Monday, February 05, 2007

Self-centered worship

"We’ve made worship self-centered--instead of God-centered; We lobby for what we want, with statements like: ‘I didn’t like the songs’, or ‘I didn’t like the sermon’. It’s as if we’re worshipping 'worship' instead of worshipping God."

Geoff Bullock, "Beyond Self-Centered Worship"
(quoted by Bob Burroughs, Monday Morning E-mail, February 2007)

Blogger's note: Though they are both correct (according to the dictionary), I have always personally preferred the suffix-added "worship" with the single final consonant rather than the double. Bullock (or his editor) obviously prefers the double.

Bullock is right. In the grand scheme of things, it is God's opinion of our worship that matters far more than our own. It is a delicate balance for a worship leader: to engage people in a worship experience that connects them with God (which will have an impact on their emotional state) rather than seeking first to impact their emotions and use that as a barometer for worship evaluation. Because worship will have an impact on my emotional state, it is tempting for any of us to use "how it makes me feel" as our main evaluation point for worship. But here's the problem: if how it makes me feel is the primary goal, then I've had a great worship experience at a James Taylor concert (he did sing about Jesus in "Fire and Rain").

I am using video of worship led by the dB Network Band at South Carolina's 2007 Shepherding the Staff conference to help train our contemporary worship leadership team. As we view and respond to segments I have chosen, I specifically instruct them to avoid evaluations on the basis of "I liked" or "I didn't like". The bottom line for me is that in worship, our personal opinions matter little (if at all) from God's point of view.

It is a difficult balance to strike. I have been working on it for a couple of decades at least, and I feel no closer to getting a firm grasp on it than when I first began trying to think deeply about it. If anything, things are less clear about some issues than they used to be for me. Worship is for God ... but in a way it's also for us. If we don't worship, we don't experience all that God has for us ... but if we focus more on what God has for us than on who He is, then we may very well miss some of those things that God may wish to say to us ... as well as missing opportunities to bless the world around us as effectively in His name. If we don't worship, God is not diminished, but we are. If we get up and walk out (or remain in the service and shut down) just because we don't like something (or someone) then it is we, not God, who lose ... and those around us may be negatively affected by our attitude as well.

That's enough to think about for now.


Blogger Ken said...

Worship is about what you do - not about how you feel. It's about how you live - not about what you see. It's about the changes you make in the world - not about the kind of music.

Churches have absolutely lost their way in this forest of seeking the right way to do worship and are going in large circles instead of leading people toward becoming God's companions and helpers.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Morris said...


Well said. I have been saying something similar for years to people I lead: "The chief criterion for evaluating worship is not how it makes me feel while I'm in the service, but how it makes me act once I leave. How it makes me feel is irrelevant unless it has an impact on my behavior."

There is a huge disconnect between belief and action among those who profess to follow Christ, and this issue takes us beyond the surface discussion of worship style. This morning (in both of our services) we focused on Paul's prayer in Colossians 1:9-12, and the truth in that prayer for all of us, specifically that KNOWING the will of God means LIVING differently because of it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Usually all I get is an empty echo from cyberspace.

10:21 AM  

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