(This article was originally published in Worship Leader’s Sept/Oct 2015 issue. Subscribe today for more great articles like this one.)
In Barna Group studies during the last two years, there has been a significant change amongst Millennials who believe it less important to attend church, grow in their faith, and become God’s hands and feet extended. The Church, according to them, is simply asking too much. To a culture that is seemingly obsessed with themselves, there remains little room for anyone else. When this underlying arrogance of focusing on self moves into the Church and becomes evident in the way we worship, the songs we sing, and the message we teach, we can expect a self-centered outlook that cares little for God’s heart.
Following God’s Heart
Galatians 2:20 carries the weight of the new life in Christ—the moment where we cease to exist for our own purpose and start to mimic the Father’s heart. This truth is becoming irrelevant in the church where worship is seen as a musical experience, church as fellowship, teaching as life skills, and outreach as a philanthropic pat on the back.
The church struggles heavily under the burden of cultural relevance, trying to carve out a message tailored for an ever-demanding audience. Show me how you want to live your life, and I’ll find you a pastor that will teach it. When the Church becomes less about the Father’s heart and more about ourselves, we lose the very essence of a kingdom-focused, purpose-driven life. If it’s truly no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me, should my words, actions, outlook, behavior, outreach, and existence not be 100 percent biblically based? Should I not hate what God hates and love what God loves?
Question of Integrity
What is the problem then? That worship is misunderstood? That pastors act less like shepherds and more like CEOs? That churches are becoming nothing more than a feel-good, substance-less gathering of believers who learn and learn, but never grow? Have we become so intimidated with political correctness that we allow our government to dictate our Christian worldview? Have we become so afraid of offending someone that we’ve amputated those very hands and feet that are supposed to make a difference wherever we go?
Ravi Zacharias, in a recent article in relation to the current political landscape in the U.S., writes the following:
Our worship will have to have theological integrity, not just in form but in substance; worship that is not just moments of exhilaration but is coextensive with life itself and sermons that are not merely heard but are also seen. The outreach of love will then be embodied and not be mere talk. The Church must not be a fortress guarded by a constabulary, but a home where the Father ever awaits the return of each of us who is in the far country.
The Great Divide
What is very offensive to a non-believing world is the hypocrisy of Christians. There is a great divide between what Christians say and what we do, and the world is very aware of that. How can we sing of a God of life, and be tolerant of the atrocity of abortion? How can we sing of a God of justice and turn a blind eye to sex trafficking, child slavery, and persecution? How can we sing of a God of freedom when we have no problem being bound in financial debt? How can we sing about being set apart when we crave the same media and entertainment the world does? Our worship can never have substance or integrity if we do not conform to God’s standard of holiness. Only through holiness can we die to self and live for Christ so that our worship spills over into actionable deeds that impact the world around us.
C.H Spurgeon accurately predicted the temperature of the current church landscape when he said, “A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the Church will have clowns entertaining the goats.” Though a grim outlook, his words ring true. Our worship will remain selfish when pastors teach for self-edification instead of spiritual transformation. Our worship will remain empty as long as worship leaders lack fundamental biblical knowledge, which prevents them from writing and leading as God requires. Our worship will remain fruitless as long as we put our needs above those of others.
Ultimately, worship with substance and worship with integrity demands worship in purity. That purity comes through obedience. Obedience demands an unquestionable adherence to God’s Word and a relentless pursuit of his heart. It’s there, close to the Father’s heart, where we’ll hear his heartbeat beating for justice, holiness, unity, freedom, life, and peace. Desiring for all, to come to know him.
Hein van Wyk is the Co-Founder and President of Sharefaith, where he innovates, leads and spearheads technology solutions for churches.