Jump Start # 2020
Psalms 122:1 “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
We’ve been looking this week at challenges facing today’s church. It is easy to see from these series that there are many. Meeting these challenges takes real leadership, vision and direction. Congregations that do not have true leaders, tend to flounder and drift. And this, leads us to our next thought about challenges, keeping things alive and moving.
Taking things for granted, is an expression we know all too well. We get into routines, we get distracted and we can take our marriage for granted. Things can become stale and even dull. Work can get that way. Day in and day out, basically the same things, over and over. You do your job because you need a paycheck but if a rich uncle died and left you a boat load of money, you’d leave that job in a second. The passion for work is no longer there. Friendships can do the same thing. They can become tiring and stale. Going out to eat can be the same. Tried all the places. Nothing exciting. You have to eat, so you just pick a place.
That same spirit can spill over to worship and Bible classes. Another Sunday. Another sermon. Another quarter and another new class. Old. Tiring. Same. We go, because we are supposed to. We go, because we know that we need to, but for many worship has sunk to mediocrity and we seem to be stuck on auto-pilot. New members seem excited because everything is new for them. They love the worship. They love the classes. They love everything. But for those who have been around for decades and decades, everything seems about the same.
And, herein lies one of the great challenges facing the church today. How to keep our worship relevant, fresh, passionate and God focused? The routine of worship can become dry like toast. Same faces. Same things being said. Same people teaching. Same methods of teaching. Same. Same. Same. We shuffle in tired. We sit and try not to be bored, minds racing all over the universe, then we leave and go about life. Week after week. Most wouldn’t dare admit it, but this is where worship has sunk to in their lives. They come more to catch up with each other than any other reason. Some come out of habit. And, when you have a whole church building full of this spirit, the congregation and the worship seems dull, tired and lifeless.
Some just accept things this way because they don’t know what else to do. Some, especially, the younger ones, begin being pulled towards more exciting and different forms of worship. In time, some of them will leave.
What a challenge facing the church. What can be done? Is it the church’s responsibility to keep believers interested in God? Shouldn’t they have enough faith within them to be drawn towards God? I have been with churches that seem sleepy. The singing seems sleepy. The preaching seems sleepy. The atmosphere seems sleepy. And, you look around, and not surprisingly, you see people sleeping. Modern churches answer to this is to turn worship into a rock concert with screaming bands of singers, light shows, fog machines and preachers that act more like a comedy club than preachers of the gospel. It’s hard to be sleepy in those places. Food, drinks, even T-shirts are sold. It’s a night out to the concert, or ballgame. It’s a “Wow factor.” The crowds love it. Tons of energy and money is poured into keeping things fresh, moving and exciting. Never a dull moment in those places. No dead air moments. No pausing. No time to think, reflect, meditate nor contemplate. It’s moving at lightning speed. The younger crowd loves it. It’s just like Aaron’s golden calf. They were dancing, singing and having a great time when Moses came down that mountain with the Ten Commandments. That worship was violating the majority of those commands that Moses held in his hands. I doubt anyone asked, “Do we have to go?” What a blast. Yet, do we want to go in the direction of the golden calf. That didn’t turn out so well for Israel.
How does today’s church worship God in a practical, Biblical, passionate way? We can’t compete with light shows and fog machines. Our preachers realize that God isn’t on a stage, but rather, upon the throne. We know that worship is about God, not us. The carnal, make-me-feel-happy culture of today doesn’t get that. They’d rather change God than change themselves. Find a verse they don’t like, just ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist. We know better than that. God focused has always been the center piece of our worship. Our songs praise Him, not glorify us. Our preaching is built around His word, not our happiness. Our prayers are about His will, not ours. What can be done?
First, passionate worship is found in hearts that are passionate about God. The mega church syndrome is built around the church, not God. The church is the center piece. Passionate worship comes from those who are passionate about God at home, at work and when with other believers. Artificial stimuli, such as loud music, lights and smoke, are very similar to the high school pep rally. It’s geared to fire you up and get you excited. It works, for the moment. It’s much like cotton candy. It looks amazing. It tastes great. But there’s nothing to it. And, it doesn’t last. The pep rally ends and the feeling ends. The cotton candy is put in your mouth and it dissolves. It doesn’t fill you, help you, nor give you any strength. Passionate worship begins with people who love the Lord. They are walking, talking, studying, praying about God all the time. They are glad to gather to worship. They see the value in worship. They look in their Bibles to learn, not just fact and new information, but to see God.
Second, we must strive to always do our best when worshipping God. Worship is our gift to God. Don’t give Him the leftovers. Don’t give Him a tired mind and a bored heart. What you do before you come into the church building can set the tone for how your worship will be. Those that lead, must work extra hard to do their best. They are not competing with others, but just themselves. Preach the best that you can preach today, Mr. Preacher. Lead those songs the best you can, Mr. Song Leader. Put thought into what you are praying about, Mr. Leader of Prayers. Gone are the days of just winging it. Get down to the church building early, the days you are to serve. Prepare yourself. Go over what you are to do. Put thought into it. Imagine those men carrying that ark of the covenant. What an honor it was. Imagine that High Priest going before God, representing the nation. What an honor. And, here you are. Are you dressed like you are going to change a tire on your car? Why? Are you just picking out the songs to lead as you walk up to the mic? Why? Are you pulling out old, dusty sermons, because you don’t want to do the work you are supposed to do? Why? Maybe it’s time for you to sit out and get yourself together. You are standing before the God of Heaven. You are leading the people of God. Give it your best. How dare you come with a tied, bored, sleepy spirit within you. Lift up your eyes and look into the Heavens. The Great God who has blessed us, heard us, and forgiven us, is who you stand before. We need to demand the best and be our best. Sloppy worship is not only embarrassing to visitors and members, but it’s shameful before God. Football teams prepare all week for the big game. Do we prepare for worship?
Third, how about the rest of us that are sitting in the pews? Are we giving God our best? We want the song leaders, the preacher and others to do their best, but we are fidgeting about, playing on our phones, day dreaming, sleepy, and offering God nothing. Worship isn’t a spectator sport. I was watching a college basketball game last night on TV. When bored, I flipped channels. We do that with our minds when we are not engaged, connected and trying. Sing robustly. Pray deeply. Lower the nets into the depth of God’s word. Thank God. Praise God. We need naps on Sunday afternoons, not because church was so sleepy and boring, but rather because of all the effort and energy we’ve poured into fellowship and praising. When a guy says, “I don’t get anything out of worship,” what he’s really saying is, “God doesn’t mean much to me.” When I watch my Purdue play basketball, I get involved. I talk to the TV. I coach from my chair. I yell at the players. I talk to the refs. I’m engaged. Love my Purdue. Love what they are doing this year. I went to a game recently. First time in decades that I saw a game at Mackey Arena. Sat four rows from the top. Even there, it was great. It was great because it was Purdue. Now, translate that to God. Love my God. Love what He has done. Love to think about Him. Love to read His word. Love to talk about Him. Love to sing to Him. Sleepy worship? Not for this guy. Bored? Never. The focus is upon the amazing God.
Stop trying to change the worship of God into a comedy club. Stop blaming the church for what may be a problem in your heart. Stop just offering God whatever we feel like. Make it the best, from beginning to end. Put thought, purpose and direction into worship. The tone set from leaders has a lot to do with this. The spirit from the song leader, through the preacher, found in the Lord’s Supper ought to be passionate, thankful and energetic. God is good to us.
Maybe it’s time for some to step it up. Maybe it’s time we took a look at our attitude towards worship and more so, towards God. Maybe it’s time we started giving God our best, no matter which side of the pulpit we are on.
O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus…more than a song, it’s simply the way it is!
It’s a challenge, but you can step up to it!