Worship Fads or Timeless Truths?

Popular Christianity seeks to create the “worship experience” implying that God is the executive producer of the performance, and the preacher, song leaders, and worship leaders are the actors, while the rest of the congregation sits back and enjoys the experience as clients or customers. The “modern” worship focuses on an entertaining experience trying to please the visitors. Their philosophy? If the people are entertained, then they will flood the pews, especially when the preaching is shallow and lacking depth to not offend the general public. The top priority seems to be numeric growth and retention rates. For this study, the word “entertainment” means the additional aspect of worship that causes the service to be completely emotional. A service that lacks reason and logic will be void of scriptural foundation.

In the first century, Paul never invited people with the motivation of seeing the entertaining miracles that could be performed at the 5pm meeting (1 Cor. 14:20-33). Christ did not pass around the “love-offering plate” after He fed the 5,000 (John 6:1-14). The worship and teaching of the gospel was not to be for the purposes of entertaining the masses. Christ rebuked those of His followers that followed him solely for shallow gratification (John 6:26). When Christ started teaching heavy and in-depth doctrine, many stopped following (John 6:60-66). In context to the worship service, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Those that would clap their hands, dance around the stage, bang on drums, and run up and down the aisles have not created the atmosphere of an orderly and decent service. Such an atmosphere would be related to nothing more than a cheap concert.

Unless the worshiper has authority in scripture to use a specified form of worship, no action should be created to form an additional act of worship (Col. 3:17). Those who forget biblical authority and the main priority of worship enable a worship service that can get out of control. Paul warns the church in Corinth of this escalation in writing, “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” (1 Cor. 14:23).

My friend invited me to a devotional when I was attending college. I left before the devotional ended! An entire band was on stage, and it was so loud I could not hear the song leader, in fact, the stage was so full of people I could not determine the song leader. People stood in the pews while shouting reckless prayers of praise; adrenaline-filled attendees were crawling on their hands and feet through the aisles. One woman was sprawled out in front of the stage, she looked as if she was unconscious, but no one checked on her because no one was sure if she was on some emotional “high” or if she was passed out. When I turned to leave, I walked through a dance-off in the back of the building! My friend told me they were just worshiping “in the spirit” (John 4:24). How does one know that the spirit moves one to do such acts? How do one know it’s not some other foreign spirit? As Paul testified, the Holy Spirit clearly does not want visitors coming into the assembly thinking the group was “mad.”

To determine the worship fad from the biblical act in scripture, one should ask and answer with Bible verses, (1) Does God command this act of worship? – If God doesn’t ask for it how do you know He wants the instruments, the plays, the choirs, etc…, or do you just assume? (2) Does the act violate any previously stated command? (3) Does the action distract from the main purpose of the worship or does it promote reverence and orderliness? (4) What is my motivation in this action? There must be a balance in worship between the heart and the head. God seeks worshipers “in spirit” (i.e., sincerity and emotion) and “in truth” (i.e., biblical authority and doctrine) (John 4:23,24).

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