I recently found myself at a worship concert unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It was eye-opening on many levels, but not for the powerful music. The music was amazing! The expertise of the musicians was undeniable. Every one of them displayed wild abandon to their gifting and ability. The quality was some of the best I’ve ever heard. I could appreciate their talent and applauded with everyone else at the amazing guitar riffs and piano runs.
It wasn’t eye-opening because of the passionate worshippers. It is not out of the ordinary for me to observe people with hands lifted high, swaying to the music, and singing at the top of their lungs. I celebrated along with them as the crowd of over three thousand rose to their feet to cheer the talented band. Many shouted their praise and encouragement with the agreement of the room.
No, this worship concert was different because there wasn’t an ounce of Jesus in the room. My spirit grieved within me as thousands of passionate voices worshipped one man and his band for their musical abilities. Jesus never showed up.
Reflecting on the evening, the Lord revealed a couple of insights I’d like to share.
First, it is always easier to worship something that we can see, and infinitely more difficult to worship the unseen. We see the same pattern in scripture. Every time the children of Israel began to falter in their dependance of God, they cried out for an object they could see to worship. Read Exodus chapter 32. As soon as the people’s leader (Moses) stepped out of the picture, they cried out for “gods who can lead [them].” They wanted something they could see. It wasn’t enough to wait. The Almighty had just split the sea and delivered them from 400 years of bondage, for cryin’ out loud! But that wasn’t enough for them.
Are things much different for us today? Our culture is eager to worship things and people they can see and experience. Knowing an unseen God is much too risky and difficult to worship. But there is no denying it, the world wants to worship (and they know how to).
Secondly, the Church has lost their worship. I sat and watched thousands of presumably un-churched people worship with abandon. Surprisingly, my teenage friend and I were the youngest in the room. Conservatively, the median age in the room was probably 55+. I’ve never been in a gathering like that with more… to put it directly… old people. In every church setting I’ve been in, the worship tone is usually set by the younger crowd. Not here. No one was bothered by the fact that the volume was ear-pearcing (yes, I wore ear plugs!). No one went to the sound man requesting to turn down the volume, or brought their own decibel meter to regulate it. No one was bothered by the bright lights or haze that captured every dancing light beam. On the contrary, they loved it! The louder the music wailed, the louder they roared. No one cared what others were thinking as they stood with arms held high, bobbing to the music. No, these people knew how to worship. For two hours we listened, cheered, clapped and worshipped. There was no intermission, no message. Just music. While their object of worship couldn’t be more off, they still got it right… it wasn’t about them.
A far cry from worship in the church today (at least in my limited experience). Today’s churches have lost their worship. Led by an older generation, we’ve created limits and boundaries on how we worship God. If worship is longer than 15-20 minutes, many disengage and withdraw (the impression some people give me would lead me to believe they’d be happy with their token song and be done with it). Why are the older people in the world out-worshipping those in the church? Could it be that those in the church have lost their worship? The lost certainly know how to worship. How is it that a generation of people leave their God-given design to worship at the front steps of a church once they get saved? Oh, how I wish they would have paved the way for me and those younger to unashamedly give themselves in worship instead of leaving the passion of worship to the youth.
I left the evening happy I got to pour into the life of a teenager, but saddened that for my whole life, I’ve felt the weight of having to plow through an older generation of church-goers to worship God. If only I had known that they once knew how to worship…they just lost it.