Friday, October 05, 2007


Our pastor has been preaching a Fall Sermon series on What is the Church? This past week he spoke on many topics, but delved (once again) into why our church does what it does in worship. He has preached many times on this. He received an email from a church member which he posted on his blog and followed up with some of his own thoughts. I chose not to post a comment, but I am going to post on my blog. While the focus has been on technology in the worship service I think that minimizes the real issues of worship. Here are my thoughts:

Luke 4:8 says, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only'." We were created to worship the Lord. It is what he desired when he created us to be in relationship with him. In our modern day evolutionized church - true God honoring, spirit filled, proclaiming of God's word worship has been lost in many congregations. The focus has turned from Him to us. The desire for our needs, our likes, our purposes has taken place of His authority in the church and in worship.

Most churches struggle with worship. Why is that? I think it is because they don't understand what true worship is. They have lost the focus of what is to be worshiped. They have lost and never fully grasped why we gather corporately. When that happens people groups who have a God given desire and capacity to worship lose focus and start worshiping other idols. We start putting through our own agenda in the name of God. An agenda that was never God-breathed. That agenda leads to ownership and ownership leads to false worship.

We end up filling our corporate gathering time with a lot of that and very little of this (stealing a phrase from Rob Bell). The discussions of the day don't focus on the teaching of the word. People stand around talking about every aspect of the service but truly fail to fall at the feet of the Lord in worship. I don't even like the term 'service'. Why do we use it? It sets people up to be served when we have gathered together to serve the Lord. Serve the Lord with our hearts, voices and the gift of His word.

It is very easy to have a discussion of various aspects of corporate worship. Everyone has an opinion regarding style (music), bulletins or worship folders, sanctuaries or auditorium, sit or stand, raise the hands, kneel in the presence of the Lord, technology or not etc..., etc... What happens though is the purpose of worship is lost. Everyone is guilty of it. The burden doesn't just lie at the feet of ministry staff. The greatest burden lies in our own hearts.

Does that mean we just take or partake of what is being served in the name of sacrificing for the good of the gathering. No.. A.W. Tozer said it this way, "God does not expect us to give up, to give in, to accept the church as it is and to condone what is happening. He expects His believing children to measure the church against the standards and the blessings promised in the Word of God. Then, with love and reverence and prayer in the leading of the Spirit of God we will quietly and patiently endeavor to align the church with the Word of God. When this begins to happen and the Word of God is given it place of priority, the presence of the Holy Spirit will again begin to glow in the church." is very simple. God's word should have priority in corporate worship. Everything else we do in this gathering should be in response to it. The complexities of corporate worship come at the likes and dislikes of the people, at the learning styles of people, at the need to known and be known of people not the Word of God. The Gospel message is very simple. Living it is the challenge. My vote is always for simplicity. We must leave room for the Lord to appear. My personal preference would be for our worship to be opened with scripture read responsively, followed by prayer in response to what what just spoken, followed by the reading of the text, followed by the teaching of His word, followed by Praise (music) which is in response to what was just taught, followed by prayers of thanksgiving and praise which again are in response to what has been experienced of the Holy Spirit.

Notice there are no announcements, welcoming, directions...etc. as part of that line-up. While it is tantalizing to ministry staff to do all those because they have people's attention (or do they?) and in one place it is a distraction to the purpose of worship. I'm going to go one step further and just say it dumbs down worship.

The question of technology use has come up in our church. Which is what our Pastor's post is focusing his questions and comments on. Again, I think the answer lies in the purpose of worship and does the use of technology aid our learning or take away from it. I think the answer could go either way, but most importantly where do we lie in that questions as individuals gathering corporately. I don't buy the generational arguments our pastor spoke of. God does not call us to be lazy in worship or make excuses for that matter. I know what my learning style is. I know what I need to do in order to take in what is being taught. It is my responsibility to prepare myself to do that.

Just as an aside - there is a large church in the southeast. So large in fact that it has several large satellite churches. The pastor preaches at the main church on Sunday. The images (Digital) of him preaching are recorded. They are then put together in a holographic (not sure that is a word) and projected on the next Sunday at the satellite churches. I mean projected as a 3-d image as if he was standing on the stage. How is that for weird? The question is - is that true worship, does technology get in the way of the teaching of the word? Interesting.....

I'll end with another Tozer quote, "If God knows that your intention is to worship Him with every part of your being, He has promised to cooperate with you. On His side is the love and grace, the promises and the atonement, the constant help and the presence of the Holy Spirit. On your side there is determination, seeking yielding, believing. Your heart becomes a chamber, a sanctuary, a shrine in which there may be continuous, unbroken fellowship and communion with God. Your worship rises to God moment by moment."

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