They hauled their camping chairs, towels, and coolers, setting up camp on the grass, waiting for the cover band to emerge. There were tables selling goodies, jewelry, or promoting various radio stations and organizations. Some of the concert attendees milled about buying things or taking free stickers and business cards. Finally, the group everyone came to see took the stage. The crowd jumped to their feet and started clapping and cat calling.
The lead singer, a young guy dressed in a button down shirt, converse, and jeans, stepped to the microphone. “I’d like to thank you all for being here tonight, supporting our group. We are excited to be here! Are you excited to be here?”
The mob screamed an affirmative.
“Alright!” He said. “Y’all ready to worship?”
Again, the mob bellowed out their yeses.
“Awesome, enjoy the show folks!”
Worship? I thought, Enjoy the show? I knew this was a Christian band, but worship and show ought to be two very different things. Because they were a Christian band there seemed to be this obligation to call it worship, when it was really just a show.
I do not mean there cannot be genuine worship occurring in such a setting, but as a whole, I think we have lost what real worship is and looks like. Many “worship services” are essentially concerts. They smack suspiciously of the world rather than of Jesus.
Catchy by-lines, professional branding up the ying-yang, smoke machines and strobe lights have become characteristic of so many churches. Some even offer concessions during worship like it’s a movie. These snazzy extras appear to offer something above and beyond what they actually do.
You have to meet people where they are. Some people do not feel comfortable in an actual church setting or with certain worship styles. However, if a child does not like vegetables, and the parent dishes out French fries and candy, it is not called meeting someone where he or she is; it is called bad parenting. Leaders in the church are a lot like parents. It is not about giving people what they want; it is showing people what they need.
God does not need a fancy show to break into our lives. In fact, those things tend to distract us from the entire idea behind what worship is. Worship is being in the presence of God and engaging Him. Many times, emotional highs and fancy gadgets preoccupy us with their glamour, meanwhile God whispers, “I’m here, will you pay attention to me?” But we are too busy on our emotional high, worshipping in a way that pleases us, to notice or care.
It kind of reminds me of eating. I’m sure you have noticed how big fast food is and how obsessed our culture has become with being thin.
Fast food compensates for their fatty food by offering low carb, low calorie options. Great! But, it is still a far cry from actually being good for you and the motive is still more about being thin than it is being healthy. It is a better option than a greasy burger and fries, but is it a better option than a well-balanced, homemade meal? I guess this is the whole issue: people would rather have someone give them a pitiful excuse for a salad than have to exert the slightest effort to have something substantially more nourishing.
I think churches have made a similar compromise. Many have settled for a low-carb Christianity—a low-carb God—one that appears to be a healthy choice but fails to illuminate what it is all really about.
Services keep to specific time limits and do not deviate from the agenda—this way no one has to be uncomfortable or work very hard to pay attention. Pastors deliver sermons offering an enumerated how-to guide regarding morality, rather than commenting at all about how a relationship with God can do and change everything. Worshippers are ushered in and out with speed, providing an adequate “meal,” and a sense of accomplishment because church can be crossed off the list of things to-do.
The poor excuse for spiritual food goes in but does not completely satisfy. A few hours later, hunger strikes again and attempts to fill it never cease. The whole message of the gospel is about filling the hunger. The true message of the gospel does not leave the seeker constantly in need of the next emotional high because the seeker is in a relationship with God—and God is enough.
Our churches have settled for what is comfortable and easy. My pastor says, “the gospel is meant to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” I think he is right. I think there are messes of Christians out there trying to tune out feeling like there is more to their spirituality, more to God. And they are right to feel like there is more, because there is. Our worship should reflect God’s call to an unrestrained relationship with Him and to love those around us. God’s brand of love is active. It seeks God in all circumstances and pursues the good of ALL.