A Serious Problem with "Worship"

Raise your hand if you’ve ever considered worship to be mostly about:

• Raising your hands
• Musical excellence
• Singing at church
• The perfectly scripted “impromptu” time of singing.

So now that we all have our hands in the air while staring at a screen, is it fair to say this is a problem in Christianity today? I’d say so.

While much of this is a pragmatic problem (we make worship out to be church music), this is also a theological problem (we think wrongly about God in our worship). As the modern worship movement has made its way into more and more churches, the fleeting pursuit of worship through musical performance has come to be felt in our hearts.

The allure of musical performance has worn off, and now we’re left wondering why we aren’t satisfied. God created us to worship in a whole new way.

I often worship God as if He was not a Triune God. I worship Him as Father and forget about Jesus as I do my best to conjure up my own “sacrifice of praise.”

So you ask me, “Well, doesn’t the Bible tell us in Romans 12 that true worship is sacrifice?” And the appropriate response would be, “Whose sacrifice?”

As followers of Christ, we believe God exists as three persons within His being. Father, Son and Spirit, each separate yet united. But we worship God as if the sacrifice from His Son, Jesus, was not enough. We approach God through God, not through our own performance. Consider Ephesians 2:18, “For through him (Christ) we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

My times of leading songs and bringing the congregation into God’s presence often become about me bringing my own sacrifice, and then I do my best to pull off a music set with excellence. All this is done with a heart that is pure, but I often become what a professor of mine would call “a producer of the sacred.”

My focus on providing a sacrifice of excellence often trumps my reliance on the power of the Spirit to allow me to participate in the affection between the Father and Son.

If worship is truly not about us, then my focus on excellence gets in the way of a truly worshipful connection with God.

Worship as a Subversive Act

Worship is much less of an act on our part, but more of our submission to be part of God’s action.

Marva Dawn talks about this:

“The focus (during worship) was on us, instead of on God and what he reveals. Such worship fosters the basic perspective that faith depends on how well we notice God’s glory, rather than on the gift of God’s revelation that God’s grace enables us to receive.”

This is the way it should be because worship is not about us, it is about Him.

In our worship we often act as if we’re the initiators, and when done correctly, God then responds to us.

When worship becomes a human effort that allows God to enter into our lives, we start to pursue a God who can be manipulated, not worshiped.

Worship is far more about submission than effort. We submit ourselves under the reign and rule of God and allow Him to change on hearts.

Our worship of God is not dependent on our perfection, but His.  

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Tyler Braun is a pastor at New Harvest Church in Salem, Oregon. He is the author of "Why Holiness Matters: We've Lost Our Way - But We Can Find it Again" (Moody).