Thursday, November 16, 2006

Do You Think You Worshiped Because You Enjoyed the Service?

From Dave Doran's recent sermon on one of my favorite passages, John 4:23-24:
When you leave a service where God has been worshiped, is your barometer of worship whether or not you liked it? Whether or not you enjoyed the songs? Or is it, "We did what God called us to do this morning. God explained how He is to be worshiped, and we did that, and we trust that God was pleased with it."

But you know, too much of our world has become so consumerist and it's filtered into the very fabric of our lives that we filter everything from the standard of our ideas and preferences, not from what God said. "Did we do what God said to do today, and was God pleased with it?" is really what matters. It must be driven by the Scriptures.
It seems likely to me that the traditional worship advocates will be quick to apply this admonition to the form used by the contemporary crowd, and the contemporary advocates will use it to critique the staleness of the traditional crowd. But as Doran points out immediately after this quotation, what we really need to be attentive to is the condition of our own hearts.


Bruce McKanna said...

Thanks for including your additional paragraph after the quotation from Doran. Taken out of context of his further remarks, the words you cited could be seen to emphasize the objective elements of worship to the exclusion of the subjective. I believe that that would be a faulty response to the prevalence of the highly subjective in American evangelical worship. It seems that we should be seeking both that which is objectively true (faithful to Scripture) and subjectively true (authentic, genuine to us as individuals and our particular culture). I know there are a variety of interpretations on this, but might not this be a possible understanding of worshiping in "spirit and in truth" in John 4?

We need to do more than react to the subjectivism of our day by reasserting the primacy of objective truth. We need to show how objective truth must be accompanied by healthy subjective experience, know how to distinguish the two, and understand how they relate and interact.

Going by your comments, Ben, it sounds like he advocates something like this. It is also consistent with the previous post contra "mechanical" approaches to faith/devotion/worship/religion.

Fundamentally Reformed said...


I must admit that this quote didn't sit right with me. I think I have a better idea of how to respond now.

Your title is getting at one pitfall of worship. Personal enjoyment as a barometer of what constitutes worship. I agree as far as this goes.

But another equally devastating pitfall of worship is assuming that since we go through certain motions, or that since we dress our worship up in a certain traditional dress that we have thus legitimately worshipped God and pleased him.

Jn. 4:24 says God wants worship in spirit and truth. Some err in trying to create a false genuineness or a false feeling/emotional content to worship (they thus miss the "truth" element). Others err in majoring on form or truth to the exclusion of the genuineness or feeling/emotional (spirit) element.

A frined of mine expressed this much more eloquently here, but he points out that true worship is a genuine human response to Divine initiative which is structured in a biblically appropriate manner and this response is used by the responder to confidently affirm his joy in God's love.

This is the key point I was unsettled over in this post. Worship is not something we dutifully give to God in order to please Him. Rather we are merely responding to what He has given to us (Acts 17:25). Christ has secured our acceptance with God and only because of what He has done can we please God. So while it is true that proper heartfelt bibilcal worship pleases God, we must be careful not to think in terms of performance when we worship. Worship is exulting in what God did for us, not a work we have to be careful to accomplish each Sunday. We don't meet on Sundays because God requires worship necessarily, but because we want to (due to God's work in us) express our love to Him in biblically allowed and guided ways. We come to Him with empty hands, we don't bring him a carefully crafted acceptable worship present--that was given to God by Christ alone.

Sorry that it has taken so many words to communicate what I am trying to say. (I need to be more succinct!) But let me stress that I am sure Doran would probably agree with this understanding, it just comes across funny when you read this post.

God bless you richly in Christ,

Bob Hayton

Ben said...


I don't want to speak for Dr. Doran, but I don't think you would disagree substantially if you listened to the entire sermon. Having done so, I do not interpret his "doing what God said we're supposed to do" as mechanical, formulaic, or duty-based. I believe his next point was about sincerity, which seems to me to speak to the issues you're raising.