pastor. Instead of being the preacher, teacher and shepherd of the flock we have turned him into the CEO. We have turned away from sound doctrinal preaching and our little sermonetts have very little substance. One of the signs that we are living in the end times is that many will not endure sound doctrine. Many of the problems in the church can be traced to the absence of doctrinal preaching.
Without question corporate worship should be passionate, heartfelt, and inspirational. It should engage ones mind as well as his emotions. True worship will do more than stir ones emotions and cause one to feel good. It should be a time of edification as we hear substantive truth proclaimed. True worship merges the emotions and the mind in pure adoration for the Lord.
Worship cannot rise out of a vacuum. It must flow from our knowledge of His word. The writer to the Hebrews tells us in Heb.12:28 that “we are to offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” I have been in many services that were far too shallow, giddy and frivolous. It was an attempt to appear to be “with it” and create an entertaining, user friendly atmosphere that might appeal to unsaved people. True worship services should be designed to reverently and with great awe lead us to worship God in spirit and in truth. This type of service need not be boring and dull. It should lift ones spirit and edify the mind.
Another major element of corporate worship is music. One of Gods greatest gifts to man is music. The scriptures tell us to, “sing unto the Lord and bless His holy name.” We are exhorted by the psalmist to, “come before His presence with singing.” When it comes to worshipping God, music is not just an option it is the will of God.
Every great revival movement has been accompanied with great music. Martin Luther believed that one of the best ways to teach theology was with the hymns he wrote. During the Wesley revival Charles Wesley wrote eight thousand hymns. These hymns had great lyrics filled with substance and theology.
We need to be selective with the hymns, gospel songs and choruses we sing. We want music and words that express our faith and reinforce our doctrinal beliefs. There is an abundance of such music available. There is also an abundance of music available that contradicts scripture and has little or no substance.
The musical aspect of worship has brought much grief and division to the church in recent years. Let me assure you that much of the music that is in vogue today will be gone tomorrow. Only lyrics that are founded on scripture will endure over the long haul. Already, worship styles and the music is beginning to change is some areas of our nation. Let’s pray that the next wave will be helpful in enabling us to worship God with reverence and awe. These are days that for many require great patience and flexibility. In the meantime there is nothing to be gained by splintering the church simply because you miss the organ or because the drums are too loud. The joy of the Lord is our strength not the style of music at your church.
When it comes to music I would appeal to those who lead worship services to be selective and use music that is balanced. To those who sit in the pew and literally suffer keep your attitude right and know that this to will pass.