Worship That Changes Everything!

What if I suggested that our worship services are to be significantly more powerful than most Christians imagine.  Worship is to be a dangerous act of celebration, reflection, and commitment before God, awesome in His majesty and omnipotence, accessible in His mercy and love.  Authentic worship is not safe, boring, or ritualistic.  Authentic worship does not support the status quo, but the experience of the transforming presence of God, the creator, who recreates His will in us and through us.

We do not often think of worship in such a dramatic way.  We settle for a safe worship experience.  A worship experience where we attempt to experience God in our preferred way, asking Him to do our preferred tasks, and expecting Him to confirm our way of life or ideologies.  Success in worship is often framed in God's ability to affirm us as opposed to our ability to actually worship God. This kind of worship is not authentic, but is false.  False worship masquerades for authentic worship, but according to Author and Pastor Mark Labberton (The Dangerous Act of Worship, 2007) there are five marks of false worship.

1. Worship that does not encounter God.  Encountering God is "more like encountering a whirlwind than a gentle breeze".  The untamed, raw, powerful, life-changing, Holy God  is unsettling.  His presence is never accepted casually or even comfortably.  Encountering God, even in the profoundness of his love, is disorienting and dangerous.  We are warned to approach God reverently and expectantly.  "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

2. Worship that lies to God.  God specifically desires worship that is based upon truthfulness (John 4:23).  The beginning of the humanity enforces this tendency to want to be in the presence of God and to lie about our current condition.  Adam and Eve attempted to hide from God in light of their rebellion, and there is a real temptation to attempt to worship God while our lives are in complete rebellion to His character and His desired will for us.  When our lives are in rebellion to God, our actions speak so loudly that it drowns out the words we are saying or singing in God's eyes. 

3. Worship that lies about God.  These are our attempts to worship a god of our own choosing, instead of the God reveal in Scripture, His Son, and His spirit.  Theologian Marva Dawn states that in true worship, God is the subject (its about God) and the object (Its for God) of worship  There are some common lies about God. Prosperity god wants you rich as a sign of Holiness.  Nationalistic god exists to bless American patriotic zeal and promises our economic and militaristic security and success.  New Age god exists to make you happy, and your happiness is seen as affirmation of Holiness.  We can frame our worship experience to shape these false gods and in doing so, we lie about the very nature of God and become idolatrous.

4. Worship that doesn't change us. "Like people who go through years of therapy because they like talking, but do little of the work needed for real change, millions of Christians spend hours in worship but their lives are indistinguishable from those in the broader culture".  An encounter with the Living God is always a life changer.  Transformation is both intensive in depth and extensive in scope.  It is powerful, pervasive, and deeply personal.  Worship that allows us to be unchanged is false worship.

5. Worship that doesn't change the world.  God's response to the chaos and evil of the world was simply to send his Son as a demonstration of His love.  His love is changing the world.  A worship experience that does not inspire us to be part of God's mission to confront evil and injustice is too safe.  One of the earliest glimpses of worship in the early church is found in "The first Apology of Justin Martyr", probably written in AD 90.  What is fascinating about this early worshiping community, is that part of the worship service was service to people in need.  It was the experience of God that directly influenced them to demonstrate the love of God to others.  We should be leary of a worship experience that does not result in a greater sense of participating in God's mission to express pragmatic love, otherwise known as justice.

Take time to today to think about your worship experience.  Do you experience the awesome, powerful, beyond-our-comprehension God, or the safe gods of our design?  Are you changed in worship?  Does your worship inspire change in others? 

You may be tempted to read this and think that I am talking about changing the style of worship or adding a new format.  Those are superficial tools for change.  What I am challenging is our attitudes and approaches to worship that are often deeply flawed.  Its not about style, as much as it is about substance.

I pray that your worship experience will change everything.  I pray that your eyes will be opened to the dangerous act of worship that truly changes, rearranges, reorients, and inspires for eternity.

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor