By Gary Durbin
“I just can’t worship with that kind of music.”
Have you ever said something like this? I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before. I’ve definitely thought it at times.
I was at a traditional church several years ago when God opened my eyes to this. I was sitting there during the music and thinking about how I would do the song differently. Then God basically slapped me in the face. I felt Him say to me, “Gary, worship me. If you can’t worship me with this kind of music, then your idea of worship is shallow.” I walked away from that a changed person and a changed worship leader. Over the years, I have seen and heard testimonies of people who have worshipped and connected with God for the first time, even though they didn’t prefer the music style that I was bringing. That is what it is all about. It’s not about the methods or styles in which we worship. It’s about bringing worship that the Father is seeking, which is in Spirit and in truth. (John 4:23)
That being said, I’m concerned that there is a danger we need to watch out for in our churches. The danger is conditional worship. It’s when God’s people convince themselves of certain conditions that need to exist in order for corporate worship to happen. For some, it may call for a killer band and for others, it may call for a choir. For some, it may be lights and multimedia and for others, it may be stained glass and candles. When used properly, there are so many things that can enhance the experience and touch the senses, but we need balance. We need to learn to worship God no matter what the circumstances. Paul said in Colossians 2:16, “So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.” (The Message)
What is the substance of your worship? If it’s not Christ alone, then you are probably suffering from conditional worship.
Here’s a few signs you can watch out for:
- INCONSISTENCY – Is your worship experience inconsistent? If it is, you need to realize that it’s not the church’s fault. It’s not the worship leader’s fault. It’s not the pastor’s fault. The issue is found when you look in the mirror. If Christ is the substance of our worship, then we will experience consistency in corporate worship. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When Christ becomes the substance of our worship more and more, we will experience more and more consistency in heart-tugging, life-changing corporate worship.
- BOREDOM– Jesus is not boring. Following Jesus with surrender is a true adventure. When Christ is not the substance of our worship, we require lesser things to keep our attention in corporate worship. We require certain styles, songs, and sermons. Eventually we tire of those things like a spoiled kid tires of unwrapped Christmas presents after a week of playing with them. If you are bored in corporate worship, maybe your attention is being kept by lesser things. When you fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3), you will never lose sight of true, exciting worship, no matter what the conditions. You will require less of lesser things.
- HESITATION– Hesitation in corporate worship manifests itself in our inspection of everything, before we surrender everything. It’s when we look at who is on the stage or what is on the agenda, as we assess whether or not the order of worship will satisfy our wants and needs. Surrender and obedience are at the heart of worship. Delayed obedience is disobedience. When we delay or hesitate to bring an offering of praise to God, we’re not trusting that Christ is truly all we need. In Matthew 4, when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, it says that they immediately left all they had and followed Him. May we not hesitate. May we follow and worship with trust and surrender.
Conditional worship is a sign that we have grown stale in our relationship with God or maybe we just have not grown at all. It reveals a heart that is not completely His.
When we completely, unconditionally surrender our hearts to God, our worship will be complete. God’s love for us is unconditional. May our worship for Him have less and less conditions.
He loved us so much that He sent His only son to die for our sins. Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Christ is the substance of true worship and the only condition in worship we will ever need.
About the author: Gary is the Worship and Creative Arts Director at Christ Community Chapel in Stow, Ohio. He is also a blogger and a songwriter with a passion to serve the church. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have been married since 1999. You can follow him on Twitter @garydurbin.