The God Centered View of Worhsip
, March 10, 2010

“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:8-9).

The question of how to worship God is certainly a topic of discussion today. Worship services range from the austere and formalistic to the new-age praise dancing and full-on rock bands. Churches have “traditional” services to cater to the more mature crowd and “alternative” services to cater to the younger generations. I personally have witnessed a baton performance given as worship in a small charismatic church.

I asked a friend of mine that had just performed a popular country western song during a service at the church where he attended why he felt that he needed to have drums and guitar to worship the Lord. His answer may be at the root of all departures from the Biblical standard. He simply said to me, “I like worshipping God that way.” Such a response may seem harmless; after all we all have our favorite hymn, a preacher whose style we prefer, we may even particularly enjoy the prayers that a certain brother might lead in the assembly. Such preferences are certainly natural. However, there is a problem when worship becomes about “I” and not about Him. Worship is a gift that we give to our God and creator. It is an acknowledgment of our submission to Him and our humility before Him. True worship, such as the Bible describes, is God-centered worship.

Worship that departs from the divine pattern, such as instrumental music, skits and plays, dancing, etc. simply does not praise God because it has at its heart the desires of man rather than the fear of the Lord. Such activity degrades the Word, the church, and the individual. A more recent development among churches of Christ seems to illustrate this point very clearly, and that is the house church movement which has its beginnings in the teachings of F. Lagard Smith. This growing movement rejects anything that might be viewed as “traditional” regardless of whether or not it is based in scripture.

The house church movement revolves largely around a reinvention of the Lord’s Supper. Proponents of this movement have turned the Lord’s Supper from a solemn remembrance of our Lord’ Supper into a social meal during which conversations take place regarding the meaning of the death of Jesus. Again, we see the focus shifted from God to the individual. This is exactly what Paul warned against in 1Cor 11. In verse 25 Paul states, “for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” The stated purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to announce continually the atoning death of Jesus, His resurrection, and our clear faith in His return. Again, this is to be a completely God-centered memorial. However, Smith and his followers would turn the Lord’s Supper into a hyper-emotional experience that takes place during lunch on Sunday afternoon completely ignoring and in direct contrast to the divine pattern, in other words a self-centered experience.

As devastating as such an attitude toward worship is, we need to realize that once such attitudes invade our worship there is no stopping the spreading effects of such a mindset. Smith writes, “Before real progress can be made, we will have to undergo a pivotal paradigm shift in the way we perceive even the notion of ‘church’ itself…Our concept of the church typically tends to suggest organization, complete with hierarchy and dogma. By contrast, the early church…was far closer to being an organism—less dependent upon formal structure and more spontaneous in action.” Statements such as this give great insight into the underlying motives with so many that seek to “improve” our worship by incorporating that which the Bible does not mention or in this case outright condemns.

It is not enough to change the pattern regarding the conduct of worship; men like Smith want to redefine, undermine and distort a biblical perspective of the church and its activity. It is true that the church universal is a living organism, complete with Christ as our head and Christians as His members, however this in no way removes the need for structure in the local church. Nor does it nullify the need to follow the New Testament pattern. There is a word that describes what Smith writes about, chaos. Smith describes an organism and then desires conditions in which no organism can successfully live and grow. Smith goes on to describe how he thinks the church should operate. His vision is one of small groups meeting in the homes of individuals and a “city-wide” eldership. Smith rejects what he refers to as an “ecclesiastical” observance of the Lord’s Supper and, yet advocates a “city-wide” eldership, which was historically the chief contributor to “the organization…hierarchy and dogma” of present day Catholicism. What proves too much, proves nothing.

How could devout Christians, servants of the Most High God possibly be convinced to make such a radical departure? Start small, gradually incorporate emotionalism into worship services, speak about personal fulfillment, gradually convince people that what they want is what pleases God, rather than the other way around. Speak harshly about those that would adhere to a pattern as formalistic pharisaic traditionalist, gradually change the focus of worship from the Creator to the creature. Once God’s people begin to reason from emotion, instead of from the Word there is no departure that cannot be justified, no heresy that cannot be tolerated and no doctrine that cannot be defended.