When our worship becomes worthless
by Erin Wikle –
In his book, The Dynamics of Corporate Worship, author Vernon Whaley discusses seven internal hindrances of a true worshipping body of which includes idealism. Whaley says this about idealism:
This type of hindrance is usually based on the suppositions that worship is only genuine when it includes that which is familiar to our own cultural experience and is only right when it is based on a right formula. A person committed to idealism bases his or her worship almost completely on cultural acceptance, personal experience, and tradition.
Hindered worship? Never! Unfortunately, folks, if it’s at all unfamiliar, foreign, or far from fitting—it’s false.
At least, that’s what many people think. Somewhere early on in church history (likely pre-Reformation) someone decided they’d rather raise their hands towards heaven or kneel face down, prostrate before their God as opposed to staying seated, reading repetitious lines from liturgical book—and surprisingly, it didn’t take. Rather it caused spiritual dissonance among the body, maybe expulsion, excommunication, or at best, a healthy reprimanding.
I don’t suppose things have changed much. A few years ago I attended a weekend retreat in Canada. I was praying a late night shift for a group of young people who were ministering in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, B.C. one night and having the worst time focusing and interceding on their behalf. Just a few feet away were a group of girls who were clearly caught up in the Spirit and were laughing uncontrollably. Fascinated with Spirit manifestations, I’d done some “research” (read the Bible) ahead of time and determined their experience of laughing in the Spirit was legitimate. All the while, I was furious. Their experience, which was commonplace (after all, I was on their turf) was causing some sort of disconnect between me and my God. I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t listen; I couldn’t even scratch out anything worth God reading on a piece of paper.
How is it that we so strongly believe we reserve the right to consider the legitimacy of one’s personal worship experience? Worship no longer exists to serves its purpose to attribute worth to our Creator and King when it causes us to question, criticize, and negate the worship experiences of others. If we do not test the Spirit and seek his wisdom whenever there is reason to be concerned, we have no business determining the legitimacy of anyone’s experience but our own. And even then, we’re better off letting God be the judge.
I have witnessed too many relationships severed within the body simply because someone’s expression or in-expression of worship was offensive. Offensive. And while we fight our bitter wars of what is acceptable and what is not, my guess is that God is actually wondering when we’ll stop making worship less about ourselves and a little more about him (If you dare, read Amos 5:21-24.)
How about some good news.
Whaley claims: “God can overcome human hindrances.” I think I’ll claim that too. Nothing we can ever say or do can really thwart the transcending power of Christ or his Spirit at work in the church. Whether singing the old chorus, As the Deer in a congregation of twenty, listening to a rousing piece by a thirty-piece brass band, or weeping while the congregation sings, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, the Spirit can and will move as he sees fit according to the praises of his people.
A.W. Tozer says, “Worship is not something stuck on or added, like listening to a concert or admiring flowers. It is something that is built into human nature. Worship is a moral imperative.”
If this is true, if worship is our moral imperative, if it is by human nature that we worship, then it is also our moral imperative to worship unencumbered by the worship of others, with a broken spirit and a contrite heart. (Psalm 51:17)
Make it worth it.