November 28, 2007

Celebration over Substance?

As I was driving into work this morning I was listening to one of my favorite apologist, Ravi Zacharias (Just a note: Ravi has a daily 15 min podcast that I would highly recommend to anyone). This morning Ravi brought up a very interesting observation with regards to modern day worship services. Recently, this subject has been on my mind as several friends of our family are either worship leaders or are affiliated with worship ministries or praise teams over the years (including my wife who has been on a praise team or choir for almost as long as we have been married). Over the past several years as I attended the corporate church I have noticed a significant increase in the "Art of Worship". What I mean by this term is I have noticed that the church seems to have been more focused on an "experience" rather than a time of true worship. Now, please understand I am by no means an "old timer" here, where I think we should throw out the drum set or all of the electrical instruments-
not at all. My concern is how much emphasis the church is placing on "experience" rather then worship.

Ravi seemed to have really nailed it for me this morning. He essentially says that if we get down to it worship is a form of communication between us and God (or at least that's what it should be). Historically, the Bible shows us that worship is a response to God and often God will respond to us through worship as well - we clearly see this with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. Therefore, if worship is indeed defined as communication, communication then is defined by two primary elements - substance & form. In order for proper communications to occur between two parties there needs to be a subject matter (substance) and a form or method by which to convey or express this information (speech, writing, etc). According to Ravi, when individuals properly worship God there needs to be both a substance and a form.

However, Ravi said over the past couple of years he has observed a serious dilemma within the church. He brings up the fact that the church within the past 15-20 years has somehow made worship synonymous with music. Granted, music is only one form of communication with God, but there seems to be this concept that this is in of itself is worship. Ravi poignantly makes his point by saying "Music is a way (or form) to worship, but music without teaching (knowledge) is only celebration without substance"! WOW! What a true statement! As I heard this statement I think how hard worship leaders these days try to invoke some mood or experience in order to get people to worship God. In fact a lot of times what we are really doing is as Ravi stated is just having a celebration without substance or knowledge.

Again, we can not truly love that which we do not know. This is logically impossible. Therefore, if people are being prodded into a "celebration" rather than true worship, then just as Ravi has stated, we are just making a lot of noise that has no substance. This can not be pleasing to the Lord. In order for people to truly worship God, we need not try to further fine tune the music, the lights, the sound system, we need not add another smoke machine or better lights, what people really need is knowledge of who Jesus really is. They need the substance that Ravi is speaking of - that substance is the truth of the Gospel and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Once a person has this - they will have no problem "worshipping" at the feet of our Savior! This is where I think the modern day church is failing miserably. We no longer see the depth of teaching we once use to see so many years ago. How can we?! No longer are the days of feeding Christians real spiritual meat, but we would
rather feed them pabulum so that we may not offend the "seeker" crowd. To know God is to Love God. Let us pray that more people will be able to obtain more substance that will lead to real worship.

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