Culture and Worship (and Idolatry)

I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure where this post is going to go.  There have been a bunch of things on my mind lately about worship after speaking with a couple last night and focusing on idolatry, I re-read Driscoll’s excellent chapter on Worship in his book “Doctrine – What Christians Should Believe.”  Then…well…yeah…it kind of opened a door…

Growing up as a quintessential “Christian kid” (though not really being a true Christian) there were many things that shaped my view of what Christian worship was.  It seemed to be church.  Just church itself, how we did it.    It was about us, not about God.  Lately, I’ve been realizing that still rings true in many churches today.

That is the nature of idolatry – making it all about something other than God and it is the root sin of all sins.

Driscoll writes –

Similarly in our own day religious people continue in various idolatries when they elevate their denomination, church building, liturgical order, Bible translation, worship music style, pastor, theological system, favorite author or ministry program to where it is a replacement mediator for Jesus, on in which their faith rests to keep them close to God. This also explains why any change to the tradition of a religious person is met with such hostility – people tend to cling to their idols, including their church buildings, which are now worshiped and sacred, just as the temple was.

I once had an older man confront me in anger and said “You know…worship is important to me too.”  Screaming in my head was my response, “Yes, but worship on your terms – your song preferences, your dress, your style of music.  Your interpretation and personal preference of worship is obviously extremely important to you.” I would say that his way of worshiping had become his idol.  Worship is not about us, it’s about God.

When we stand and refuse to sing because we think we can’t sing, or that’s just not us, or we don’t like the music, or the style, or don’t know the song by heart – who are we making it about?

The body of Christ is diverse, we live in a culture, we cannot esacpe that.   Driscoll writes and I agree ‘If we are alive, we are cultural.’  We use whatever the means of the culture to reach those in the culture with the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.  Psalm 33 is not a list of acceptable musical instruments, it is a declaration to use whatever the culture has in that time to praise God – “Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings.” (Ps. 33:2).  We use the communication and styles of the culture to communicate the unchangeable message of Jesus.  The method can and must adapt – the message cannot.  We wouldn’t go into a tribe in Africa and play Chris Tomlin songs…

Every church has contextualized their approach to church, it’s not a matter of if they have or not – it’s a matter of what year they stopped the contextualization.  What year did you stop?  1600?  1950?  1984?  What about those who live in the culture of 2011?

God has been beating into my head – among many things – it’s not about us, it’s about Him.  We have perverted Christianity into a religion, into “doing church” – and it’s not about that, it’s about God.  It’s about his unbelievable love towards a sinner like me, who saw all my future sin on the cross and paid it in advance and drew me to himself and called me his own and reconciled our relationship through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He gave me a new heart, a new life, made me a completely new person – the BBW is “regeneration.”  The Holy Spirit makes us new in Jesus by the grace of God.  We spend (or should spend the rest of our lives) making much of Jesus, not much of ourselves.

Does your personal worship reflect that?  Does your church reflect that?

Our world needs us to be authentic worshipers of God who make much of Him, not us.  They will see us pouring out our whole mind, soul, body, and strength in grateful worshipful service to our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.  They will see us worshiping, singing, with a full heart of joy. (So will our kids)  They will see that this is a great God, one of steadfast faithful love and tremendous mercy and patience in Jesus.  And we need to pray that the Holy Spirit comes and opens their eyes to the new life and hope in Jesus.

It is about Him, not us.







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