What’s your greatest hindrance to worshiping God as you gather with the church for corporate worship?
I can think of a number of possible answers: Our song leader isn’t very experienced. The liturgy is too stifling. The band sounds bad. The preacher is uninspiring. Our church is too small. Or, Our church is too big.
While I don’t want to minimize the importance of faithful planning, musical skill and wise leadership, our greatest problem when it comes to worshiping God doesn’t lie outside of us but within our own hearts. It’s the problem of idolatry.
Anything other than Jesus.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” John ends his first letter. In other words, don’t see anything but God’s glory in Christ as the source of your greatest joy, deepest satisfaction and highest authority.
Idolatry can be active in my heart even when I’m gathered with the church. Whenever I think I can’t meet with God unless “X” is present, I’m making a profound statement. If “X” is anything other than Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit, I’ve moved into idolatrous territory.
Of course, God uses means to reveal himself. We encounter him through his word read and preached, the Lord’s supper, fellowship with one another, and our songs and prayers. But when we make those means—or more specifically, the execution of those means—the basis of our fellowship with God, we’ve added an unnecessary barrier to meeting with him. We attend the gathering of the saints as idolatrous consumers and judges rather than grateful receivers and servants.
Our Sunday-morning idols.
What are some of the idols we might battle on Sundays? Here are a few that come to mind.
1. Musical excellence.
It’s easy to be distracted by sloppy playing, unsophisticated songs, an out-of-tune guitar, a vocalist who sings sharp, a drummer who drops a beat or a mix that’s out of balance. That’s why skilled musicianship is commended in the Bible (Psalm 33:3).
But rather than just internally criticize what’s going on, I can thank God that he uses the weak things of this world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:20-31). I can remind myself that Jesus perfects all of our offerings of worship through his once and for all sacrifice (1 Peter 2:5), and that even the most polished performance is insufficient on its own to merit God’s favor.
It also might be helpful to talk to the leader after the meeting to humbly communicate what you’re hearing out front.