Today there is much focus and attention given to public worship. In our Christian gatherings and services great emphasis is placed on having the right worship leader, the right band, great lighting, cool sound, trendy staging, etc. These things are discussed and rehashed by senior leaders/pastors and their staff to enhance the Sunday morning worship experience for the average parishioner or visitor.
This may come as a surprise to some, but I find very little mention of these things in Scripture. Now of course there is nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves, but I have found that external props can actually work in the reverse to detract from the real purpose of true worship – mainly to experience intimacy with the Lord and be touched by His tangible presence, as well as open the door for the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit.
We are quick to claim that these props are indeed to help create an atmosphere for the sole purpose of drawing people to God, but sometimes the focus is so much on the external and the performance of the worship leader and the band with all its external effects, that is has the ‘feel’ of a concert rather than true worship. It morphs people into spectators and actually hinders them from experiencing more of the presence of God that comes from worshipping out of their innermost beings? Have you ever noticed that the mouths of most people during praise and worship are no longer moving?
What is it that makes for “spirit and truth” worship? Is it the music? Is it all the outward glitter and white noise? Is it the lights and the fancy staging? What’s the difference between a rock concert atmosphere and a Christian worship service? Most believers would be quick to say that it’s the anointing or the presence of God that makes the difference. But what constitutes the anointing? Is it the words we sing? Is it the emotions we feel?
“Everyone knows what the freshness of the morning is when orient pearls abound on every blade of grass, but who can describe it, much less produce it of itself? Such is the mystery of spiritual anointing. We know, but we cannot tell to others what it is. It is as easy as it is foolish to counterfeit it.” – E.M. Bounds
I’ve met with small groups of people for prayer, worship, and fellowship without any worship band or music and at times have sensed far more of the presence of God than in larger corporate gatherings with a talented band and great music. Conversely, I’ve also observed the opposite. So it is not necessarily having a band or music or a lack thereof that makes the difference.
Really, it comes down to trust. Are we trusting the Holy Spirit to manifest His presence and power or are we trusting in the talents of our singers and musicians with all their external props? One cannot manufacture the anointing of God. Counterfeits are worthless. Yet the real is precious and priceless and so needful to edify the body of Christ.
Are we trusting in the wisdom of man or in the manifold wisdom of God?
Have we forgotten the character of the wisdom of God?
For it is written: “ ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:19-20, 26-29).
We know that in the above scriptures Paul is expounding on the foolishness of the preaching of the cross, but it is a marvelous expose of the hidden wisdom of God. The Corinthians were caught away with identifying themselves with various personalities in the church (v. 11-13; Paul, Apollos, and Cephas), but Paul brought them back to Christ and the cross. He is comparing the wisdom of the world to the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world is man-centered, but the wisdom of God is Christ-centered. You say, “what does this have to do with worship?” Everything!
Much of our worship is man-centered entertainment. Yes, we are singing the right words but oftentimes the heart of true worship is totally missing.
There is a fine line here. Most spiritually minded people may recognize the difference between flesh and spirit, or between emotion and the real anointing of the Spirit. For instance, with the natural eye it’s real easy to tell the difference between silver and gold, but not so easy to discern between brass and gold. A casual observer would be fooled.
We’ve brought the spirit of the world into our corporate worship times and most Christians cannot even tell the difference. Why?
Because they don’t have a private life of worship and prayer. They are not acquainted with the real anointing of the Holy One.
Perhaps we will deal with that in our next blog.