I’m on my way home from the Presbyterian Church’s Evangelism Conference. It’s clear to me that evangelism has really changed since the days when you could follow a script or hand people a booklet and they would make a decision to be a Christian. These days it’s all about having relationships with people and about demonstrating love through treating people well and serving those in need.
Which is why the dinner conversation I had was so surprising. At one of our meals, I had a conversation with two men from big churches who told me that the most important thing a church can do to attract people is to have a polished worship service. You need professional-quality musicians, and if you can’t get them, you must do simple music. “Aunt Millie missing every third note is not OK anymore.”
Yikes! So the church is just like the rest of the world. If you’re not sufficiently talented, you can’t serve. And instead of having something that’s more real than what we find in the rest of the world, we must emulate it… I just don’t think that’s what people are looking for. I think they want worship that’s authentic and sincere. Scratch that. They need worship that’s authentic and sincere. It’s not an infomercial for Jesus. It’s where we have an experience of God’s presence, where we connect with God’s people, where we see a different kind of life demonstrated. If what we demonstrate in worship is the same message that the wealthy, the beautiful, the talented are worth more than others, we have failed.
Yes, worship should glorify God, but I don’t think that towering spires, perfectly produced music, and seamless transitions between worship elements are the things that please God.
To quote the prophet Micah,
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)
Shouldn’t worship be about doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God too?
Jesus didn’t mention polish and “quality” when he spoke about worship. He said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
Let’s not clone the world and adopt its tactics. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Let’s keep demonstrating that we’re different because we know Jesus, making space for God to transform the lives of those who worship, and go out to change the world!