I enjoy contemporary worship. I just wanted to get that out of the way before I get into the heart of this post. I really do. I also enjoy high liturgy, southern gospel worship services and a variety of styles when it comes to church worship. But I kind of have a bit of a hang-up when it comes to “worship wars” as of late. You see, for the most part, people’s taste in worship seems to be just about that…their taste in worship. I want to come to church and hear the same thing that I am able to put onto my mp3 player in my car on the way to work. I want the ease of transition from church worship to my car/home radio/office to be so seamless that it doesn’t really take any effort on my part other than just showing up. Something doesn’t quite sit right about that.
In 1 Chronicles chapter twenty one there is this weird story thrown into the history of King David. For some reason he decides to take a military census of Israel rather than trusting in God’s power and so God decides to punish Israel. In the midst of a plague that kills 70,000 David looks up and sees an angel with his sword drawn against Jerusalem and he pleads to God as to how to draw back the angel. God commands him to offer a sacrifice at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David tells Araunah he needs his threshing floor the man offers to give it to the king. David’s response is recorded in verse 24, “But King David replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing’.” David refuses to offer a free sacrifice. David refuses to offer worship that costs him nothing.
Isn’t that so often what we do though? We seek out worship that puts us in our comfort zone, that makes us feel good, that draws a response out of us…Because after all isn’t worship about us? Or should worship cost us more? Should we have to step out of our comfort zone, examine the place of our heart and our attitude and redirect our thinking about worship. And maybe it isn’t even about the style of music, presentation or preaching. Maybe worship is also about the other decisions in our life. Do we worship God with the type of clothes that we buy? Did we think about who made them and how they were treated? Do we worship God with the food we eat? Were the farmers fairly compensated and the harvesters treated with human dignity? All of a sudden worship becomes very expensive. But isn’t our God worth the expense? Doesn’t His greatness deserve such worship?
I do like contemporary worship. But I sometimes have to think about why I like it. And for some of you the same question can be asked regarding traditional worship. Why do I like it? Where is the cost? What does God deserve?
You always knew it was coming. For some reason the service in our small town church was getting revved up and you could sense what was about to happen. Then one of them would stand up and let loose. And more often than not, if one of them stood up then another one would as well. We called them shouters, screamers…the titles would change but the high pitch chant of getting excited about God rarely did; “WELL GLORY, WELL GLORY, I SAY GLORY.” And heaven forbid you were a visitor that day or you may have jumped right out of your skin. I usually saw it coming and still would jump a little. But these three older saints of the church would always get excited when they started to think about all God had done in their lives and all they could do was give Him glory.
But maybe this story is something completely foreign and unfamiliar to you. Maybe your tradition regarding glory might be something a bit more high liturgy like the Westminster Confession, “What is the chief end of man?, Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” So when you think about glory, you think about it in the context of man’s chief mission. But whatever the case it seems that both traditions value the idea of giving God glory. Giving God the praise and thanks he deserves. Placing him in His rightful place..and yet.
We all know the verse. It is one of those that was used in tracks, evangelism classes, vacation Bible schools, by street preachers, etc. etc. Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The word for fall short is the type of tense used for continually falling short…continually missing the mark. And yet our chief end is to give God glory. That’s why taking verses out of context can be so dangerous. If you keep reading through verse 24 you read, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Now it starts to make sense. Even though everyone keeps falling short, everyone is made just/right through Jesus Christ. We are therefore all able to give glory to God through the power of Christ. Which is where it really gets cool.
I go back to the saintly ladies from the church that I grew up in and I think about the songs that used to get them excited. Songs like “And Can It Be”, “Heaven Came Down” and “Victory in Jesus” and I find a common element. They all talk about how Jesus left glory for us. He gave up his position, his power, heaven itself to become a way for us to give glory to God once again. Glory fell so that we might participate in giving true glory to God once again. Kind of makes me want to shout, “WELL GLORY”. That is a message of redemption! That is the even the message of Christmas (just to add some seasonal context).
And so I pray every morning with my boys on the way to school, “May we give you glory today God”. Because it is more than declaring it. We are called to give God glory with our entire life. May you give God the glory he deserves today.
My wife and I recently had the privilege of having a date afternoon. Someone from the church graciously volunteered to watch the kids for a few hours and so we were able to get out by ourselves. Not really having much to choose from, we decided to go and see a movie. And as we walked into the theater, we saw one of our board members and their families right in front of us. I bring all of that up for the sake of discussion of authenticity. The board member was not surprised to see one of the pastoral staff coming into the movies on a Saturday. We were not surprised to see them in the theater either. However, twenty five or more years ago, this might have been reason for dismissal for both in our young denomination. And sometimes, we still like to pretend that the things we do outside of church; going to the movies, attending major sporting events, etc., have no affect on our church life or are not really related.
Quick disclaimer: Andrew is stepping from the ground onto his soap box.
There is no difference between the life one leads outside the church and the persona that one projects inside the walls of the church. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am by the statement, “Well we don’t talk about that at church…” Really? Jesus said that the day will come when the true followers will worship Him in “Spirit and in truth.” In truth! With authentic lives that have nothing to hide. And who are we deceiving anyway? God knows our hearts. He knows our conduct outside of the church. Is He all of a sudden fooled when we step into a building of man-made materials on the first day of the week and we are pious and reverent in attitude in our Sunday tie?
I think the real issue is that we value the opinion of man over the opinion of God. The Church is crying out for authentic worship. The Church is crying out for authenticity. May Jesus find us to be the followers who worship in Spirit and in Truth.