The Glory of Simple Worship
In Amos 5:23-24 it says, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” We live in an age of noise, and I don’t just mean the world outside the church.
Evidence of this sad reality is all over the social media world. In the last few days, I have seen two videos that give evidence of the noise that currently has a grasp on the church. The first such videos I saw were three videos posted by Prestonwood Baptist Church which has several campuses in the Dallas Metroplex but its most prominent one is in Plano. The pastor of Prestonwood Baptist is Dr. Jack Graham, you may have heard of him. This is obviously a mega church which goes out of its way to market itself to mostly a conservative audience. But the Christmas program that I viewed in these three videos, each about a minute and a half long, are extravagant to say the least. With angels suspended by wires above the stage and live animals all with Hollywood style special effects. I’m going to assume that the intentions here are good. The concept is that if we just make this show (and let’s not kid ourselves that’s what this is) as attractive and as much like the world as possible then people who don’t normally come to church will come. They no doubt have many people attend this event each year. But I’m going to take an educated guess that many who attend this event probably don’t attend much else at that church the rest of the year.
The second video I found was posted by someone I follow on Twitter this morning and it was from The Church on the Move in Tulsa Oklahoma. Now, I don’t know if this event is this year’s Christmas program or last years. The title tells you all you need to know: “Grinch’s Thriller.” Yes, you read that right. It is a combination apparently of the story of the Grinch and the Michael Jackson song and video, “Thriller.” All of this is complete with the Grinch and zombies dancing on stage to the song “Thriller.” Again, the production value of this is outstanding, there is no denying that. Once again, I will assume that the intentions here are good, but the question becomes, “What are you glorifying here?” Because it certainly is not God. What this church is glorifying is the world and they most likely really believe that if they are just more cool, more fun, and more like the world then the world will flock to them.
To a lesser extent I see this in my own small community here in Northwest Colorado. One of our local churches, just this past weekend, had a three night “Christmas Entertainment” spectacular. I was relieved that they didn’t call this anything but what it was… entertainment.
What are we doing? Has the church lost its mind? Yes, in large part it has. The church from the local small church to the big metropolitan mega churches has indeed lost its mind and has strayed from the Biblical principles of worship. For the most part the church today has bought into the American corporate business model of doing whatever it takes to attract a crowd. All the while we have for the most part ignored the Biblical model of worship.
It seems that the more insincere we have become in how we live our lives as Christians, the more disobedient to the word of God we have become, the more extravagant our worship has become. What does God want? Does God want a large concert atmosphere? Does He want “entertainment?” Not so much. The passage from Amos that I started out with tells us what God thinks of all this “entertainment.” To the Lord it is “noise.” It also says that He won’t even “listen.” No matter how outstanding the production value is or how entertaining it may be.
So, what does God want? Verse 24 tells us. God wants us to obey Him. God wants us to be so enmeshed with Him, to be so immersed in His Word that “justice” rolls “down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” That is what pleases God, obedience that is so reflexive that it produces, easily produces like a stream, “justice” and “righteousness.” So, let’s put away the fog machine, the laser lights, the angels suspended and flying around our auditoriums on wires, and the entertainment; and let’s simply worship God each day with faithful and simple obedience. That is, as Paul says in Roman 12 our “spiritual service of worship.”