Summary: But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him..
John 4:23-24 (KJV)
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
But Contemporary Worship Brings People to Jesus! … Right?
For one thing, music doesn’t bring people to Jesus. Jesus does that work admirably enough through the Holy Spirit, certainly better than a brush with David Crowder’s beard. But there’s an even deeper flaw in our thinking. Worship is not an evangelistic tool.
I have tried to avoid God my whole life. I wouldn’t know a traditional hymn from a modernized hymn. I’ve never even stepped foot into a church … until this past Sunday. The people on stage sang a song by David Crowder, and I began to feel the very presence of God. It was like nothing I ever felt before. Tears streamed down my eyes and right then, I bowed down and made a decision to surrender my life to Jesus. I ask you a simple question … wasn’t David Crowder’s song—guitars, modernized lyrics and all—worth being written and sang that way? —The person next to you in the pew
This type of appeal is quite common, both on this blog and elsewhere. I’ve heard it as long as I can remember. “We don’t worship like we used to because it doesn’t bring people to Jesus. You want people to come to Jesus, right? RIGHT?!? YOU BETTER WANT PEOPLE TO COME TO JESUS!!”
I heard one pastor say it this way: “When we aren’t willing to change how we worship so that our culture understands it, we’re telling the world it can go to hell.”
To make sure I don’t come across as mean or callous, especially to my evangelical friends and readers, I should explain something.
I do want people to come to Jesus.
But my answer to this commenter is, “No.”
For one thing, music doesn’t bring people to Jesus. Jesus does that work admirably enough through the Holy Spirit, certainly better than a brush with David Crowder’s beard.
But there’s an even deeper flaw in our thinking.
Worship is not an evangelistic tool.
We don’t worship together to attract unbelievers.
We worship together because God is worthy.
We worship together because this gracious God has called us into his story and grafted us together as covenant people.
We worship together because we desperately need to tell and retell and hear and rehear that story.
We worship together to be refocused, reshaped, renewed by God’s gifts. We need liturgy. We need Word and Sacrament.
Homily on Homage
Did you know that we’re supposed to do work in corporate worship?
I didn’t for the longest time either, having grown up in the middle of the church growth movement. As far as I could tell, the point of “worship” was to get as many butts in the seats as possible, mesmerize them with a theatrical production of bright lights and shiny objects. You know, the latest and greatest in Jesusy entertainment. And then, we bait-and-switch them with the gospel at the end.
At some point, we decided that the worship service was the best venue for evangelism. After all, if we can just make things interesting enough, funny enough, dynamic enough and entertaining enough, we can really pack ‘em in. So, put together a mini-concert, followed by a speaker who knows how to get the crowd energized, mix in a few things about Jesus and you’re set.
Even our language has changed dramatically, as we’ve learned to borrow more from our entertainment culture. Instead of a sanctuary, a place of refuge, we have an auditorium. Instead of chancels and platforms, we have stages. We have performers and an audience. Churches are now hiring worship “producers.” Our music is entirely current and commercial.
We couldn’t possibly do anything else. We’d lose too many people.
To make matters worse, we’ve grown to like it ourselves. It’s nice to come to church and be entertained. Throw that liturgy out the window. I don’t want to work, I want to sit here and get fat off the spiritual carbs they put in front of me. And if the production value slips, I can always go down the road and find another fast-food church that fits me just right.
No longer are there opportunities for congregants to participate, other than singing along if they feel like it, as if they were singing “Roll Out the Barrel” at a Milwaukee Brewers’ seventh-inning stretch. We’ve lost the idea that we are gathered there for a sacred task, not in search of a good time.
And it’s cost us dearly. We don’t have the opportunity to be the people of God together anymore, reshaped by God’s gifts and molded by the Christian story.