Crisis of Worship

This past Sunday I finish a brief 3 part series, Worship in the Book of Revelation.  Revelation gives us wonderful image of God–Sovereign Holy King (ch 4), Redeemer who gives hope (ch 5).  I have been reminded increasingly that worship, since it centers on God requires submission.  As I look through all the “worship hymns” in Revelation and see the way the book ends–I am reminded that an encounter with God always leads to worship.

Any “worship wars” or “crisis in worship” seem to have at their root a failure to encounter God.  When we encounter God, we are changed and He is worshipped.  When we encounter God our eyes are either fixed on Him or at least removed from us.  When we encounter God worship is always transformational.  When we encounter God worship is real and relevant.  When we encounter God worship is no longer about style.

Surveying the Crisis of Worship

from R.C. Sproul

There is a crisis of worship in our land. People are staying away from church in droves. One survey indicated that the two chief reasons people drop out of church are that it is boring and irrelevant.

If people find worship boring and irrelevant, it can only mean they have no sense of the presence of God in it. When we study the act of worship in Scripture and church history, we discover a variety of human responses to the sense of the presence of God. Some people tremble in terror, falling with their faces to the ground; others weep in mourning; some are exuberant in joy; still others are reduced to a pensive silence. Though the responses differ, one reaction we never find is boredom. It is impossible to be bored in the presence of God (if you know that He is there).

Neither is it possible for a sentient creature to find his or her encounter with God a matter of irrelevance. Nothing–and no one–is more relevant to human existence than the living God.

Coram Deo: Do you find worship boring and irrelevant? If so, pray for a renewed sense of God’s presence.

Psalm 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.”

Psalm 34:1 “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Psalm 50:23 “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”

4 thoughts on “Crisis of Worship”

  1. Steve,

    This is a solid point, but I still wonder about the emphasis put upon forms in today’s church. It seems that Worship entails so much more than a few songs on Sunday morning and really is about our responding to the presence of God on a daily basis like you’ve mentioned. It seems the ‘crisis of worship’ is more of a societal problem simply stemming back to the Fall. We were made to reflect the Words and Wisdom of God, but mankind chose to reflect our own ‘greatness’ instead. I hear so much about ‘creating a certain worship experience’ in today’s church, but I wonder if the best method for that would simply be to pursue the discipleship process and leading others to be transformed into Christ-likeness. True worship should ensue, correct?

  2. True but let me add to what you said.

    First, I would say that corporate worship is more than just the “songs.” I think corporate worship–the gathering of a body of believers together for the purpose of honoring God–involves more than music. The interaction, prayer, giving, sharing, encouraging, learning and singing are all part of the “worship experience.”

    Second, while we should only care about what “God gets out of it” since worship is about God. In contrast to so much of what is heard in today’s churches “I liked the worship today” “I didn’t like the worship today.” There is still a point in which–since God created us as complete beings with the ability to think, feel and experience–that we should be fully engaged in worship. This does require that one be in communion with God throughout the week not just on Sunday. It requires being active in personal discipleship and personal growth and personal service. It requires being involved in personal worship.

    Third, since we were saved into a family–the family of God–worship is also more than just a personal issue. And since that family is to have unity within the diversity of personalities, background, experience, ethnicity, etc., our worship experience is to reflect that unity and diversity. This is where much of the conflict comes. And while some of the conflict would be diminished by our continued transformation–our transformation will not removed our individual uniqueness. We will still have a way of seeing the world (mindstyle) and a personality and years of experience and ethnicity–none of which are “wrong” but do color our view of the world.

    So although worship is not primarily about me, I should be involved and included. In corporate worship I should be engaging not only with God, but with His children. And until we are glorified and worship in full unity and harmony, we will continue to deal with the “me” in the “we.” And while the more mature I become the lest distracted I will become by forms of worship that are not as meaningful to me–there are special ways each of us encounters God. Some of us respond with introspective contemplation, other with visible emotional expression. Some respond physically other more cognitively.

    So form of worship is not primary but is necessary. One example. Pick the wisest most spiritual individual you know–probably someone with years of experience. Drop that person into a worship service where the primary form is rap or reggae or hip hop or techno. They may still appreciate the fact that others are able to encounter God. But would they be able to engage in worship? They may not be able to understand the word!

  3. Hey Steve, I’m in general agreement with all the statements here but I am a little curious about your second point as it relates to corporate worship.

    I’m not sure that we should only care about what “God gets out of it”… I understand that in our hedonistic (not piper’s definition) society the worshiper (personal views, likes, and dislikes) has often become the end of the experience… But I wonder if we are overreacting to an overtly off balanced view when we say worship is only about God or we sing to an audience of one…

    I know this sounds a little off but hear me out… I was recently asked in a questionnaire for a church to react to the following statement

    “Worship is not for seekers OR believers but for God.”

    Here is the answer I gave…

    “I disagree with this statement. There is a reciprocal aspect to worship. While the object of praise in worship is of course God the worshiper still has much to gain from the experience. Worship edifies to the benefit of the believer and that’s why we are exhorted to sing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to each other. Even in the private worship experiences seen in the Psalms, many of the authors come before God distraught but ultimately receive a sense of peace as a result of worship. It’s interesting that the those authors felt the need to record those worship experiences and share then with others.

    While a seeker may not have the full benefit of the affectionate and relational aspects of worshiping God, they can worship God at least in the sense that they can proclaim His attributes and recognize His supremacy and I believe to some degree benefit from it.” (Jonah 1:15)

    Anyway, Steve, thats what I have been thinking though… I recently read Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin. I think he does a very good job at addressing these issues.

  4. Dan,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I would agree that we tend to react and not maintain a proper balance. My experience is that we have overemphasized worship being “our experience” even while verbally declaring it is all about God.

    And I would agree with you that the worship experience is reciprocal. And I would continue to maintain that there is a difference between corporate worship and personal worship.

    When I encounter God for who He is–through His Word, His actions, His creation, His constant grace–I should express to Him what I has seen about Him. That is my basic definition of worship: encounter and expression.

    Where I think we often stop short is when our encounter and expression only reflect what I see of God in my life, based on what He has done for me.

    That, I would say is thanksgiving. Our gratitude to God for who He is and what He has done–is surely part of our worship experience and should continually change us. (As a matter of face, without gratitude no one can be helped or change–because the absence of gratitude reflect self-centeredness.)

    But as we encounter God and desire to express back to Him, what we have seen. We do well to move beyond thanksgiving–generated by mediation on what God has done–to contemplating the Person of God in all His infinite majesty, glory, transcendence, power, etc. When we are able to move from looking at God for what He does for us, to looking at who He is–we can more effectively worship in/though fully surrendered hearts.

    Therefore the goal of worship is for God to be honor and praise–and for me to changed.

Leave a Reply