Unentertaining Worship

“True worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” – John 4.23

From David King

I don’t know about you, but for me it is taking time to adjust to worshipping together online rather than at our church building. However wonderful the technology is, and however ingenious the Lord helps us to be, we still feel that we are missing something. Part of that sense of loss is because we no longer meet together. That is a real loss and makes worship harder at this time. We’ve tried to lessen that by making everything we do ‘live’ rather than recorded. If we pre-recorded our service, we would have fewer glitches and it would be more polished. However, we decided not to because we wanted those live-streaming to know that they are worshipping at the same time as the person whom they are watching.

Some of the loss, though, is ultimately cosmetic. The music sounds more tinny and there are funny skips in the middle; we can’t have such a big music group and it’s hard to see them; spoken voices don’t sound so good through our computer speakers; transitions aren’t always the smoothest. Perhaps the impact is greatest in the singing. Does this mean that we can’t worship as well as in our church building?

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4 says no. The quality of our worship, from the Father’s perspective, is not found in the skill of the music group, the sound quality of the speakers, the size of the congregation or even the beauty of our voices. Jesus says the three key criteria for our worship should be the Father, the Truth and Spirit.

We considered the first two yesterday, but what about Spirit. The translation above says, “in the Spirit”, but the original Greek doesn’t quite say that. It says “in spirit”. It could mean worshipping in the Holy Spirit, or it could mean worshipping the Father in our spirit. Most likely it means both, that true worship is when our spirit worships with the Holy Spirit. At its core, this means worshipping from the heart.

As our worship is stripped of much of its more ‘entertaining’ elements, it is an opportunity to test how real it is. When we struggle with our weekly experience of worship, we should check whether the worship being organised is according to the truth. If it is, the trouble lies, not in the format of the worship or its style, but in our own spirits.

If we find our worship on a Sunday uninspiring, even though it is true, that is both a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge, because the fault lies not in the choice of songs, location, musicians or preacher, but in ourselves. It is an opportunity, because that fact is unmasked and so we can do something about it. Entertaining worship is dangerous, precisely because I won’t know if I am inspired in worship because others are doing a great job, or because my heart is right.

The format or style of our worship is very unimportant (except when it causes division amongst us – then it is simply offensive). As I quip from time to time, it should be possible for Jesus’ followers to worship the Father in a way that delights him, whilst accompanied by a Kazoo. Let’s allow Lockdown to shape our hearts so that this becomes a reality.

Published by St Patrick's Church

We are a friendly Anglican church in the centre of the community of South Wallington. At the heart of our church is the wonderful news that God loves us and has demonstrated that love in the most incredible way through Jesus' life, death and victory over death. Thank you for engaging with our blog, we hope and pray it is a blessing to you.

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