Social media affords individuals the opportunity to express their opinions on everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Some of these opinions are profane. Some are mean and hurtful. Some are just plain stupid. Others demonstrate an obvious lack of understanding about the subject under consideration. One comment that falls into this latter category was a reaction to a worship assembly that one person had attended. The comment was, “A great worship show!” It was accompanied by a picture which showed a praise band performing on a stage bathed in multi-colored spot lights while the audience was in darkness.
For many professed believers today, this is exactly what worship has become. It is a stage show in which the audience members are spectators as professional musicians and singers belt out rock-like tunes in praise to God. If a video of such worship were shown without the sound, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish it from a secular rock concert. The audience may clap and sing along, and some may even dance in the aisles as the music plays, and at the end of each piece, the arena (sorry, sanctuary), erupts in applause. At the conclusion of the event everyone goes away with the same feelings of exhilaration that one would experience at a secular show.
Obviously this kind of event appeals to a wide spectrum of modern society, but is this what worship is supposed to be? Many people think the very idea of asking such a question is absurd. The prevailing attitude seems to be that whatever we want to do in worship to God will be just fine with Him. However, even a cursory look at the scriptures shows otherwise.
All throughout the Old Testament God was very explicit in how His people were to worship Him. He never left them to their own devices in deciding how to worship. He always told them exactly what He would and would not accept from them. The classic example of this is Nadab and Abihu in Lev. 10:1-2. The scripture says that they offered strange fire before the Lord, “which He had not commanded them.” As a result, God sent fire from heaven to consume them. The point is that God only accepts worship that is offered in the manner He commands.
In the New Testament, the summary statement of God’s will about worship is made by Jesus in Jn. 4:24. Speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria, the Lord said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” This is a general statement that covers both our attitude as we worship, as well as the things we do in worship. Our worship must be sincere, but it must also be what God has commanded.
Our understanding of New Testament worship is a composite of a number of statements and examples. We worship on the first day of the week (Sunday), because this is when first century Christians met (Acts 20:7). We sing and make melody with our hearts, as they did (Eph. 5:15-21). We eat the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), give of our means (1 Cor. 16:1-2), pray, and proclaim God’s word (Acts 2:42). All these things were done by the early Christians in a simple and reverent way, as befitting those coming into the presence of Almighty God.
This is the point that is lost on many modern worshipers. God is the object of our worship, not the people in the pews. Our joy and fulfillment in worship should come from having offered acceptable worship to God, rather than from having been entertained or moved by someone’s performance. We don’t assemble to put on a great worship show. We assemble to show our love for God by doing what He has commanded us to do.