Martin Irungu, iServe Africa alumnus, surveys the contemporary church scene and draws our focus to true worship:
Are we missing the point?
In our churches today, many have emphasized different forms of worship, how to experience a ‘spirit flowing‘ worship service as well as the need for churches to have a ‘powerful’ praise and worship team, not to forget having the most modern PA system. This has almost completely replaced the true meaning of worship making people miss their sole purpose as God’s creation: worshipping God.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of Him…….” (1 Peter 2:9)
This means , we were called for the purpose of praising/worshipping God. This is the only assignment of a Christian, to declare God’s worth than anything else in existence.
Worship in the contemporary Church
In the modern church, the real meaning of worship is lost since most of the church culture suggests that worship is majorly something related to music. Also praise has been viewed as the fast tempo songs which are sung to warm up the church with a lot of gymnastics with phrases like ’chini kwa chini’, ‘makofi ya juu’, ’kamata guitar ya Yesu’, ’zunguka zunguka’ being predominant. A praise and worship leader is considered professional and up to date if he or she can articulate these phrases and cause the congregation to ‘move’ into a state of ecstasy.
Such ‘praise songs’ (fast tempo, energetic songs) have also been used by preachers to psych up a dozing congregation. They are as often used to welcome a speaker, during the collecting of offerings in church meetings and to entertain the crowd in open-air meetings, especially in shopping centers.
On the other hand, ‘worship’ is considered to be the slower, more emotional songs sung for instance when concluding the sermon and probably combined with an altar call. A ‘praise song’ sang at such a moment would be considered noisy and inappropriate, possibly hindering the Spirit to ‘flow’.
Over-emphasis on giving in today’s church is also gradually taking the place of true worship. This has been the specialization of most tele-evangelists. The deception has turned giving into a way of appeasing God so as to receive certain favours including healing, marriage partner, job appraisal, good performance, to cast away certain demons etc. Sadly, in many churches the Mpesa number is more frequently quoted and even memorized by many members than it happens to the Scripture references. This is done by preachers for their own financial gain and not necessarily a form of worship. The notion that the level of blessings received is dependent on the amount of offering you put into the basket is also misleading.
There is also a perception that worship should take place in a particular place, mostly a church building, and on specific set days or even hours. This is adjoined with set religious beliefs and practices that confine them into systems that do not necessitate true worship.
“Believe me ….a time is coming when you will worship the father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21)
“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is the spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1)
“Worship is the expression of God’s supreme worth in such a manner that God’s worthiness becomes the norm and inspiration of human living.” (Ralph Martin, The Worship of God, quoted by Marty Kendall in ‘Worship Today’)
Worship should not be based on routine programs in specific places but obedience to his Spirit. Worship should be a Christian lifestyle and not simply what we do when we come together as a church. God requires us to live a life of love and mercy to those around us by caring and sharing with the less privileged in the society. Authentic worship is about pursuing that which pleases God, not us. It is about lives lived in service to God and humanity – lives which are ‘living sacrifices’ which are engaged in God’s work in the world.
God-centred and up-building
”… when you come together, everyone has a hymn or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All this must be done for the strengthening of the church…..” (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Our singing should express our joy and excitement about God and what he has done for us [as Getrude explained]. God should be the object of praise and through praising we build up the faith of others and do not merely practise entertainment. Praises in a church setup should be used as expression of corporate adoration of God though its main focus should be strengthening the members of the church.
Truth and obedience to God’s word should be emphasized in the church more than anything else.
“……to obey is better than sacrifice…” (1 Samuel 15:22)
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks”. (John 4:23)
Because of our God’s unimaginable generosity towards us, God in all his glory chooses to seek and save the lost and not only that to seek communion with us! Christians should view true worship as a love relationship between them and their Father. Because we love Him, we will live surrendered to his Word and his Spirit inhabits us and binds us to our Saviour and gives us a taste of communion with our Father and empowers us to keep loving him and doing his will.
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
When we worship God with extravagant love and extreme submission to his Word, He will seek us and we will know him in intimate love relationship.