"When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship, then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us rather than that we had been made for Him." -Stephen Charnock
Many times I wonder which god is being worshipped in our churches, and where this god developed his characteristics.
Many (of we) modern evangelicals seem to think that the purpose of a church service is to entertain, exhilarate, and energize. Some of us go to church, not so much to worship God, to stand in awe of His grace to us in Christ, to stir up our affections for Him but rather to consume, sit back, fancy the musical experience and apply the self-help advice we gleaned during the sermon. The pastor is expected to be to be clean-cut, non-offensive and smooth, the musicians to be talented and contemporary, the congregation to be good-looking, middle-class, look and act like you (homogenous unit principle). A great majority of us appear to actually select our churches, not by the sound and dynamic preaching of the Scriptures, but by these outward considerations alone! Some newspapers have even begun to go around and rate churches on these externals as one would a local restaurant. There you have it, a worship of consumerism - In other words this new mentality we have embraced is none other than the worship of self. Then we self-righteously attack those who differ from us, who do not use the seeker sensitive model, and lose sight of the fact that the worst enemy is, more often than not, the person we see in the mirror.
After youâ€™ve narrowed it down and found a local church which preaches the word and faithfully administers the sacraments I donâ€™t contend that there are other valid secondary considerations, but we must be faithful to God in maintaining that worship is in no way a form of diversionary entertainment. A church that is self-congratulatory has become a questionable fellowship because the function of the service has gone from the Scriptural command to worship God to the idolatrous worship of itself. God should be central to worship, not you ... that is, He should be the central focus in our song, proclamation of the word and in the administering of the sacraments. Self-focused, self-absorbed psychological sessions whose main purpose is to generate good feelings about ourselves is idolatry, a breach of the first/second commandments. This tragic lapse into consumerism is devouring the Church and making mincemeat of our local assemblies. Instead of finding the service meaningful and God-glorifying, centering in the Trinity and especially the person and work of Christ, many spend their time asking themselves what they got out of it. Rather, we need to be asking ourselves, â€œWas God glorified in our time of corporate worship today?â€
We worship a Holy God. We must always recognize that we are a hell-deserving people who have been shown mercy in Christ. There is now no condemnation for us in Christ. Real sanctification is continuing to apply this same truth through your entire life and in all your worship. The gospel must be central to Christians as well as non-Christians. We never graduate from the gospel and then go on to higher things, for the gospel is to be applied to every area of our lives. There is nothing at conversion and nothing now that we can do to maintain or contribute to the price of our salvation. From beginning to end we worship a God of grace. True worship in Spirit and Truth is worship of the Triune God - a loss of all confidence in oneself and a recognition of the gift of mercy given to us for all redemptive blessings we have in Christ. The elements of the Lord's table should be a constant visible reminder of this to us ... that God fully accepts you because of Christ.
God did not promise to bless methodologies, marketing techniques, sermons about psychology and self-esteem but He did promise to bless the preaching of the word. Paul, concluded at all points in his life that the only thing he would proclaim was "Christ crucified". He said that his message was a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, but "through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life." So encourage the leadership of your church to return to the biblical model, to abandon all market-driven techniques, and the unhealthy emphasis on consumerism and unbiblical models of seeker-sensitivity, which may very well be an unacceptable offering to the Lord. The preaching of the Word must continue to remain central to the worship. Marketing techniques may indeed bring people in to be entertained, but the only thing God has promised to bless is "the foolishness of preaching" the gospel.
Today's self-oriented evangelicalism is quickly abandoning any semblance to historic Christian orthodoxy and unless we return to a biblical gospel that fully encompasses the work of the Trinity, the influence of the Church will continue to wane. We must once again come to Him empty-handed, naked and without hope save for His merciful intervention for the Church, whom He loves so much that He gave His Son for her.