My church situation is unusual; I am a regular attendee at two very different churches.
One church is very large, with 3,000 people split up between three services. The band-driven worship is high-spirited and charismatic; it is a “hand-raising church.”
The other church is quite small, with only 50 people attending a given Sunday. Worship services are traditional in style, with hymns and responsive readings.
Is one church worshipping God better than the other? It is hard to say.
In the article “Do You Worship Your Worship Experience?” writer Andrea Lucado questions if worship that makes you feel good is really worshipping God.
Lucado tells of a recent trip to Kentucky where she visited a small church with a friend. She says calls the worship “mediocre,” as the production was low quality and some members were disruptive during the service. But at the same time, “everything about the church felt right.”
The Kentucky church was located close to the homeless community and the church members ministered to the poor daily. Members made sandwiches after the service to pass out to hungry people on the street. “They worship God outside the church building more than they worship Him inside of it,” Lucado wrote.
The Christian writer says she thought that small church in Kentucky had the right idea. It lacked the components that Lucado enjoyed, such as a worship band and engaging sermon. But the church did worship God through their actions.
“Could it be that, sometimes, the thing we are drawn to worship apart from God is worship itself? The act of it as it takes place in our church services?” Lucado wrote. “The music, the dark lighting, the instruments playing behind the prayer? Is this what I crave more than God?”
In the popular Crosswalk.com article “7 Things We Regularly Get Wrong about Worship,” Joe McKeever says Christians are “not supposed to ‘get anything out of the service.’”
“Worship is not about you and me. Not about "getting our needs met." Not about a performance from the pastor and singer and choir and musicians. Not in the least,” McKeever writes.
On the contrary, worship is about God.
“We are in church to give. Not to get,” McKeever says. “Now, if I am going somewhere to ‘get,’ but find out on arriving, I am expected to ‘give,’ I am one frustrated fellow. And that is what is happening in the typical church service. 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.”
Lucado echoes this idea.
“I like music. I like sitting and listening and singing. This is comfortable. This is easy, but it is often more comforting than it is worshipping,” she writes. “If I stand and sing ‘Oceans’ with a thousand other people in a church building, but I leave feeling unchanged, with no desire to reach out to my neighbors or spread the Gospel further than my own heart, have I truly worshipped God, or have I simply worshipped an experience?”
God longs for our worship to be active, not only in the church building, but in everyday life.
Lucado points out that scripture tells us repeatedly to live a life of worship.
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Romans 12:1).
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
A powerful, uplifting service has not truly made an impact until it is taken outside the church walls.
Lucado says, “If my heart longs to serve, I am probably in true worship. If my heart longs to feel emotional after a song, I may need to ask what I’m worshipping.”
Carrie Dedrick is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com.
Publication date: April 6, 2015