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Getting Back to the Heart of Worship

A friend of mine recently posted an article on Facebook written by Michael Livingstone called The Heresy of Worshiptainment.  An article which caught my eye and spoke to my heart, a heart already grief stricken over the direction of many churches in America today...

The following is an excerpt from that article:

"The great heresy of the church today is that we think we’re in the entertainment business. A.W. Tozer believed this to be true back in the 1950s and 60s. Church members “want to be entertained while they are edified.” He said that in 1962. Tozer grieved, even then, that it was “scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction was God.”*

More recently, David Platt has asked, “What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? 
What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? 
Would His Word still be enough for his people to come together?” David Platt

Would it be enough?

Tozer got it right: “Heresy of method may be as deadly as heresy of message.”


Like Tozer, we should be concerned that so many people in our churches want to be entertained while they worship. We should be concerned when we no longer recognize the difference between the two. And we should be concerned by the growing belief that adding more entertainment value to worship is necessary for the church to accomplish its mission.

I may stand alone, but it grieves me when I see worship services characterized more by props, performances, and pep rally atmospheres than by any 
sense of divine sacredness; and hallowedness giving way to shallowness."
Mike Livingstone

I experienced first-hand a statement that put feet to the quote above that there is a "growing belief that adding more entertainment value to worship is necessary for the church to accomplish its mission."

An impassioned plea for today's youth, given by a youth leader.  Clearly this person has a tremendous heart for teens.  His desire to reach them for Christ was incredibly admirable.   The youth leader spoke about methods for bringing teens into church, specifically types of music.  He shared about a family who would not allow their child to attend the evening youth group because of concerns for the type of music...  I sensed that he could see where this family was coming from, but in desperation the youth leader exclaimed, "But we have to do whatever it takes to get them to come to church!"

But at what cost?...

The first time I attended adult Bible study, which happened to be the same night as Youth Group, I entered the church doors, the loud heavy bass sounds filled the space, mainstream music playing loudly; multicolored lights swirling around on the walls.  I wondered to myself, had I entered a church or a nightclub!

Yes, eventually the mainstream music was replaced with a praise band singing worship songs.  Yes, the Word of God was shared, but are the church leaders trusting in that very Word of God to do what it says it will do?

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 
Isaiah 55:10-11

It doesn't seem so...

Instead, trust is being placed in the method of entertainment rather than God's Word to "get them" to come.  Sadly, this misplaced trust is being played out in more and more churches in America today...

Yesterday, I was reading Exodus 31 about keeping the Sabbath.  The following verses spoke to my heart about the true intent and sacrificial mindset of Worship:

...Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you  {set you apart}. 
You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you.
Exodus 31:13-14

Are church services today conducted in a manner {set apart} from mainstream life?  Sadly, not so much anymore.  Instead, more and more church services are conforming to the world.

“That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.” 
― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Much of the book of Exodus is devoted to the carefully laid plans of the Lord to ensure purity and sacrificial offering when approaching the altar of God, from utensils to clothing.

Indeed, we have been purified by Christ through His precious blood.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, 
that we may receive mercy and find grace...
Hebrews 4:16

But that doesn't mean that we turn the altar of God into what we want rather than a place to offer our sacrificial worship.

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
Romans 12:1-2a

Sunday mornings may be a struggle for many to set aside time to intentionally go to church.  There could be a million things that need to get done; a desire to sleep in; a beautiful day outside, but we make that sacrifice for our Lord and Savior who sacrificed His life so that we would be set free from the punishment of sin and death to live in eternity with Him forever.  We set apart time on the Sabbath to sit under the teaching of His Word and to Worship Him.

One of the definitions Merriam-Webster gives for the word sacrifice is "the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone"

It seems there is no desire to sacrifice for the sake of learning and knowing God's Word. To endure sound teaching...

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.
2 Timothy 4:3

Instead churches are feeling the need to make worship services as painless as possible using multimedia presentations, productions, music lacking Biblical content that is me-focused, and short sermons that avoid offense.  

When we offer sacrifices to the Lord of the things we don’t want or does not cost us, it does speak worship, but it speaks worship of ourselves rather than worship of the Lord.
Scott Kircher

Anecdotally, I have actually heard people say the following:  sitting under a sermon longer than a half hour is arduous and difficult for people to focus on; a turn off to those who are seeking; sermons should never speak on offensive subjects; doctrine is legalistic, and no longer necessary.  We just need to love on people.

I fear, then, that the church is loving and entertaining people right into hell.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,
 but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

Is this really true worship??

Worship must be vital and real in the heart, and worship must rest on a true perception of God. There must be spirit and there must be truth. . . . Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers . . . . On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.  
John Piper

The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:23-24

I don't want to be misunderstood that this blog post is a criticism of different worship styles, praise songs vs. hymns.

I am just sharing a heart that is grieved to see so many churches trying to please those whom they are seeking and those believers sitting in the pews with a worship style that is razzle dazzle. A misconception that "worshiptainment" will make people want to come to church...  

...when it is God's Word alone whose power attracts.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, 
piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and 
discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

The modern church today needs to get back to the heart of worship.

Back to the Heart of Worship
Matt Redman

When the music fades
and all is stripped away
and I simply come.
Longing just to bring
something that’s of worth
that will bless Your heart.

I’ll bring You more than a song,
for a song in itself
is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within,
through the way things appear,
You’re looking into my heart.

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it

when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

We are the church... 

A heart change toward Worship begins with us...

"Take this reminder with you as you ready your heart and roll up to your next corporate worship gathering. The externals do matter, but they are not the essence. They need not rule the day.

Whether your corporate context is wonderfully conducive to what moves you most, or grates against all your personal preferences, the heart of worship need not be hindered — because the heart of worship is the heart.

At bottom, it’s not what we do (or don’t do) with our hands (or what someone else is doing or not doing), but what we do with our hearts and minds — because of the One who has captured our hearts and minds. Worship is in spirit and in truth."
David Mathis

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  1. The heart is what matters. Even the heart of a drummer. Thank you for your reflective post.

    1. Sue, thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

      I appreciate it! :-)

  2. Karen, thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving such a delightfully specific and encouraging comment! I so appreciate your heart-felt and thought-provoking today on the heart of worship...John Piper's quote is spot on! I have always loved Matt Redmann's song...truly reflects my heart, too. Many blessings to you ❤️

    1. Beth, You are very welcome! :-)

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Blessings to you too!

  3. Excellent post, Karen! I've always believed that the point of "church" is for believers to come together, to be taught and equipped to - go out (live the word and preach the word) - and make disciples. Instead many of our churches have become country clubs in an attempt to bring in more bodies {bodies = $$}, rather than feed & equip those who are already there. Not all, of course, but far too many. Great quotes and insight here! Have a blessed week!

    1. June, Thank you so much! I so agree!

      It seems there is nothing new under the sun as we saw in the quotes from the 50s and 60s to now with John Piper. They were indeed great quotes.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I so appreciate it! Blessings to you too!

  4. Oh, dear friend! You have SO articulately and precisely conveyed a burden that lays heavy upon my heart! I was sitting here just "amening" you over and over in my heart, as you truly hit the nail on the head time after time. When you mentioned the part about people not wanting to sit and listen for more than 30 minutes to a sermon, it made me think of how much time people will sit in front of a television for hours watching sporting events or movies, and they have no problem at all with their attention span. If a sermon is going forth under the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, I could literally listen for hours. We have gotten away from wanting our souls fed to wanting to feed the flesh. God must be so grieved as He looks down and LONGS to have real, true communion with us, and we are so caught up in wanting to be entertained instead. Thank you for having the courage to speak the truth here, dear sister. You spoke it in much love and kindness and a gentle spirit, and truly, we should all consider what you have said and digest it as the truth. Sending you much love and gratitude!

    1. Dearest Cheryl, I value your opinion so much. Your words here have encouraged me greatly. I admit I was nervous about writing this blog post and wondered if I should because of how it might be perceived/ received, but the Holy Spirit nudged me to go forward in obedience. Through your comments and those similar to yours, I see the fruit of that obedience. All praise and Glory to God the Father.

      Thank you always for your kindred sweet friendship. You are a treasure.

      Blessings and love to you.

  5. Oh my goodness, much to think about here. And this all hits me RIGHT where I'm living these days as part of a worship-team-in-transition at my church. I'm saving and printing this to meditate on and possibly use at our next planning meeting, which will be A Big One. Thank you for all this very nutritious food for thought, my friend!

    1. Elizabeth, Your sweet words have humbled me.

      May the Lord be with you and your Worship planning team as you seek His will.

      Thank you for your sweet encouragement. You have blessed me.

  6. I'm writing a novel with a pastor as one of the main characters. I think this would be a good sermon topic. It's so poignant.

    1. Sharon, How exciting to be writing a novel! What a wonderful message to convey through a novel as a sermon topic - all for His Glory and for the sake of His church. Thanks so much for sharing your story.


  7. Karen,
    Yes, I grieve with you over "worshiptainment" (what a word) for we forget the power of God's Word and much good truth here. Thanks :-)

    1. Dolly, Indeed.

      Thank you so much for your encouraging words. They mean so much!


  8. Love this! I am following you on Blog Lovin and Pinterest!

  9. I've worshipped at a twitter party and I've worshipped in a cathedral and I've worshipped in a hot room crowded with people and no ventilation and I've worshipped in plain country churches. I've also NOT worshipped in all of those same places. Worship is about our hearts seeking God. This can happen collectively or individually (it's always great when the two coincide). I think we need to nurture and disciple those in the church to understand that worship starts at home in our alone time with God--and then it spills out in corporate worship on Sabbath.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Indeed, the heart of worship begins at home. :-)

  10. I do think we sometimes try to become more like the culture to attract the culture, instead of seeking Jesus and becoming more like Him.

    1. Elizabeth, Thank you for stopping by to comment. I do appreciate it! :-)

  11. I read that article as well. I agree there's a line and that worship teams and leadership need to seek God first. I so wish some of the music at my church growing up had reflected some of the style of my generation. I met Jesus, but in that place abandoning the self in free worship was really difficult. I really don't care what corporate worship looks like as long as Jesus is first and as long as people who don't know Him encounter His love and power. We often fight all the wrong battles in the church.

  12. Great post. I sometimes feel all the lights and smoke, are a distraction to worship, not an encourager of worship. I really feel the enemy is behind all of this to distract people from real worship, to have them get caught up in their own feelings, instead of true worship of God. So many contemporary worship songs today are about how we feel, rather than who God is and why we should worship Him.

    Your post made me think of men like John Wesley and George Whitefield who declared the Word of God in the fields and streets, it was simply the power of God through His Word being spoken. That's how God draws people to Himself and encourages us to worship.

    The quotes you included really moved me, such as this one from Charles Spurgeon...

    “That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.”

    A lot to think about in that one quote!

    This short 5 min. video may interest you. It's called "Worship Leaders Don’t Lead People Into God’s Presence"...

    Thanks for sharing your heart here Karen! : )

    1. Cathy, I so appreciate all that you shared here in your comment, and agree with you!

      When I get a chance, I will definitely watch that video. Thanks so much for including the link.

      Blessings to you. :-)

    2. Cathy, I just watched that video. It was excellent!! Again, thank you so much for sharing!

  13. What saddens me is the amount of time in worship music rather than using that time teaching the Word. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Carrie, Yes, I definitely agree.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. It means a lot! :-)

  14. I agree! As the mother of two young daughters I wonder what the Church will become by the time they are adults. I hope you can stop by:


    1. I know. I wonder the same thing and have said it aloud...

      I read a blog post today by a sweet sister in Christ who reminded me that the Lord has a remnant, even still, and He and His church will ultimately have the victory.

      Thank you so much for sharing. I will head on over to visit. :-)

  15. Hmmmh, I could just hug you, Karen!
    I am sharing this post, friend.Well said!
    How are you, Karen? I hope you and your family are doing well?
    With much love from Nigeria.
    God Bless


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