Recently I observed an advertisement for a bank and it was a commercial that talked about how their new design was “banking reimagined.” It was not the typical banking atmosphere. It was complete with a coffee shop, modern seating, and appeared to be more of a lounge than a bank. It is very common within evangelical circles to hear people talking about how they have reimagined church or reimagined worship. This typically means they have redesigned it for a modern audience with a fresh new look or purpose. It would do us well to remember that God doesn’t need our imagination to repackage worship. He has given us everything we need in the Scriptures in order to detail they way in which God should be approached in worship.
The Archbishop of Canterbury (William Temple) in the 1440s described the purpose and functionality of worship. He said, “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” In other words, while we are impacted, changed, and beneficiaries as a result of worship—we must view worship as primarily centered upon God.
The primary audience for our worship is God himself. It’s not the congregation, because the congregation is called by God to engage as participants in worship. It’s not the seeker who is coming looking for God, for that person doesn’t truly exist. The true seeker is God himself. Therefore, in our weekly worship as a gathered church—our worship is offered up to God since he alone is the primary audience. Therefore, that means that we must take our worship of God seriously.
Our Aim is to Please God
Many pastors aim to please people, and often unbelieving people, in the way in which they design their weekly worship. This past week, Ed Young who serves as the pastor of Fellowship Church in Texas, redesigned the worship center of their church to look like a basketball court. He called it, “March Madness” and he invited a professional dunker to come and perform dunks on stage. It was widely advertised online and Ed Young spoke before the congregation with a basketball in his hand the entire service.
Many pastors have gone the route of pleasing people rather than pleasing God. They have become entertainers rather than preachers of God’s Word. Seeking to entertain people, they have turned their backs on the central priority of worship which is to please God. Church has become a platform for their personality, their success, and their latest gimmicks are designed to bring in people who would not typically attend church. In their attempt to entertain goats, the sheep are starving to death. With their goal of pleasing people, they fail to please God.
Have you considered the aim of your worship service each week? As a participant in the call to worship, the singing, the praying, and the preaching—what is your aim? What about the Lord’s Table—what is your aim? Rather than pleasing yourself—the central aim of our worship should be to please God. The Psalmist writes these words in Psalm 50:23, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.”
Our Worship is an Offering to God
If our aim is to please God, we must not forget that our worship is an offering to God. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes these words to the church in Rome:
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, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
We would do well to remember that it was highly probable that the letter of Romans was read aloud to the gathered church on the Lord’s Day after being sent by the hand of Paul. Imagine if we applied Romans 12:1-2 to our corporate worship services how things would change. We must see our worship on a weekly basis as an offering—not a performance. We are not performers seeking to entertain God, we are worshippers seeking to please God.
When we read Exodus and see the design of the Tabernacle and Leviticus to see the function of the Tabernacle, we find that the entire focus of the Tabernacle was placed upon worship. In fact, seven full chapters in Leviticus are devoted to the functionality of the Tabernacle—to describe how the people of God were to worship God. When the people entered the Tabernacle through the one gate of entry—the very first thing they would see was the blazing alter that stood between them and the Holy of Holies. It stood as a barrier and a reminder that God is holy and God demands a sacrifice of worship.
While God expects a proper offering, that necessitates the engagement of God’s people in worship. We are called to worship God. As worshippers we must draw near to God and bring him a worthy sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving, and biblical worship. Consider the words of Hebrews 10:19-22:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Today’s evangelical worship has been so watered down and repackaged to suit the desires of people that it can hardly be classified as a worship service. Nadab and Abihu (the sons of Aaron) offered up strange fire to God and because God was not pleased with their worship—they were struck dead (Lev. 10). It should cause us to pause with solemnity each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper as we consider that some of the members of the church in Corinth died because of how they profaned the worship of God at the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11). Nevertheless, we must approach God and offer worship to him!
Have you considered that Christian worship is not very Christ centered? God takes worship seriously and because far too few churches seem to take the worship of God seriously in our day, we desperately need a resurgence of biblical worship that honors God.