How many times after a Sunday worship experience you hear people say things like, “I didn’t get anything out of that today” or “I didn’t get anything out of the sermon” or maybe “I didn’t get anything out of that service?”
Statements like this are like dry rot in a congregation. Like a termite infestation in the building. Like an epidemic afflicting the people of God. Let’s see if we can cast a better understanding of worship.
1. You are Not Supposed to “Get Anything Out of the Service”
Worship is not about you or me. Not about “getting our needs met.” Not about a performance from the pastor and singer and choir and musicians.
2. Worship is About the Lord
Check out this verse: “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name” (Psalm 29:2) It is also found in 1 Chronicles 16:29 and Psalm 96:8, so it deserves being looked at closely.
- We are in church to give, not to get: If I am going somewhere to “get,” but find out after arriving that I’m expected to “give,” it’s time to get frustrated. This is what is happening in the typical church service in America. People walk out the door frustrated because they didn’t “get.” The reason they didn’t is that they were not there to “get,” but to “give.”
- We are giving glory to God, not to man: We know this and sing about it, but we also forget about it when we are spiritual consumers. We give God glory because glory is His right He is “worthy of worship.” This is the theme of the final book of the Bible (Revelation 5:2, 5:9, 5:12).
3. Self-centeredness Destroys All Worship
If my focus is on myself when I enter the church (getting my needs met, learning something, hearing a lesson that blesses me, being lifted by the singing) then Christ has no part in it. He becomes my servant, and the pastor (and all the other so-called performers) are there only for me. It’s all about me.
We have strayed so far from the biblical concept of worship (giving God His due in all the ways He has commanded). I wonder why we keep going to church?
Anything wrong with receiving some inspiration from the service? Absolutely not. But if we go to church seeking those things, we will not have worshiped. Warren Wiersbe says, “If you worship because it pays, it will not pay.”
4. Evangelism & Discipleship, Giving & Praying, Grow Out of Worship; Not the Other Way Around
- The disciples were worshiping on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled them and drove them into the streets to bear a witness to the living Christ (Acts 2).
- Isaiah was in the Temple worshiping when God appeared to him, forgave his sins, and called him as a prophet to the people (Isaiah 6).
- It was in the act of worship that the two distraught disciples had their eyes opened to recognize Jesus at their table (Luke 24).
5. We are to Give Him Worship and Glory in the Ways Scripture Commands
- “Give to the Lord the glory due His name and bring an offering.” (1 Chronicles 16:29 and Psalm 96:8).
- “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart–these, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
Singing, praising, rejoicing, praying, offering, humbling, loving. All these are commanded in worship at various places in Scripture. The Lord Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, “Those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). That is worship with their inner being, the totality of themselves, their spirit, not just their lips or their bodies going through the motions. God is not pleased with “just anything” that we claim as worship.
We must balance our worship between spirit (the subjective part: body, soul, emotions) and truth (the objective aspect: all that God has revealed in His word).
6. We Are the Ones Who Decide Whether We Worship upon Entering the House of the Lord
Don’t blame the preacher if you don’t worship. He can’t do it for you. No one else can eat my food for me, love my family for me, or do my worshiping for me. I am in charge of this decision. I decide whether I will worship.
When Mary sat before Jesus, clearly worshiping, He informed a her sister Martha that Mary had “chosen the good part,” something that “will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). That something special was time spent in worship.
7. Remember: Worship is a Verb
Worship is something we do, not something done to us. In the worst of circumstances, we can still worship my God. In the Philippians prison, while their backs were still oozing blood from the beating they’d received, Paul and Silas worshiped (Acts 16:25).
What we cannot do is leave church blaming our failure to worship on the poor singing, the boring sermon, or the noise from the children in the next row. We am in charge of the decision whether we will worship, and no one else.
What about the need for worship facilities before we can adequately honor the Lord? Millions of Christians across the world seem to worship just fine without any kind of building. Believers in Zambia meet under mango trees, and their worship is as anointed as anyone’s anywhere. Our insistence on worshipful music, worship settings, and worshipful everything are all signs of our disgusting self-centeredness.
Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at www. joemckeever.com.