I suppose you will just have to classify me as old-fashioned and not “with it”, but lately I have become alarmed about the direction of so many of our modern-day churches when it comes to corporate worship. I subscribe to the truth that all of our life should be devoted to worship, not just when we are together as a group. Thus, my comments here have to do only with the regular worship services conducted in our churches on the Sabbath. Sadly, I have observed more and more congregations turning away from the Biblical worship model (psalms, hymns, scripture, prayer, offering including tithing and giving, Bible based preaching, invitation to receive Christ as Savior, communion, baptism) in favor of a crowd pleasing, self-serving program designed to make people feel good.
After all, life is hard. So why shouldn’t the church be a place where you can go to feel better about yourself and things in general. Perhaps that is why we are seeing so many churches turn to services that are based on emotionalism, multi-media entertainment, repetitive praise/mood music and sermons that downplay the consequences of sin and the sacrificial blood of Christ. Sometimes it is hard to recognize how a church differs from the outside world as so much of the world has been brought into the church. Please, even if you disagree with me at this point, continue to read on as I think I have something important to say that may cause you to think about your church and how your church conducts “worship.”
Before we go further, consider the following scripture recorded by the Hebrew writer and dictated by the Almighty and Everlasting God.
Hebrews 1:10-12 (NIV)
“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”
I have been a “change agent” by profession for almost my entire working career spanning over forty-five years. Over that period it has been my job to convince people to change their ways and adopt new techniques for accomplishing their jobs. Such “change” could result in greater efficiency, improved customer service, reduced operating costs and improved profits. I am not a theologian, nor a preacher. I am simply a Christian business man and layman. So don’t expect me to have a profound argument that churches are exempt from change and should cling to tradition.
I have heard all of the popular arguments that times change and people change and that the church has to change along with them or suffer the consequences. I certainly agree that times change and that people change, but I would argue based on the scripture that God Almighty does not change and neither does His Word. His Word has given us instruction about how to conduct worship. When we deviate from God’s Word in planning and experiencing worship, we are treading on dangerous ground … ground that is all too familiar to thousands of false religions that “worship” false gods.
Worship is not simply the time before the message as so many churches have redefined it. Many have even appointed “worship leaders” to see over that time and in the mind of the people, worship concludes when the preaching starts. In my view, the Pastor is the worship leader and his message is the most important part of the worship experience. We are to worship God in every aspect of the service. It is not about us. It is not about what we get out of the service. It is not about being “fed.” It is about our changeless God and His changeless Word. Everything must be focused on Him and nothing on us. Otherwise, we violate the biblical model for worship.
Those of you who know me already understand that Dr. O. M. Seigler had a great influence on my Christian life. Dr. Seigler served as my interim pastor twice in the 1970’s and 1980’s. At that point in his life, Dr. Seigler had served six relatively large churches as a full-time pastor over a period of forty-two years and in excess of fifty churches as interim pastor. In all, Dr. Seigler had ministered directly to over 56,000 church members. In his biography Who Said Quit!, compiled by James A. Lester, Dr. Seigler is attributed the following quote: “God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. During the early part of my ministry … I was led to see that the primary thing that determined greatness of a church was not the number of members, or the size of its budget, nor the value of its building, but the quality of its members and the quality of its pastor. Other factors included the goal toward which they were moving, in whom or on what they were trusting, and the spirit by which they were motivated.”
While he did not specifically mention it, I would suggest that Dr. Seigler would agree that when we deviate from God’s instruction about worship, then we may as well just forget about Him. God will not honor worship conducted in an unworthy manner. And anything that is not scripture based is unworthy. I wonder what Dr. Seigler would have to say about some of our modern churches and their worship practices? More importantly, what do you have to say? Your comments are welcome.
While I’m at it, I have to include some of the words of a familiar hymn that has come to mind as I wrote this article.
O Worship the King
O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.
We concur with all that you have said and believe sincerely that until God’s people turn back to Him and worship Him as the Almighty and Sovereign God, our lives will be ineffective. It is no coincidence that this week I have read and re-read, Isaiah 40.
Isaiah 40:12-15, 18, 21 and 22
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD,
or instruct the LORD as his counselor?
14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
or showed him the path of understanding?
18 With whom, then, will you compare God?
To what image will you liken him?
21 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.’
He deserves our worship!! I am worshipping Him now, and we are preparing our hearts to worship Him in corporate worship when we meet tomorrow.
Dorna and Errol, I suppose that God is speaking to a number of us about the same thing. I appreciate your comments and particularly the scripture passage which I, too, have read many times. Our magnificient God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are to worship Him with all of our being, not just when we are together. We give an example to our children and the children of others when we honor and worship Him in a biblical way. Thank you for your contribution to the topic. Others await over time. Jim D.
John, I fear for the future sustainability of the church as we know it. As the entertainment center churches grow and focus more and more on pleasing their constituents, there is less and less emphasis on the Word of God. You and I don’t really have that much time left to share the truth. Let’s pray that God will do a miracle in our midst and lead us to insist upon Godly worship. Jim D.
I agree with your position 100%. Church leaders of large congregations are more concerned about membership size and less about spreading the true gospel. Most of these mega church leaders understand one worldly principle which is the truth has no friends.