For every faith, there are rituals used to draw the participants into the worship experience. For those in the evangelical Christian church, we have very few rituals. During worship services, there is music, communion, and a message. What I’m about to say is going to make me sound very old, but I’m going there. The contemporary Christian churches are building the worship music performance to the point of concert status. The loud music, lights flashing and waving, the imagery on the multiple screens do not help prepare hearts for the word of God to be shared. They don’t. It’s just a reminder of the craziness of the world we come to church to escape for a few hours. Psalm 46:10 is my go-to-prepare-my-heart-for-worship verse, Be still and know that I am God. God of creation, transcending time and space. He is bigger than all our worries, we should come humbly to Him.
One Sunday a few months ago the electricity went out in the sanctuary. The worship team didn’t have the lights or screens. They just had their voices and the words of praise. It was wonderful. They led us in a couple of songs, and the voices of believers were raised to the rafters praising God and inviting Him into the worship hour. As the last note echoed out of the sanctuary, we were calm and ready to receive the blessing of the message.
I heard a preacher, Alister Begg, once say that your church experience for Sunday morning begins Saturday night. He asked if we went to bed at a reasonable hour like we would throughout the workweek, so we can wake up refreshed, or are we up late, and partying? Do we get up on Sunday and go to church with prepared hearts for hearing God’s word and how it applies to our life, or do we scramble out the door fussing and arguing with our families about the issue of the morning?
Walking into the sanctuary are we intentional about leaving our to-do lists outside? Set our hearts on things of God, and pray for an open mind and ears to receive what He would have us learn about Him or ourselves in the passage the preacher shares. Are we ready to be attentive?
Don’t misunderstand, music is a wonderful form of worship. If you see me singing in my car, it’s probably worship music. But have we let the music in our churches become so much of a performance, we’ve forgotten about its purpose in preparing our hearts for God? Where is the quiet reverence of coming to the foot of the cross?
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Psalm 95:1
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing. Psalm 100:1-2
There is plenty of Biblical talk of singing, and use of instruments, but nothing of performing, and flashing lights. We are to be distinctive from the world, and this worship style is not the way to do it.
It’s just my thoughts.
I recently heard a minister friend say that while there may be good reason for abandoning traditional words like ‘sanctuary’, ‘nave ‘and ‘pulpit ‘in some churches , replacing them with auditorium and stage has created an environment of expectation of entertainment things happened on stage and we watch from the auditorium. The theologian Kierkegaard said that something to the effect that whether we are up front , on stage or napping in the back, God alone is the audience. The rest of us are there to worship.
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Also, a friend who has struggled with mental illness for many years surprised me by announcing that he had been received into the Roman Catholic Church.He had been associated with Evangelical churches for some time and, while I haven’t had opportunity to talk with him about his decision, I do wonder if the noise and busyness of some of our churches didn’t make him long for the peace and quiet of a more formal sanctuary_ an opportunity for stillness and a reflection that is sometimes hard to find in our Sunday services.
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I agree with you, Karen. I wonder if it’s a generation gap issue? Our youth are so used to being constantly entertained. Is that our fault for allowing them to spend endless hours staring at screens? I love old fashioned sanctuaries with sunlight streaming through stained glass windows, too. For me, it’s nostalgic, but I don’t necessarily have to have that.
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