By S.C. Shaw
As Christians, worship is an integral piece of the foundation of our faith. It encompasses our life and is not merely singing to God.
I originally entitled this blog “Disgusting Worship” but was encouraged to make it less harsh. What do I mean by “humanistic worship”? This is worship that glorifies self and/or man. And “worship” is our whole life not just singing. But I will address singing a lot here because it is one of the most impactful ways we experience God. Many times this kind of worship is disguised with lyrics, super-amped sound systems and light shows that don’t glorify God but instead glorify man. It is easy to assume that walking into a “Christian” church or a “Christian” venue means that all is good, but being a believer requires a biblical understanding of what worship is and how it is used to glorify God. God must be at the center of our worship and the church’s role is to help people grow in God’s truth and to offer up authentic, genuine worship to Him. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we become overly-critical or “nit-picky”, however, we need to be aware of what is going on around us and we need to be able to recognize the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) deception that is in the church. I have observed the dangers and outcomes of people who have been lead by people whose focus is self-glorification and it is both disturbing and frightening because many are unaware. I was one of those people for along time.
Jesus spoke warning to those who would become stumbling blocks to believers.
Matthew 18:6-7, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!”. This still applies today to those who are leading people away from God through humanistic worship. Those who teach a skewed theology and present a false image of God via a twisted message of the Bible. When God’s truth and His message are watered down it creates confusion and inevitably the focus is placed on the flesh— on man rather than on God. It is not hard to do. Being self-focused is what comes most natural to us. We must fight for our purity and holiness.
Let’s look at some examples:
Rockstar Worship Leaders:
I am addressing this topic first because this is what has spurred me to write this blog. It is an issue close to my heart. I have been playing music professionally for over 20 years and have been a worship leader for over 15 years. I have had to learn the difference between, being more interested in myself than in God. I have met worship leaders who have jokingly said, “I failed to make it as a rockstar so I guess I’ll settle on being a worship leader… at least I have a musical outlet for my gifts, right?” Needless to say, being a worship leader has nothing to do with the person per se, it has everything to do with bringing worship to God! How tragic, that this would be the reason someone would decide to be a worship leader.
I have met others who see the position as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. It is merely a platform in order to be noticed by more people and praised for their talent. Unfortunately, some of these types of people have actually made it into the Christian music mainstream, and the result has been the production of “Christian worship” that is humanistic and only glorifies man, or a mixture of glorifying man and God. Of course, I am not saying that every worship leader that wears skinny jeans is humanistic, but our awareness of the difference between humanistic and biblical worship is imperative to our faith and our maturity as believers. Our standard of worship must be at the level that exemplifies the pattern of worship that we find in the scriptures and also one that has been a part of our Christian history for hundreds of years.
I am not against musical outlets and achieving greatness in music, but those leading the church in worship must be very careful and intentional in their hearts and planning towards this call to lead. I have found the responsibility of being a faithful “worship” leader in the church is one of the hardest things to accomplish. It does not matter how many people love your “worship”, or how many people tell you that your songs have touched them each Sunday. It is the One who knows the heart and mind and whom you will give an account of all things that God has given to you. The Pharisees and teachers of the law in the times of Jesus were also confused about what it meant to truly honor God, and Jesus’ reply to them was, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain, their teachings are merely human rules” Matthew 5:18.
May we pray daily for guidance and protection in our hearts and minds because we are prone to wander and deception can be subtle, to say the least. Let us raise our own standards to what we are singing from the platform that God has given us and let us be keen to hear worship that is false and honestly, disgusting in the ears of the Father. And as a congregate at your church, don’t be afraid to call out bad songs. A good pastor will hear you out. As someone leading music in the church, and you know your heart isn’t right then perhaps it is time to step down from your position or seek out wise counsel to bring about change. God has given us the abilities to play instruments and use our voices to worship in spirit and in truth, and it is an honor and a blessing to have the opportunity to lead others in that powerful tool. May we raise the bar for God!
Today there are many false teachers in the church. We must be growing in knowledge and love of the Bible or we will be swept up by things that sound good but rob us of God’s truth. We cannot pick and choose what we want to believe in God and the Bible. We must know God and the biblical pattern of worship or we are deceived and the result will be worship given to the enemy or total self-glorification.
I believe false teachers that produce weak disciples and shallow theologies are the most dangerous to the Body of Christ. Self-obsession, pride and glorifying church leadership can lead to a lethal mix that causes people to become malnourished in their faith and deformed in their maturity in Christ. False teachers do not glorify God, nor do they teach others to do so. They use the joyful truths of the Bible to lift up their own egos and their own congregations and build false confidence that leads to zero eternal hope. I believe this kind of activity is disgusting to God and He will not accept this kind of worship, ever.
I pray that God would reveal to us all if there are any false teachers in our lives and if so, they would be uncovered and that we would come out from under any deception. I also pray that our hearts would be purified so that our church activities would glorify God at all times and we would live for Him and Him alone.
I love seeing people walk into church. Whatever the reason that they are there, God can do a work in them. God doesn’t need the four walls of the building to do His work in people, but our outward display of seeking God and our submission to God’s call to gather together allows us to encounter Him and be blessed by Him in a corporate setting. We are, after all, commanded to meet together.
I wanted to share this because I don’t want people to think I don’t love the church because I truly do. What I am not a fan of is the heart I see more often than not in people who call themselves Christians and show no evidence of it. Going to church does not save you. God finds no pleasure that you go to church if you have not submitted your life to Him. In fact, a life not redeemed by Christ can do nothing to please God. Anything less than wanting to know Christ more and enjoy Christ more forever is worthless. If Sunday’s worship is our only act of worship, we aren’t truly worshiping and we are fooling ourselves. Sunday is a continuation of worship that we have been having all week but we get to have it without family, that is the church. Sunday is reserved for the gathering together of God’s people and to have the opportunity to worship next to and with our eternal family.
We know we are truly worshiping when it really has nothing to do with us. Sure, there are times in corporate and private worship for self-reflection and growth, but nothing is going to change us in the way that pure, unbridled worship to God will. Seeing God for who He allows for more of Him and less of our flesh. Our spirits come alive and we are transformed by His presence. True worship of God is recognizing who He is, what He has done and then falling humbly on our faces to praise Him for His grace in our lives. Sadly, we are not seeing this in many American churches today. I am praying for reformation and revival, that our hearts will be changed. But I also believe it has to start with individuals endeavoring for this kind of beautiful, biblical worship. Without your growth and mine, the church will not move forward in proper worship to God. May we continue in seeking maturity and cultivate a deep desire and understanding of the scriptures. Be thirsty for exalting Christ in your life. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s illumination in everything. Stop just singing about wanting to know God more, or drawing closer to Him, but open your Bible and let God’s Word change you from the inside out.
“But the hour is coming and is nowhere 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.
I would encourage you to look up scriptures about worship and study the context and then apply them. This would be a rewarding study! And pray to illuminate your sin as to kill it, and to illuminate your satisfaction in Christ alone as to draw closer to Him.
Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Contributing editor credit: Lisa M Johnston, Th.M. and Pastor/sozofreedom.com