Weird Worship

Many years ago, I read a wonderful book by Robert Webber entitled Worship Is A Verb. While some of his comments didn’t necessarily fit my tradition of worship, his comments could certainly be applied to any Christian and any church. In the early pages of this book, Webber says, “WORSHIP IS A VERB. It is not something done to us or for us, but by us.” While this book was written some time ago (1985), I’m not sure the church has yet gotten the message. In the normal church today, worship is at best passive. It has become increasingly man-centered instead of God-centered. It is entertainment driven rather than worship driven. We typically evaluate the worship service by what we got out of it instead of what God got out of it. I suppose that means worship has become more about us than God. If we are the object of worship instead of God, our worship has become idolatry. While I say “has become,” I also realize that worship has probably always been lacking and has always been in need of renewal.

I have come across an interesting thought recently that has given me some insight and concern. We recently had a college student in our home who, when home from school, attends a growing, exciting, new contemporary church in the Atlanta area – Passion City Church. God is doing an exciting work through this church, and I am sure lives are being changed through their ministry. I asked our friend where he attended church while away at school. He told me he doesn’t go anywhere because he can’t
really find anything that compares to his home church. I know a lot of college students who struggle with this dilemma. It made me reflect upon some of the conferences I’ve been to in the past, like Promise Keepers or Catalyst. The worship was always so powerful that when I returned home to my church, I was disappointed with our worship. I began to reflect upon this reality and came to three conclusions:

1)      Church leaders do not always see the value of presenting to God their best offering of worship and, therefore, allow worship services to lack excellence. We may sometimes blame the “worship professionals” and say that God is more interested
in the heart than the form. This is true, but sometimes the “form” or lack of it, shows a heart that is distracted and maybe even lazy. I can’t tell you the number of times in my life growing up I would hear a soloist precede her solo with words like, “I didn’t have time to practice this week, so please pray for me as I do my best.” Looking back at it, someone should have told her that her best was to prepare ahead of time so she could give God an offering of excellence. After all, an Israelite worshiper in the Old Testament days would not give God a lame lamb for a sacrifice.

2)      We serve a creative God, and creativity is not only a tool that reflects God’s nature and therefore honors Him, but it is also a tool that opens up the heart of the worshiper in fresh ways to encourage worship. For example, there have been times the right video behind the words to the songs on the screen has enhanced my worship by engaging more of my senses in the worship experience. Creativity keeps the service relevant and fresh, thereby inviting my total participation in the moment.

3)     This third thought stands in opposition to the previous two. It is possible for me to connect the emotional or artistic
response in me to worship when in fact I am admiring the art and not the God of the art. In the words of Geoff Surratt, we are beginning to worship “worship” instead of worshipping God. It is this third reality that may discourage us from attending church when the churches in the area do not measure up to the experiences we love. When college students choose not to attend church because they cannot duplicate their home church experience, they may be focusing more on their experience instead of on the God of the experience. I’m not saying we should go back to apologies before singing with out of tune (not to mention out of date) instruments in emotionless environments lacking creativity and new technology, but I am saying that we need to be careful and not allow the worship experience to become the object of our worship. It is for this reason I began this article with the idea that Worship is a Verb. It is actually something we do. It is a choice we make to use whatever vehicle of worship is available (whether that vehicle is a sun rise early in the morning, traditional hymns sung by a choir, or contemporary music complete with lights and video) to meet with God and express His greatness and our love for Him.

With all that said, I think we might all find that what takes place in many a chair in worship centers across America on Sunday mornings may not really be God-honoring worship. Maybe normal worship is not biblical worship. This Sunday, I am preparing the final message in our “Weird” series called “Weird Worship.” Over the past few weeks I have shared messages to coincide with our small group study of material by Craig Groeschel in his book “Weird Because Normal Isn’t Working.” I hope you can join us at SonRise for this message. If you can’t, you can hear it online by Thursday, March 8. I would welcome your thoughts or insights below on this topic.