Worship: Part I

Worship.  The context of the word varies greatly from culture to culture, religion to religion, and generation to generation.  I took the liberty of looking up the definition of worship on the Merriam-Webster website, and this is what it had to say worship meant:

As a noun-

1

chiefly British : a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors)

2
: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
3
: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4
: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>
As a verb-
1
: to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
2
: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion <a celebrity worshipped by her fans>
I find it incredibly interesting that in both forms of the word, the examples the dictionary used were for very surface level things.  One was worship of the dollar, and the other of a celebrity.  Kinda points to the foremost thoughts of our culture as Americans, doesn’t it?  This series will probably get some of you to raise an eyebrow and wonder “what in the world is this guy talking about,” and for others it may be an opportunity to see things through the eyes of a guy who was raised in church and has seen the good, the bad, and the horror of this thing we call religion.  Some of you who may read this may be familiar with how we have seriously mangled what worship is intended to be, and some may not have even thought about it before.  My intentions with anything I type in here are, as always, not intended to create dissent or to bash on the church, they are simply to help me and others to grow and learn.  I realize that some of my prior posts haven’t been the most positive things to read, but I do try to keep an honest and objective point-of-view, especially since I know that I’m nowhere near the perfect example of what a Christian is supposed to look like, sound like, behave like, and just be like in general.  With all that mess in mind, let’s begin!
Worship, to many, is the attention we give the object(s) of our desire and focus in life.  One needs not to look long at the corporate sector of our country to see that the dollar is an object of affection for many.  Another example, would be the attention we give to celebrities and dignitaries.  The main thing I can see pointing people in the direction of materialistic worship, is  the lack of Christ in culture and life.  The current president of our country made a comment that “We no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation…”  As much as has been made of this quote by the president, I think he inadvertently hit the proverbial nail on the head with this statement.  He meant the comment to promote religious diversity in our country, which there definitely is, but I agree that we can no longer consider ourselves as a Christian nation.  If you take a step back and look, at what our nation’s focus is on, you cannot honestly say we are a Christian nation.  When the majority of our nation makes the dollar, celebrities who live in and promote a sinful lifestyle the focus, we cannot say that Christ is the center of our nation.  The very label “Christian” implies that one is a follower of Christ, a “little-Christ” if you will.  There are areas and groups of people in our country that are definitely focused on following Christ, and that rebuke those who claim Christ but live directly and intentionally in darkness.  What does this paragraph have to do with worship?  Keep reading…
The only reason I used the president’s quote was to give a litmus of our nation’s status, not to begin a political firestorm, as I’ve really begun to separate myself from politics as much as I possibly can.  To determine what worship is, what it’s supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to sound like, we have to go to scripture.  All throughout the Old Testament, people worshiped God through sacrifice for sins, through praising Him for provision, protection, wisdom, etc.  This, with the exception of sacrifice of animals, still held true throughout the New Testament.  Worship in Biblical times was a lifestyle lived out through giving praise to God and to Christ for our salvation and His grace and mercy.  Too often we have substituted that lifestyle for just Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night programs and corporate fellowship.  The church has become a club that we attend so we can be counted on the roll and noted as “being there,” as opposed to the intention of a gathering of believers to praise THE Almighty God in recognition of the grace we have in our lives because of His great love for us.  I really have to think that if Paul came to any one of our churches nowadays, he would be like Christ in the temple, tossing over tables and saying “What are you guys doing?!?!?!?!”  Since when does praising our creator get limited to learning about the stories in scripture by coloring pictures and gluing animals to a paper ark, and then going to “big church?”  When we get to “big church,” we sit for a few minutes, maybe make some rounds saying our howdy’s and shaking a few hands.  Then, we have the introduction and announcements, followed by some hymns/contemporary songs that we either sing or don’t sing, based on our preferences on music, then we have a pastor come and deliver the Words that have been laid on his heart by the Lord.  After that, we have an invitation/alter call where people can come down and pray with the pastor or at the steps in front of the stage about things God has spoken to them about.  Then, we all shake hands, say a prayer and go eat lunch and take a nap.  Where in here is worship?
I’ve been a born again Christian for almost 20 years now, and I can almost count on two hands the times that I have truly felt the Spirit of God in worship on Sunday mornings.  How sad is that?  Some will attribute this, and sometimes rightfully so, to the lack of focus on my part to be included in the Spirit moving.  Others will attribute this, and sometimes rightfully so as well, to the lack of focus on those who are leading the body of believers in corporate worship.  The example of worship that we are to follow is lined out for us in Romans 12:1.
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.”
We don’t attend church to “get something out” of the message brought by the pastor, the Bible is not for our benefit.  That’s right, you read correctly.  Our pastor made this statement several months ago, and it really got me to thinking about how I had always looked at scripture.  To be honest, it really brought about a totally different perspective on how I need to be reading scripture.  The Bible is not for our benefit, it is for the Glorification of God!  What does this mean?
It doesn’t matter how much music we play or sing, how many programs or activities we organize, how great our choir sounds, how many people we attract because we have such a cool “worship experience,” if our hearts are not tuned into where God is leading us, it is all for naught. If we are not seeking to bring glory to the One who has created us and given us life through His son’s sacrifice, we are nothing but noisy busy-bodies.  I will be taking apart different aspects of our culture’s view of worship as churches and as a society throughout this series.  I have no idea how long it will go on, but I hope you’ll join me for the duration, as well as adding some feedback and opinions along the way.  I always invite any differing opinions on things I say, as it provides a way for me to learn more, and possibly have my perspective changed.  Thanks, and I look forward to continuing this series!
Phillip

Where are we failing this generation?

Well, I know that my last blog was put in a long time ago, and that I said it would be over “Being true to myself,” but in the past couple of weeks a lot has happened, and I’d like to share some thoughts on some stuff.

First of all, our vacation at the coast was pretty stinkin awesome!  The whole weekend was great, as we got to visit with friends and family both, gator tail was eaten, and the kids were really great on the the trips to and from Rockport.  The only real meltdowns we had involved apple juice at starbucks, and us not bringing a real dolphin home for Mady.  On our way home, we stopped off in Burnet to see off my sister and triplet cousins for college.  I’m extremely proud of those girls, and am prayerful they’ll have an awesome experience at school, and will succeed in their goals, which I have no doubt they’ll be able to do.  Now, on to what this post is really about…

My wife and I had a discussion on our way down to the coast about something she had heard on the radio.  The radio broadcast was about a study done on the reasons why high school students stopped going to church after they graduated.  There is a documentary on the matter at www.dividedthemovie.com, which you can watch for free, that is one young man’s investigation into this statement.  The numbers that several independent polls and research projects came up with are startling.  43% of students leave church or lose any faith in church between grade school and jr. high.  45% of students lose this by high school, and 10% by college.  Another statistic that was concluded by another study was that 88% of children raised in “evangelical” homes, left the church by the age of 18, never to return.  Where is the disconnect?  This disconnect is the result of a lack of true discipleship of the family by the church body.  So often, we experience great numbers with our children and youth groups in our Wednesday night programs, but when it comes to the parents of these kids and teens, there is no real fellowship.  In the town where I serve right now, we have the problem of what I like to call “The Great Summer Dropoff.”  We will routinely go from 25-30 youth on Wednesday nights to none until about the third week of school.  The catalyst for the numbers to start building back up is usually attributed to the 5th quarters we do after the home football games on Friday nights.  Now, that’s all fine and good when our kids all come back and remember that we’re “open” as one student put it, but consistency is lacking in the attendance department.  Where does this lack of consistency come from?  I used to wonder if I was implementing the right programs at the right times, or if I was chasing the kids off somehow, either by something I’d done or said.  The stigma with church, in our town at least, is that church has become a place for youth to come hang out during the school year and a place to come drop the kids off for an hour or two and get fed for free and stay out of trouble.  Which we are totally glad to be able to provide a place for that, but in the grand scheme of life, we have to understand that the parents of these kids and teens are not being reached.  We have a Monday night evangelism team that goes out twice a month, but that team consists of maybe 3 or 4 people each time we go out.  As one of our deacons, who is a very godly man, said last night “We can change our programs, Sunday School structure, and targets, but if our hearts aren’t changed, these programs will end in the same result as they are now.”  Which is so true, how often do we sit around and wonder where the people are on Sunday mornings?  How about Wednesday nights?  We invited them during the week to come to church with us, but they didn’t come.  What is the reason behind that?  Our churches today have become so focused on the entertainment value of church and have lost sight of the fact that the Gospel of Christ is where the real meat is and where the focus should be.  Until we decide, as a church, that we truly care about people’s salvation, our programs will generate big numbers and small results.

It has to start at home

The above statement is more true than we realize.  A pastor can be the leader of the world’s largest congregation, a youth pastor can be the most effective at his calling, a children’s minister can be the most innovative planner we’ve ever seen, but as great as they are, they cannot replace the most influential person in a child’s life.  Their parents.  Statistics show that if the head of the household, the father, comes to know Christ, the rest of the family will follow.  Why is this?  The father is the designated leader of the family, not in a tyrannical way, but in the example we are given in 1Timothy 3, the overseer of the church is called to manage his family well so his children will obey him (Philliphrased version), as well as other passages in Ephesians that speak of the wife submitting to the husband.  Now, this is not to say that the woman should be subdued and like a dog that’s been beaten as some would like to take that scripture as saying.  In any healthy family dynamic, there will be compromise and discussion of course, but the husband is called to lead that family.  The only way a father can lead a family appropriately is if he is grounded in Christ, and is continuously growing in that walk.  We have to be able to reach these fathers, and help them to guide and lead their families.  In order for that to happen, there has to be mentoring from the older men in the church family.  It is a trickle-down effect of biblical proportions!  To get that started, a lot of times our hearts have to be changed first, then we can move to guiding our programming and structure in a direction of functionality.  I brought this up last night at our business meeting, and all of those who were in attendance seemed to agree with this, and that excites me.  We go out tonight for some evangelism and visitation, and I am prayerful that we will have more than the 3 or 4 there tonight.

The blog on “being true to myself” is coming soon, I may have to make this blog an every Monday thing instead of daily, but I would like it to be more frequent than once a week, but we shall see!  Until next time, have a great week, and seek the Lord in all you do!

Here is the trailer for the “Divided” documentary