"As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him." - Psalm 18:30

Current Culture and Christian Worship

By Hugo McCord

 

   A gospel preacher still dedicated to the Bible sees “a time of general flux in the church,” and is worried that churches are “experimenting with alternative forms and structures in worship.”

 

WHAT IS WORSHIP?

  “To adore or pay divine honors to as a deity; to reverence with supreme respect and veneration” (Webster).  Truly it is a pouring out of one’s soul in loving appreciation and thanksgiving to the One “in whom we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  Worship automatically leaps forth from a heart yearning to be close to a person’s “all in all” (cf. Colossians 3:11).  It is an attempt to say, “I am yours, and you are mine!”  “As the deer craves the water brook, so I crave you, O God!” (Psalm 42:1-2).

   Eagerly a Christian looks forward to the next time the saints assemble, just as a Jew in David’s day exclaimed, “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).  And the Christian is grieved if he has to miss the assembly:  “My soul longs, yes, pines, for the courts of the Lord!  My heart and my flesh cry out for God, for the living God!” (Psalm 84:2).

   Worship then is a reaction when the glories of creation fill a man’s mind, when he exclaims “only God can make a tree” (Joyce Kilmer) or the universe.  The “quintessence of the essence” (the late M.S. Mason’s words at Freed-Hardeman in 1930) of worship is intangible and invisible.  It is a feeling, an emotion, a thought in adoration and appreciation of the one who says “My God and I go in the field together; We walk and talk as good friends should and do” (I.B. Sergei).

   Since worship is the communion of the human spirit (internal, invisible, unweighable, eternal, Zechariah 12:1; Matthew 22:32) with the divine Spirit it cannot be anything physical.  Physical acts accompany what goes on in a worshiper’s mind, but they are only accompaniments:  as bowing the head and/or the body in prayer, as using one’s lips in singing praises to God, as using one’s hands to partake of the Lord’s Supper and to put money in the collection plate.

   When some bussed-in children for a Sunday evening children’s Bible class went into a room prepared for Sunday night communion partakers and helped themselves to the bread and grape juice, they did what Christians do physically when they partake of the Lord’s Supper.  However, neither the physical acts of the children nor the physical acts of the Christian worshipers were acts of worship, for worship itself is wholly internal and mental.

   God is not worshiped when people “with their mouth” show “much love, but their heart” is money-mad (Ezekiel 133:31).  Discerning the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:29) is not done with the fingers or with the mouth.  People can honor God with their “lips” while “their heart,” God says, “is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8).  The heart of worship then is only in the heart.

 

“EVERYTHING WE DO IS WORSHIP”

 

   If the essence of worship is a thought in one’s mind, a heart-felt emotion, and physical acts only accompany worship, then everything we do is not worship.  Some well-meaning gospel preachers, misled by the NASV, NRSV, and NIV in Romans 12:1, have used the verse to teach Christians that their lives are not compartmentalized into the sacred and the secular, and to teach them that their bodies are committed to Christian service twenty-four hours a day.

   What they are teaching them is true as far as 100% commitment to Jesus is concerned.  Whether “you eat, or drink, whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  “Christ’s love compels” Christians, like a cowboy’s rope, “no longer” to “live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14).  A Christian is in no part-time service, day or night, and in this life never retires.  He completely forgets himself.  He who does not “renounce all that he has,” said the Lord, “cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

   It is regrettable that some versions, by removing the word “service” from Romans 12:1 and inserting “worship,” have caused many preachers to think that all we do is worship.  What is called for in that verse truly is a twenty-four hour willingness to serve God and mankind, but it is impossible to be engaged in worship (meditation) twenty-four hours a day.  Even if one could put his mind on God twenty-four hours a day, he would be more than a monk or nun or an ascetic: he would be useless and accomplish no practical good in his life.  If all he does is worship and “would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

   For seven days David lay on the ground fasting and praying for the life of his dying child.  After the death he “arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and went into the house of the Lord, and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:15020).  But his bathing, his applying deodorant, his changing clothes, his walking to the Lord’s house---those actions preceded his worship.  After a period of worship he went home and had a meal.  Worship is not continuous.

   An Ethiopian in a chariot rode some 500 miles “to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27), and then returned home.  A long journey preceded his worship, and followed it.  Worship is punctuated; it is “stop and go.”  In the case of the Ethiopian it was go and stop and go again.

   If everything one does is worship, then singing secular songs at home accompanied by the guitar and the burning of incense are worshipful activities.  It would be difficult for a preacher to condemn those activities at church.

   The old sign in some foyers above the door into the auditorium, “Enter to worship, leave to serve,” is still accurate.  Jesus at times prayed (worshiped) alone (Mark 1:35) and at times prayed (worshiped) publicly (Matthew 15:35), but He did more than worship:  He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

   Oh!  The beauty and simplicity of Christians in public worship!  They came together on the first day of the week to break bread—visible and physical activities--, but in their hearts they discern afresh the bleeding body of their Lord (1Corinthians 11:29).

   Their lips open in joyful praise to their heavenly Father (Hebrews 13:15).  All that onlookers can see is “the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  Cheerfully they lay by in store free-will gifts to their Lord, even as the wise men opened their “treasure chests” of  “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” and on bended knees presented them to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:11; 2 Corinthians 9:7).  But neither the knee bending nor the rich presentation was worship—those activities only accompanied their worship.

   Most Christians close their eyes when prayer as incense rises toward God, but their eye-closing is not worship.  It is done only to help the worshiper in his mind to concentrate on talking to God.

 

FEMALE ELDERS

 

   Male leadership in the assembly (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), as well as “everywhere” (1 Timothy 2:8), did not start because Paul was a bachelor and felt superior to women.  The equality of the sexes as Christians in Christ (Galatians 3:28) does not negate the fourfold steps in leadership:  “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1Corinthians 11:3).

   Modern cultural practices of female preachers and elders reject what Paul said as he wrote “the commandment of the Lord” (1 Timothy 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 14:34-37).  A humble Christian woman wants to please her Lord, and will not allow herself to become mannish.  Further, she will encourage men to be men, to be leaders as God planned.

   An inspired reason why a woman should not “teach or exercise authority over a man” is because “Adam was first created” (1 Timothy 2:12-13).  Man was put in charge of this world: (1) before the woman was created Adam was told to “cultivate” and “keep” the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15); (2) before the woman was created God brought all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the sky and all the cattle to Adam “to see what he would call them” (Genesis 2:17-20); and (3) before the woman was created Adam was told not to eat of a certain tree (Genesis 2:16-17).

   Though Adam and Eve both were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), the Holy Spirit said that man is the “glory of God,” while woman is the “glory of the man” (1 Corinthians 11:7).  Why do feminists completely ignore what the Holy Spirit said?  And why do they ignore what the Holy Spirit said about the woman being made for the man, not man for the woman (1 Corinthians 11:8-9)?  “Some things have always been so,” writes Roy H. Lanier Jr. (GOSPEL ADVOCATE, May, 1993.)

   In harmony with the woman’s being made for the man, one is not surprised that God said she is his “helper” (‘ezer, Genesis 2:18).  Feminists change “helper” to “partner” (halaq, Proverbs 29:24), but are they authorized to change the word of God?

   Likewise, feminists do their best to redefine the word “head” in 1 Corinthians 11:3, trying to take authority out of its meaning.  When they do that, they also take authority out of Christ’s headship over man, and they take authority out of God’s headship over Christ.

   It is sad to read of modern elders writing to those under their care:  “We now believe that a careful study of 1 Corinthians 14:34 will reveal that it was dealing with a specific culture and situation that no longer exists today.”  Furthermore, though God wrote that elders must have wives (1Timothy 3:1-2), some take God’s place by saying they “have no problem with women serving as elders today.”

 

“SHOW TIME”

 

   “It’s Sunday Show Time!” is the headline in the OREGONIAN, September 4, 1993.  “Churches find their congregations grow when they offer unconventional and entertaining services.”  They are making Christianity “relevant” to modern people, using “video, popular music and drama.”

   One church “features a typical rock band, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocalists.”  Another “attracts an average of 15,000 people to its three weekend ‘seeker-services.’”  In the movie “Leap of Faith” comic “Steve Martin satirized the convergence of show business.”  “This stuff is hot,” said a pastor, “really hot.  It’s amazing how many churches are moving in this direction.”  On the other hand, says the OREGONIAN reporter, “Critics have dubbed the style ‘McChurch,’ and  ‘shopping-mall Christianity,’ charging that the churches are more interested in filling their pews than in teaching the Bible.”


Note: Link here for more on the question, Is Everything we do Worship?