Too often I hear complaints such as “I don’t get anything out of the service”, “the church’s worship doesn’t inspire me” or “church is boring”. I wish I could say that I don’t relate to these complaints, but the fact is I do. I’ve felt those same things before and the only conclusion I could draw to fix the problem was that something needed to change. If I was going to leave the assembly of the saints edified and strengthened then something regarding the worship of God had to be altered. But what?
Most religious communities have needed to address this issue at one time or another and quite a few of them have decided to alter the worship itself, citing it as the problem. I hear such things as “we had to make worship relevant”, “now it’s more entertaining and captures people” and “church is fun now”. I needed to address the issue myself at one time in my life, but chose a completely different approach. After praying, reading God’s Word and meditating on it for some time, I reached the conclusion that what needed to change was ME! I was the reason I wasn’t getting anything out of the service, I was at fault for not being inspired and I was to blame for being bored. None of these things were the church’s fault and they certainly weren’t God’s—it was ALL me!
The first thing I had to consider was this: is worship important? Consider John 4 when Jesus halts at Jacob’s well in Samaria and He has that wonderful conversation about worship with the Samaritan woman. In verses 23-4 Jesus says, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” We tend to think of ourselves as children and/or servants of God. Certainly we are these things and they are important aspects of our relationship to God after we’ve entered His kingdom via baptism, but Jesus says that God is seeking worshipers! Obviously, God desires that we worship Him. If it’s important to God that I worship Him then it must be important to me. We start on this premise—God desires that we worship Him.
Since worship is important, I had to decide what the most important thing about worship is: what is my first concern? Am I the most important? Is what I get out of it the most important? Are my feelings the most important? Nadab and Abihu were sons of Aaron, but more importantly, they were priests of God. Sadly, they didn’t take this responsibility seriously and were devoured by fire from the Lord when they approached him profanely. They weren’t worshipping God as He is who told Moses and Aaron in Leviticus 10:3 “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.” Upon reading this passage I came to the conclusion that my first concern when worshipping God is not myself, but God. Remember the sons of Eli, also priests, of whom we are told in I Samuel 2, ordered their servants to take, by force if necessary, whatever the sons of Eli wanted whenever they wanted it. This was while men were trying to worship God. They were making worship all about them when it’s supposed to be all about Him! We must never forget this crucial fact: our first concern is that we regard God as holy and that we glorify Him when we worship. I’m becoming less important all the time.
Then I had to reflect on the nature of God, because He is what worship is supposed to be about. God does not change (rf. Jas 1:17; Heb 13:8). What’s this got to do with worship? This is one of the reasons I realized that I had to change my own attitude first—God is and He does not change. Therefore, what needed to change was my attitude when I worshipped Him. I was no longer my first concern, He was. Nadab and Abihu offered to Him profane and unauthorized worship (Lev.10:1); the fruit of not caring about God’s desires first. For this they paid a great price. Since God does not change, neither does acceptable worship. Regarding the tabernacle, God commanded that it and all its furnishings be carefully made “according to the/its pattern” (Ex.25:40; 26:30; Nu.8:4; rf. Heb.8:5). Just as the tabernacle was not designed by man, neither was the temple (I Ch.28:19). Both the tabernacle and temple were inspired by God AND the worship that took place at each respectively. Who was the temple for? Man? As David said, “the temple is not for man but for the LORD God.”
If worship is “I” centered and not God centered then it is in vain, or empty and useless. Should I then be surprised if I’m not “getting anything out of” the worship service? Should I be surprised if I drink nothing from an "empty" cup? Is God to blame? Is the church which He designed to blame? Is the worship He desires at fault? Or am I?
Since worshippers have happily worshipped God in the past, I had to conclude that I could happily worship Him today. If I do it for Him as prescribed by Him, with the right heart and attitude, then I should be able to. Guess what? I was right. I didn’t have to change the church or its authorized worship; I had to change the worshiper! It makes all the difference.
I “get something out of it” because I’m putting all of myself into it. Worship “inspires” me because I’m worshipping according to the inspired Word. The assembly of the saints isn’t boring because I’m no longer a boor (pun intended). As with all things we must let God define Himself to us as He is, know Him as He longs to be known, pattern our churches as He has shown and we must worship Him as He desires and with the heart He loves.
There is no “I” in “team”, but by His grace there is an “I” in Him. “I” must approach Him in worship with the reverence, fear, love and thankfulness that lets others know that I regard Him as holy and glorifies Him when others see me worship. Once we really get to know Him (rf. Jn.4:22) our worship conforms to Him and that makes all the difference when we gather with His children to praise Him.