“Your worship is lame.”
“It’s a bunch of noise.”
Seriously? You’re calling this noise? We’re a team of solid musicians doing some of the best worship songs ever written, all for the Lord.
“No, it’s not. It’s all show and pretense. In fact, I can’t even listen to it.”
Is this a conversation between a worship team member and a disgruntled churchgoer? It would be better for us if it were. It’s actually God. And he’s ripping his people’s worship to shreds. You can find that passage in Amos 5. Here are the highlights:
“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your…solemn assemblies. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
“Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings…? No…,” says the Lord.
Amos 5:21-25, select passages (NLT)
What if God was saying that to you or me? If you know anything about the northern kingdom of Israel, you know they ranged from spiritually bankrupt to downright evil—like sacrificing their children evil. No wonder God would call their worship practices detestable.
But you and I are worshiping the Biblical, Triune God with songs that are based in scripture. How could God hate that?
Here’s the problem. We can direct the right words and the right God, but still be wrong. Let’s look at three common worship offenses that turn our Biblical worship into noisy hymns of praise.
1. We make it about the music.
As musicians and techs, our job is to create good music that accompanies our church’s sung worship. It’s easy to focus on the quality of the music and sound and lose sight of the goal: to bring—and encourage others to bring—sacrifices of musical praise and worship.
The next one pushes us even further into the kind of worship God hates.
2. We get our worth from it.
As musicians (and techs), we can draw too much meaning and purpose from our position. For some, it’s the prestige of the platform and performance. For others, it’s belonging to an important ministry. For others, it’s the accolades and attaboys (or girls) we get from other team members, leaders, and the congregation. The applause feeds our souls. It gives us worth and value. And it’s addictive. Before long, “worship” is more about propping up ourselves instead of lifting up our Savior.
The third worship offense is probably the most subtle form of idolatry.
3. We worship worship.
It could be in a darkened auditorium with attractive musicians playing recording-quality modern music, or in a cathedral with a pipe organ and 144-voice choir singing ancient hymns, or in a small sanctuary with just a girl and her guitar leading simple choruses. The danger in any setting is becoming enthralled with the expression and act of worship more than One we’re supposed to be exalting. We make an idol out of the experience of worship.
With all these offenses, there’s rarely a team member who’s motivation is entirely void of honoring God. I know I’ve been guilty of every one of these worship offenses.
My heart never intended to stray away from God-honoring worship, but it did. I neglected a critical component of being a worshiper—I didn’t pursue intimacy with God.
Last month I started a special series about how to be a fully committed worship team member. I introduced Seven Critical Commitments and suggested we need all seven for our worship ministry to be healthy.
But the first of these commitments is foundational to all the others. It’s this:
To pursue intimacy with God.
If we don’t engage in this first (and foundational) commitment area, the other six commitments are pointless. They can make us look good, sound great, and even build an enjoyable team. But without the first critical commitment, we’re in danger of hearing the words Amos echoed to the northern kingdom of Israel: God hates your worship.
James gives us a clear call to this first commitment: Come close to God, and he will come close to you. (James 4:8a NLT) God fuses a clear command with a promise of blessing: If you draw close to Him, he’ll never hesitate to do the same.
This “command-promise fusion” is the heart of pursuing intimacy with the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. If we don’t, James is clear in that same passage that our hearts become divided between God and world.
And the result?
Our worship becomes about something other than glorifying God. Again, none of us set out make worship about the music, the prestige, or our own self-worth. But it happens as we slowly drift from pursuing Jesus and listening to His Spirit. If we’re going to be lead worshipers on the platform, our adoration needs to flow from worship done first in private where we’re pursuing the heart of God.
Remember, our platform worship will never exceed our private worship.