I love movie theater popcorn. There is just something about it that makes it taste amazing. I’m not even really a popcorn fan, truth be told, but movie theater popcorn is one of my favorite foods. I’ll even disclose a little secret… Sometimes I’ll suggest a movie for a date night with Trista (my wife), not because I want to watch a movie, but because I want movie theater popcorn. That’s right, I said it! I go to the movies not for the movie (the main attraction) but for the popcorn.
The same can be said sometimes for Christians when it comes to worship. Now just so we are clear, worship is a word used to describe a lot of things. (For a comprehensive definition of the word “worship” and its Biblical meaning and usage, check out the Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. It is a great resource.) I will use the word worship in this blog post to talk about what is referred to as corporate worship or a church service.
When God first saved me, I was 23 years old. I can remember going that year to some sort of massive retreat for Christians. It was held in a packed auditorium and everyone was passionately pouring out their heart in worship to our great God. I can remember thinking; worship should always be like this. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was a dangerous thought. Don’t get me wrong; my heart was in the right place. I could feel the presence of God and I never wanted to experience worship without that again. That is a very right and Biblical thought. However, the thoughts that I had about my little, less than passionate, 50-100 member country church’s worship service after that retreat were less than kind, right, or Biblical.
Please know, before I launch into the teaching point in this blog that I am not pointing the finger at BCC specifically. I can honestly say that my experience being a pastor on staff here has been the best. Trista and I have felt loved and supported, however, this is an issue that exists everywhere, even here. Please know that my intention, if this is a struggle for you, is not to condemn, but to lovingly point out a “blind spot” that you may not be aware of. After all that is what good pastors and good community should do for one another. So, onward…
If you ask someone to describe his or her perfect worship service almost every Christian on this planet would tell you something different. Especially since most churches are multi-generational (many different generations attend), the music that people enjoy listening to can range from rap and hip-hop, to bluegrass or polka. This can make selecting songs that can engage a church somewhat difficult. Yet for me as a worship pastor, this is not the thing that challenges/scares me the most. What scares me the most is that people can come into a worship service with a preconceived idea of what worship should be like, and they feel as though they cannot worship if what happens in the service doesn’t line up with their idea of what worship should be. Please understand that there are some WRONG ways to do worship, however, the Bible gets to dictate that, not us. I am horrified at the notion that many of us may be coming to a worship service with an idea (or sometimes a better description might be a graven image) of what the experience of God ought to be like, and expect the music to simulate that experience in us. It could be a piano and organ or an electric guitar and drums—either can create a God experience that may not have any of God in it at all. But people will feel like they’ve worshipped because its what they want. Could it be possible that in our consumerist-culture that we are actually worshiping worship rather than the only One who is worthy of our worship? Could it be possible that we, as Christians, can create an emotionally gratifying experience within ourselves, a.k.a. a counterfeit worship experience? 2 Corinthians 3 talks about a people whose hearts were hardened to true worship because they expected that salvation/worship should be one way (through the Law), and they refused to change or bend even when God Himself showed up through Christ and showed them a better way (grace through Christ). And as verse 17 says, true worship of the true and living Christ invites God’s Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty indeed!
If we want to experience true life-giving worship at BCC, we must never start being concerned with the inferior matters such as style, instrumentation, order of service, etc. We must concern ourselves with connecting in gratitude and passionate worship of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. I am just as guilty as the next person of trying to make my worship experience about lesser things, but it is exactly like to going to the movies only for the popcorn. The popcorn is good, but it is not the main attraction. Our worship service is great but let us never be a people who are guilty of forgetting the wondrous cross and Prince of glory, the God man Jesus who died on that cross so that we could have life, liberty, and a right relationship with God. That is so much better than movie theater popcorn!