Overheard at a coffee shop: “Let’s go check out such and such a church. So and so told me they have an amazing worship band and its an awesome worship experience.”
Pause and think about that.
Sounds like they’re kinda looking for entertainment. For some, church has become just that.
Last week I read a post by Karl Vaters * in which this quote struck me:
“We need to constantly remind ourselves that leading one person to salvation and into discipleship is of eternally greater value than entertaining a huge crowd that goes home inspired, but spiritually unchanged.”
Here is where I have gone with the quote in my own words:
Church gatherings should not be to inspire as much as they should be about spiritual development.
I contend that we are here to bring God glory.
I further believe when we seek God and dwell with Him as Jesus said, we grow spiritually. This is how God does spiritual development.
Thus, for us to cultivate spiritual development (training our hearts and minds to make us more like Jesus), we need to dwell with God and focus on Him. (Think John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb”)
One of the best places to do that is among fellow students of Jesus.
Thus, church as entertainment is out because that means it’s focused on me and what I want. Generally, if I’m focused on what entertains me, I’m probably not glorifying God. I’m just too busy pushing my spiritual pleasure buttons.
Church as seeking experience can be similarly problematic. In both cases there is a danger that the experiece becomes, unintentionally, Earth centered.
“Aim at Heaven, get Earth thrown in, aim at Earth, get neither.” – C. S. Lewis
Question: Is church inspiring me to have a momentary experience (or worse, be entertained) or is church the place where I am guided to focus on God so that he is using it to strengthen my own spiritual development? Tough question.
As I see it, the purpose of the church gathering is to glorify God.
So everything we do should be designed to do that, glorify him, explicitly. That is the purpose of worship, which comes in an incredible array of forms.
I guess this is why it bugs when we refer only to singing as worship. Why? Because praying (which we don’t do enough of, in gatherings or otherwise) is worship (maybe the deepest), proclaiming a testimony of God’s working in a person’s life is worship (space needs to be given for this in church and the coffee shop), and of course, digging into the Bible is worship. You can add to the list, I won’t at this point.
Someone said that the best church gathering is one in which the sermon is one where God gives me something to chew on for days to comes. I agree. As we are led to open the word of God and dig deeply into it, God digs in our heart and mind and works on us so that we turn to more to Him. It is only God who can change us. I guess deep in my heart, I agree with some of the Reformers who said that all of a worship service should point us to the word of God. I also affirm the teachers who say that every sermon should exalt Jesus. When this happens, our focus is off of us and on to Jesus, as John the Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb.” When our focus is on Him, He changes us. Preaching the Holy Spirit inspired word of God, as worship, is a key means for such spiritual development:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12, ESV)
The secondary result of worship of God? Spiritual Development.
I believe in the overflow principle. That is that I should serve Him and my neighbor because I am so filled with God that I can’t help but to worship Him through serving. I used to enter worship of God setting up chairs for chapel and asking God to be honored and to touch the persons sitting in the chairs. When I mowed the lawn today, I was able to worship God for some of that time as I thought about this person and that and at others times marveled at the beauty of the creation which pointed to the beauty of God. I worshiped God at breakfast with a friend this week as we gave him glory for who he is. Worship is paying God his due honor. What is role of the church’s gathering in all these different forms of everyday overflow? Is it to get me excited so I will go out and do x, y and z? I don’t think so. I think it is to give us those periodic reminders (I use periodic in case you go to church more than just once a week) that our purpose is to glorify God, and then to give us tools or sharpen our tools of bringing Him glory through worship. Sometimes that happens in fine clothing in a beautiful church building knelling in silent prayer on an upholstered kneeling bench. Sometimes it happens while standing with hands raised to heaven with blue jeans and a t-shirt with a “worship band” playing the latest song. I do not think the mode is as important as the object of worship.
Spurgeon said somewhere that he would have no conversation of significance with man until he had a conversation of significance with God. I think he is saying what I am saying. It is when I have dwelled in God’s presence beholding his glory in conversation that I am more apt to bring gory to Him in my human conversations, and, I might add, naturally. Oh sure I can force some spiritual talk, but if it is not overflow from him it is likely my flesh.
For the body of Christ to truly worship, the focus must be on God.
When worship, whether reading the Bible, praying, singing, sweeping the floor, handing out a meal or whatever, is focused on God, we are the ones who benefit. For it is in true worship, focused on God, not on the experience, certainly not on the entertainment, that we get the side effect of worship: Spiritual development that comes from beholding the glory of God. (Think Moses and the shining face)
Our workplaces and our neighbors can be better served by us when we are changed and filled by Him.
If all we are getting in our gatherings is some human inspired “rah-rah”, “you can do it”, “let’s go change the culture”, we may as well go to the local American high school pep rally, or worse, a political rally.