By: Gary L. Hutchens
A great many churches, and a great many people who make up those churches, have lost their perspective as to what worship is supposed to be about. The various Greek words translated “worship” in the New Testament convey the idea of making obeisance (respectful behavior), revering, holding in awe, giving honor, glorifying, acting piously toward God. All of these terms point to a serious, purposeful mindset on the part of the worshipper.
Many churches have either lost, or have purposely departed from, this fundamental understanding of what worship is supposed to be. One basic reason for the departure is a shifting of focus. Worship is supposed to be all about God. He is the one being worshipped, He is the audience. But the focus has shifted to those supposedly doing the worshiping. They have become the audience. The emphasis has shifted from how can we glorify God through worship to how can we be inspired and motivated and brought to an emotional high through what we want to call worship.
Instead of focusing on pleasing God, the shift has been to focus on pleasing people. How can we get more people in the seats? What can we do to attract the masses and bring them in?
The answer embraced has been a continually increasing move toward entertainment. Congregational singing has been replaced by choirs that display a distinct appearance of giving a performance. Professional musicians, often bands, perform with instruments of all sorts. Solos and duets are sung to choreographed arrangements. The stage, as it can be accurately called, is set with stage lighting similar to what would be seen at a concert. All of the trappings of a show.
The audience- the supposed worshippers- sit mesmerized, inspired, entertained! They feel spiritually uplifted. But what actually happened? How much Bible was taught? How much scripture did they learn? How much knowledge of God’s word did they gain? Probably not much, because the preaching was minimized, and what preaching was done was likely way short on in-depth scripture study. The lesson was presented with charisma, just not much Bible.
The people leave believing they have worshipped God. But they mostly sat and observed their worship being done for them. They did not take part in the performances, they just observed them.
Some would challenge that, as long as they’re sincere in what they’re doing, they can worship God in their own way. But Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn. 4:23-24). The phrase “true worshipers” indicates that some who supposedly worship God are not true worshipers. The word “truth” implies that there is true worship and worship that is not true. We must worship God the way He wants us to, making and keeping Him the focus of our worship. It’s about honoring and glorifying God, not entertaining us. Churches need to close the show and get back to worship…
Gary L. Hutchens