Was That Worship?

I had a co-worker once who loved just about everything Disney. He put a sticker on his car, and would proudly wear Disney hats and shirts. He was one of the managers at the store where I was working, and I remember one day when everything was going wrong he said to me “when this day is over I am going home, and I’m going to watch an old Disney movie.” When I pressed him a bit as to why he chose to watch an old Disney movie as opposed to anything else, he said, “Disney things just bring me back to when I was a kid.” Ultimately there was a sense of nostalgia from all the memories of growing up, and these things moved his affections in a way that made him feel a bit better after a hard day.

On another note, music has a way of doing the same type of things for us. I can remember in high school and college, and it even happens now occasionally, when I would be listening to secular radio and that new song that I had been waiting to hear would come on. Immediately, I would turn up the volume, and I would be energized by what I was hearing. I would sing along with all the passion I could muster; sometimes to questionable lyrics.

There is nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia and being energized or moved by some piece of music, provided the context is not sinful, but when you put these things together with a Christian worship service, or program, we must be careful to discern our affections. I bring this up because sometimes we can be misled to think that we have had a time of worship, or that we have heard a great sermon, on the sole basis that our affections had been moved.

We must pay close attention to what is stirring our hearts to discern whether or not it is worship or even spiritual. When the worship leader plays the first chords of our favorite praise song, are we being energized much like the natural man who hears a secular song that causes him to turn up the radio, or are we truly worshipping? And when grandma’s favorite Hymn starts to play and causes us to experience a time of peace and contentment while thinking back to when she used to sing it to us as a child, do we sometimes confuse that with worship?

Now I am not saying we should only sing dull songs or songs that don’t remind us of anything, or that it is impossible to be truly worshipping during these times. In fact, I think it can be good at times to remember our family worship from when we were growing up, and I also believe it is good that we still have people today writing new psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for us to sing today that gets us excited. What I want to stress is that simply because we have these moments, does not mean we are worshipping or that we have been moved in adoration of God. Charles Spurgeon once said that if he wanted to, he could move congregations to tears by telling them sad stories of mothers with sick children or energize them by telling them stories of men and women who accomplished great things. He then went on to say, it would be a waste of time unless they were moved to cry over their sin and take joy in Christ and the cross. In other words, were their hearts and attention drawn to God.

Even the natural man’s affections can be moved in powerful ways, but those affections will never be worship unless we are moved by the truth of scripture as the Holy Spirit points us to Christ and what He has done for us. Whether we attend a modern or traditional worship service is not the biggest issue, but we must be sure to seek out worship and preaching that convicts us of sin, and shows us the remedy in Christ, which is the foundation of all true worship.

-D. Eaton-

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One thought on “Was That Worship?

  1. I hear such warnings all the time: don’t give into nostalgia / favoritism and think you’re really worshiping God because you’re focusing on yourself more than Him. Thing is, I just don’t buy it. Each of us has a natural inclination (preference?) for certain kinds of worship and a disinclination (dislike?) for others. When we are dyed-in-the-wool bluegrass fans attending a hymn-singing church, the familiar hymns kind of work, but put the same person in a contemporary church and they’d be miserable. I know because I prefer contemporary music but live where the only option is traditional hymns. Going to church is a chore. When other people get to sing their favorite hymns and get a measure of joy out of it, it depresses me that I’ll never get to sing my favorite song to God with the rest of the church because they aren’t inclined to my music any more than I am to theirs. Some hymns are worse than others, Gaither hymns are probably the worst of all because my church sang Family of God every Sunday even as the worship leader, the pastor and his family, as well as my own family left that church. They still sing it today not detecting the discord in that their actions drove away a big part of the family of God even as they were singing “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God …”. I’ve attended enough of these mismatched services to know that the longer I’m a traditional hymn-singing church the more difficult it is for me to really worship God, the less it feels like worship and the more it feels like going through the motions, the more I wonder if God’s really there being happy when I’m doing something I don’t want to do in a way I don’t want to do it because that’s how everyone else likes it and it doesn’t work for me. Lately, streaming contemporary services on the internet helps, sometimes visiting churches that are an hour or so away can bring back a little joy – but it’s hard to connect to a church where it takes longer to drive to it than to attend its worship service in any meaningful way because you have to carve out too much time of the day to join a Bible study or any other function. People who live within a few minutes of their churches don’t know how lucky they are that they don’t have to spent two hours driving there and back every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday evening. As I was telling my friend, you can’t make people stop liking the things they like because you don’t like the things they like, so you might as well offer a little bit of everything so that everybody gets what they like and no-one is stuck with things they don’t like.

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