By Bob Kauflin
It’s helpful to remember that the world, the devil, and our flesh actively oppose our desire to give God the glory He alone deserves. The real worship wars aren’t about music styles, forms, and practices. They’re secretly waged in our hearts, as idols try to rob us of our passion to exalt God above everything. If we aren’t aware of those worship wars we’ll have a difficult time understanding or experiencing worship that honors God, no matter what we’re doing on the outside.
Speaking of experience, here are a couple more idols that can tempt us on Sunday mornings.
Experience – As I paged through a Christian magazine last year, I noticed one ad for a new worship CD mentioned “experience” six times. We all love “worship experiences” with God. Experiences aren’t evil. But the concept of worship as an “experience” is fairly foreign to Scripture. I say “fairly” because there are times when worshipping God was definitely an experience! (2 Chron. 5:11-14; Acts 4:31; 1 Cor. 14:23-25) However, the goal of gathering as God’s people is not to feel something but to see and remember something. That “something” is the Word, works, and worthiness of God, especially as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6) If I pursue goose bumps or heightened emotion during a meeting, God becomes simply one of numerous options I can choose to seek them from. This doesn’t minimize the importance of pursuing encounters with the living God characterized by profound emotion and awareness of the Holy Spirit’s active presence. Scripture is filled with examples of longing for, pursuing, and delighting in God’s presence (Ps. 84:1-2; 1 Chron 16:11; Ps. 16:11) But I become aware of God’s nearness by dwelling on His nature, promises, and acts, not by pursuing an emotional fix.
Liturgy – Forms and practices are significant when we meet as God’s people to worship Him. Everything must be done decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:40) However, God has been vague (painfully so) in His Word regarding what that “order” actually looks like. How many songs do we sing and when do we sing them? What words should we use when we pray? When and how often should we celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Christians throughout history have argued about and divided over such issues, claiming to offer a liturgy that was truly biblical. Of course, church splits are not always wrong, as some of the biblical truths and doctrines we treasure most were purified through the fires of conflict. However, there is no “liturgical perfectionism” we can achieve that will ever make our worship more acceptable to God than it already is in Jesus Christ. The sad fruit of this idolatrous mentality is churches that have a form of godliness but lack true spiritual power. Our goal is to do in faith what magnifies God’s glory in Christ most effectively and Scripturally. We can and should use biblical elements and proportions in corporate worship. But liturgies should serve us, not rule us. Since God has seen fit to allow freedom in form, so should we.
I’ll continue these thoughts in a later post.
By the way, my mother-in-law (see this post) is doing much better. Thanks to those of you who prayed.