The other day Christ Covenant Church in Atlanta, Georgia sent out a devotion on what worship is. It is quite bad and in the context of my spiritual abuse situation from a person that Jordan Kauflin discipled that dragged on unresolved. This devotional misses one of the key teachings of Jesus when it comes to worship. And as for the Sara Bareilles song, this blog suggests you don’t play the YouTube video when you are at work.
I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God – I really tried. I really really tried. I tried to believe that there is a god who created each one of us in his own image and likeness, loves us very much and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize…something is FUCKED UP. Something is WRONG here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is NOT good work. If this is the best god can do, I am NOT impressed. Results like these do not belong on the resume of a supreme being. This is the kind of shit you’d expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently run universe, this guy would have been out on his all-powerful-ass a long time ago.
George Carlin, from “You Are All Diseased”.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
Its been a while since I used the bullshit meme. I like to use it on special occasions. And I don’t want to over do this meme either. There are times when its most effective when used sparingly. This blog writes about Christ Covenant Church and its problems. This blog welcomes stories from this organization. Jordan Kauflin is the worship director at Christ Covenant. He left Redeemer Arlington here in the Washington, D.C. area and moved down to Georgia. In my mess he enabled spiritual abuse which affected my Mom in a terminal illness. A person he disciples triggered a false accusation which taught me why rape us a problem in the military. The situation was never resolved and just dragged on and on even into a hospital room which sickens me.
Over at Christ Covenant they sent out a devotional on worship. They talk about worship, what is worship, idolatry, singing and how to sing. And in all this they do what evangelicals do so well. They throw scripture at you which is the result of cherry picking. But here is why I use the bullshit meme up above. In all that they have below they miss and ignore probably Jesus’s most important commands about worship. Its in the book of Matthew. Its where Jesus says that he doesn’t want people to worship him if they have unresolved conflict. He instructs them to lay down their offering and work out a problem with a brother, and then worship him. So an intense and long devotional that is missing basic theology is why I decided to use the bullshit meme. Because when you look at the behavior of Jordan Kauflin and Jason Dees garbage like this is why people reject faith and God. People are being fed a lot of bullshit in Christ Covenant and devotions like the one below are pretty awful. Its part of the reason why I have pushed back from evangelicalism and faith. Its complicated as there are many different reasons as well. This church has stepped up the spiritual abuse which you can read in, “Why Jason Dees and 9 Marks’ Christ Covenant Church Will Not be Able to Reach the Lost of Atlanta.” Therefore this blog is going to close with a very appropriate song from Sara Bareilles. If you are reading this blog post at work I would not play this YouTube video at work. If you are at home blast the speakers and shake the house. If you are in Atlanta blast it so the leadership of Christ Covenant can listen to the message loud and clear. To the leadership of Christ Covenant this is Sara Bareilles singing “Fuck You.” and “Fuck You too…” Have a nice day Christ Covenant Church keep worshiping the Lord.
What is Worship?
Worship As All of Life
Scripture teaches that worship is something we all do whether we think we are “religious” or not. The human experience and common sense also point to the fact that we are all worshipers of something. In fact, it can be said that we never “begin” worship, rather, we aim it. Each of us, when we awaken each morning, live “toward” something. Maybe it’s wealth or comfort. Maybe it’s popularity and approval. Maybe it’s power and control. Whatever it is that we worship drastically shapes our lives, our dreams, our schedules, our directions, and our emotions. It literally shapes everything. Worship is powerful, and it is something that we are susceptible to getting really, really wrong.
Worship & Idolatry
In the beginning, God created man and woman and placed them in the garden to “keep and cultivate” creation (Gen. 2:15). The original Hebrew words for cultivate and keep are actually akin to “worship and obey”. This means that our forefather, Adam, was designed to worship; and so are we. We are designed to be occupied with God and his beauty and his work and to have dominion over the world. We were designed to use created things to worship God, not to use God to worship things.
Scripture also teaches that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we are to give glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31). This passage assumes that all of life can be and should be worship – eating hamburgers, drinking beverages, dancing, laughing, and working.
The Bible also shows that our worship goes wrong when it is aimed at creation rather than the creator. In fact, the first of the Ten Commandments states that “you shall have no other gods before me”. It could be argued that all the Ten Commandments are entirely about worship. God understands our capacity to aim our worship at other things and make other gods, so He chose to give us clear instruction regarding our worship.
The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-25 gives us the essence of sin. In verse 25 he explains the guilt of the people rested in the fact that they “worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is forever blessed”. Later in Romans 3:23, Paul states that we all sin and miss the mark. Meaning, the arrows of our worship fall short of the target we were made for – namely, the glory of God.
For centuries, Christian and non-Christian writers alike have written about worship. In his book entitled Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes the following, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Desire is something we all feel as human beings, and its insatiability is a profound evidence of an eternal God.
In what has now become a famous speech, writer and atheist David Foster Wallace offers a stunning explanation of worship to the class of Kenyon College. He says, “In the day- to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as “not worshipping.” Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. Worship power and you will feel weak and afraid. Worship your intellect and you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings.”
Consider the idea of worship through the lives of highly successful and esteemed people. Ever wonder why people who seem to have everything feel like they are empty? The reason is we were created to worship the unchangeable and unshakeable God, not the fragile fleeting things of this world.
As we close this section, consider this definition of worship from author Harold Best who said, “Worship is acknowledging that someone or something else is greater – worth more – and by consequence, to be obeyed, feared, and adored…it is the sign that in giving myself completely to someone or something, I want to be mastered by it.”
Worship as the Gathered Church
Scripture also uses the idea of worship to describe the act of praising God and singing with God’s people. We are commanded throughout Scripture to worship God in this way.
Psalm 29:2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness
Psalm 135:1-3 Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God! Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
Isaiah 43:21 The people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.
John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
Commanded to Worship?
Do you find it strange that God commands us to worship? Isn’t worship a little bit like love? Isn’t it something you can’t really command or control? That is a very important and revealing question. Our culture’s view of love tends to be the overly romantic type. We tend to think of love as a feeling that leads to an action, rather than an action that leads to feeling. Of course, love does present certain feelings that are right and exciting, and that is the genius behind the “great commandment.” It presents us with a dilemma. There are times in our lives when we don’t “feel” like loving God.
So, we are confronted with a question to ponder and an opportunity for action. And, as we act in conjunction with the commands of God, we will find the feelings of love follow. Worship is the same way. There are days when I don’t feel like singing to God, and in those days, I should search my heart. But at the same time, I also should just obey. We should sing because God said so. We should sing because corporate singing aligns us with our reason for existence. It reminds us both spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically of all the things written earlier. It reminds us that we were created by God and for God, and that we are restless until we rest in God. So, no, I don’t believe that we will be haloed on clouds and singing for all eternity, but I do think that the simple act of singing, and singing with God’s people, is a God-ordained way for us to align ourselves with ultimate reality.
How & What Should We Sing?
1. Sing to God
It may be assumed that God is the content and aim of our songs in worship, but this can be a dangerous assumption. The scriptural command is to praise the Lord. Often in church, as in life, we are faced with the temptation to view God as a means of getting what we actually worship. In other words, without knowing, our tendency can be for our singing to be oriented around ourselves and our emotions rather than God himself. Jonathan Edwards spoke about this when he explained that it is only when we worship God for His holiness, we can actually know that we’re worshipping Him simply for who He is. Other attributes of God, such as God’s power or love or faithfulness, can benefit us, but Edward says when we worship God for the beauty of who He is, then we know we are truly worshipping God.
2. Sing Joyfully
The Psalms teach us that every emotion is appropriate in worship – joy and sadness, hope and anger, peace and despair. The realities of human emotiveness transcend times of singing, and the Psalms show us we must be honest with God. Sunday morning singing times that are completely filled with songs of celebration can be insulting to those who are going through difficult seasons of life. The human condition is complex, and the Bible honors that, and our worship should too.
That being said, the predominant direction that the Psalms move is one of exaltation and overwhelment and an overcoming joy in God. Consider the fact of the way the Psalms end. Psalm 150 is a triumphant ruckus of praise. In this passage, creation itself is moving from sadness to gladness awaiting the return of Christ, and so our singing should tend toward this direction as well. While we should express songs of lament and sorrow, the direction and predominant tone of the Christian life is one of gladness, thankfulness, and ever-increasing joy in God – “from glory to glory.”
3. Sing to One Another
Scripture offers another strange command regarding worship in both Ephesians and Colossians. In these texts, Paul tells us to “sing to one another” with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. This begs an important question and gives us a rather awkward picture of people singing to each other, staring at each other. No, that is not necessarily the goal in a worship service. But Paul is teaching something interesting to us about worship that confronts the individualistic culture we live in.
In saying “sing to one another” Paul is not saying to worship your neighbor, rather, he is encouraging us to sing with our neighbor in view. I can’t tell you how many times my faith has been encouraged when I show up tired and hopeless on Sunday morning, and then I hear the ten people around me singing as loud and as desperate as they can to a God who knows, sees, redeems, and rescues. Not only that, but when the content of the song is thoroughly focused on God and his work in Christ, and I hear my neighbor reminding me of these truths, it changes me.
This is a wonderful reminder from Scripture – the work of Christianity is not done by the pastors, and people show up on Sunday to watch. Rather, the work of Christianity is done by us all. In a sense, what it means to be a Christian is to be a worship leader. To edify and encourage those around us by singing truth wholeheartedly.
4. Sing an Old Song
One of the defining markers of our church is that we sing songs that have a rich history that have stood the test of time in their value of showing God’s worth and serving God‘s people. Scripture commands us so often to “remember” – to remember the deeds of the Lord throughout history. Songs have a wonderful way of helping us remember. They help us remember the truth. They help us remember specific scriptures and stories. When we sing it is magnificent to consider, as we sing the truths and creeds of the faith, that we are joining in unison with generations gone before. The old songs we sing together are the same songs that churches have sung throughout history – the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our hope. It is our song.
5. Sing a New Song
The scripture also commands us to sing a new song. Singing a new song to God means offering our creative powers in his service. It means contextualizing the old story for a new generation. It means owning your faith instead of always regurgitating something someone else has said about God.
In our church, we are committed to singing the old hymns of the faith, but we also want to write new songs and expressions of worship. We do this because Christ is worthy. We do this because Psalm 145 says, “one generation will declare your deeds to another, and on your glorious acts I will meditate.” We should take songs and music and language to their furthest expressions for the honor and glory of God.