Conditional Worship

by Russ Hutto

Conditional Worship

“I just can’t worship with that kind of music.”

Have you ever said something like this?

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before. I’ve definitely thought it at times.

I was at a traditional church several years ago when God opened my eyes to this. I was sitting there during the music and thinking about how I would do the song differently. Then God basically slapped me in the face. I felt Him say to me, “Gary, worship me. If you can’t worship me with this kind of music, then your idea of worship is shallow.” I walked away from that a changed person and a changed worship leader. Over the years, I have seen and heard testimonies of people who have worshiped and connected with God for the first time, even though they didn’t prefer the music style that I was bringing. That is what it is all about. It’s not about the methods or styles in which we worship. It’s about bringing worship that the Father is seeking, which is in Spirit and in truth.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23 ESV)

That being said, I’m concerned that there is a danger we need to watch out for in our churches. The danger is CONDITIONAL WORSHIP. It’s when God’s people convince themselves of certain conditions that need to exist in order for corporate worship to happen. For some, it may call for a killer band and for others, it may call for a choir. For some, it may be lights and multimedia and for others, it may be stained glass and candles. These things are not bad ideas at all. When used properly, there are so many things that can enhance the experience and touch the senses, but we need BALANCE. We need to learn to worship God no matter what the circumstances. Paul said in Colossians 2:16 – “So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.” (The Message)

What is the substance of your worship? If it’s not Christ alone, then you are probably suffering from CONDITIONAL WORSHIP.

Here’s a few signs you can watch out for:


Is your worship experience inconsistent? If it is, you need to realize that it’s not the church’s fault. It’s not the worship leader’s fault. It’s not the pastor’s fault. The issue is found when you look in the mirror. If Christ is the substance of our worship, then we will experience consistency in corporate worship. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When Christ becomes the substance of our worship more and more, we will experience more and more consistency in heart-tugging, life-changing corporate worship.


Jesus is not boring. Following Jesus with surrender is a true adventure. When Christ is not the substance of our worship, then we require lesser things to keep our attention in corporate worship. We require certain styles, certain songs and certain sermons. Eventually, we tire of those things the same way a spoiled kid gets tired of unwrapped Christmas presents after a week of playing with them. If you are bored in corporate worship, maybe your attention is being arrested by lesser things. When you fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3), you will never lose sight of true, exciting worship, no matter what the conditions.


Hesitation in corporate worship manifests itself in our inspection of everything, before we surrender everything. It’s when we look at who is on the stage or what is on the agenda, as we assess whether or not the order of worship will satisfy our wants and needs. Surrender and obedience are at the heart of worship. Delayed obedience is disobedience. When we delay or hesitate to bring an offering of praise to God, we’re not trusting that Christ is truly all we need. In Matthew 4, when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, it says that they “immediately” left all they had and followed Him. May we not hesitate. May we follow and worship with trust and surrender.

Conditional worship is a sign that we have grown stale in our relationship with God or maybe we just have not grown at all. It reveals a heart that is not completely His.

When we completely, unconditionally surrender our heart to God, our worship will be complete.

God’s love for us is unconditional.

May our worship for Him have less and less conditions.

He loved us so much that He sent His only son to die for our sins. Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Christ is the substance of true worship and the only condition in worship we will ever need.

Russ Hutto works 9-5 in print design. He volunteers in music ministry at St. Simons Community Church and also travels to worship with congregations and help with Worship Ministry Development. He’s into reading Star Wars novels & working out at CrossFit. As the TWC editor, he’s always on the lookout for great content for The Worship Community.

How Exciting Should Our Sunday Meetings Be?



Not too long ago a friend who leads the music in his church mentioned to me that his pastor wanted their meetings to be more exciting.

Webster’s says exciting means “causing great enthusiasm and eagerness.” Certainly, nothing should cause greater enthusiasm and eagerness than meeting with the church to recount what God has done to save us from his wrath through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All our sins are forgiven! We have been adopted into God’s family! Jesus has triumphed over sin, death, and hell! We are new creations! We are part of God’s  unstoppable, unchangeable, unrelenting plan to have a people on earth who will display his glory, truth, righteousness, love, and compassion!

What can be more earth-shattering, soul-shaking, and EXCITING than rehearsing and reveling in those realities?

Boring or Exciting?

And yet, I didn’t sense that’s what my friend’s pastor was asking for. He saw that people were drifting and he wanted the worship leader to do something about it.

I understand the aversion to boring meetings. I’ve participated in them and led them. Awkward silences. Monotone speakers. No evident progression. Dull, disengaged repetition. People covertly checking their watches every five minutes. No sense of expectation. Or even interest.

In response, an increasing number of churches have sought to add elements to their gatherings that will make them more “exciting.” Meeting countdowns. Fast-paced videos. Engaging dramas. Creative humor. Breathless, energetic emcees. More upbeat songs. Smoke machines. Light shows. And a mindset that views dead space as the supreme excitement killer.

Getting the Goal Right

But our lives aren’t an unending string of exclamation points. Our meetings shouldn’t be either. (Neither should our emails, but that’s another topic).

Strictly speaking, God never says the goal of the church gathering is excitement. It’s edification for God’s glory. We meet to stir up one another to love and good works, not simply to have an emotionally electrifying time. We meet to behold God’s glory in Christ through his Word, responding in ways appropriate to his self-revelation (Heb. 10:24; 2 Cor. 3:18).

That doesn’t mean gathering as the church isn’t meant to be a soul stirring event. We have every reason when we’re together to be excited about what God has done for us in Christ. But that’s not the same as aiming for adrenaline-pumping, professionally produced, high energy,exciting gatherings alone. That approach leaves little room to engage in expressions normal for elect exiles on our way to a new home (1 Pet. 1:1-2). Expressions like disorientation (Ps. 42:1-5). Sorrow for sin (Ps. 38:1-8). Grief (Rom. 12:15). A humble awareness of our creatureliness before our Creator (Ps. 95:6-7). Not to mention reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28).

Our greatest need when we gather is not simply to feel excited, but to encounter God: to engage with the certainty of his sovereignty, the reality of his authority, the comfort of his mercy in Christ, and the promise of his grace. We need to be strengthened for the battles against the world, our flesh, and the devil that will confront us the moment we wake up Monday morning, if not before. Mere emotional excitement, however it might be produced, won’t be sufficient. We need God’s Word clearly expounded, God’s gospel clearly presented, and God’s presence clearly experienced. We need well crafted, intentional liturgies that cultivate God-honoring, Christ-exalting thoughts and desires (See Rhythms of Grace and Christ-Centered Worship for more on that). Our efforts to make our meetings exciting can actually end up obscuring what our congregations need the most.

Towards a More Profound Excitement

The alternative to making our meetings more “exciting” isn’t trying to bore people. But Sunday mornings aren’t New Year’s Eve celebrations. They aren’t rock concerts. They aren’t pep rallies. They aren’t World Cup finals. They’re something much more mundane, and at the same time something much more eternally and cosmically significant. Our plans, lights, smooth transitions, technology, videos, sound systems, visual effects, and creativity don’t make it so. Christ dwelling in the midst of his people through his Holy Spirit makes it so. That’s why if we understand what’s going on, sharing the bread and cup during communion can be one of the highlights of our week, transcending the greatest of world championship sports rivalries in its effect on us.

Every Sunday we get to gather with the saints Christ has redeemed and made one through his death on the cross. We join in with the hosts of heaven around the throne (Heb. 12:22-24). God speaks powerfully and personally to us through the preached word. The Triune God reveals himself and builds up the church through various gifts, acts of service, and activities (1 Cor. 12:4-6). What could be more thrilling?

Should our meetings be exciting? Absolutely. But let’s make sure they’re exciting for the right reasons. We’re remembering and celebrating the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, has clothed himself in our flesh, received God’s wrath in our place, risen from the dead, and is now reigning and interceding for his own until he returns to vanquish evil and spend eternity with his Bride, the Church.

And no matter how many times we’re reminded, that is exciting.

(You might also want to check out Should Worship Be Fun?)