Every church tells a story.
When we, as a community of believers, get together to worship God, we tell a story. Hopefully, the message we proclaim is the one where a holy, sovereign God redeems His people from their sin through His Son, Jesus Christ. The punishment we deserve, the wrath of an almighty God, is placed on the shoulders of Jesus, nailed to a cross.
Forgiven. The debt is paid. No more yearly sacrifices in the temple. One final sacrifice for your sins and mine.
Every time the church gathers to worship, we tell that story.
We are made with an innate desire to worship…something. Our worship says a lot about what’s important to us. In truth, what’s most important to us is what we worship. It can be your spouse, your kids, your hobby, your cars, your climb up the social and corporate ladder, your lifestyle, and on and on. Bob Kauflin says this:
Jesus said the greatest commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). While it’s simplistic to say that worship is love, it’s a fact that what we love most will determine what we genuinely worship.
So, it follows that, if we worship something other than God, we, as believers, are not telling the right story. Putting it differently, if you love something more than God, and your existence is consumed by the love of that something, instead of God, your life is proclaiming the wrong story. We are idolaters…placing something or someone else above God.
John M. Frame says this:
To praise God – indeed, to praise Jesus! – is to recognize him as unconditionally superior to ourselves in every respect, as one whose true greatness is beyond our poor power of expression. He is the ultimate object of praise.
Our lives should tell the story so that it is clear and obvious that God is our total and comprehensive existence. We must live so that the gospel is clear.
It should be no different. And, while you may wholeheartedly agree, I get the impression often that our churches are more about personal preference and self-service than telling the story of the gospel. We are idolaters of the worst sort because we place our own preferences and desires above our call to tell the gospel in our corporate worship meetings.
I don’t like the music we sing.
I wish we sang more of the old hymns.
I wish we sang more of the new choruses.
I’m sick of the preacher going so long.
I think we should sing less and let the preacher have more time.
I don’t like what he’s preaching on.
I want us to be more expressive.
I think we’re too irreverent.
And, it goes on and on.
You’ve said some of those things, and I have, too. Notice that every comment, critique, observation, and plea begins with the personal first-person pronoun ‘I’. When we’re not focused on telling the gospel story, we’re focused on ourselves…what we want. And, when we do that, we place our desires and preferences above God’s preference and desire.
Bryan Chappell, in his book Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, states, “Gospel priorities will force us to consider both God’s glory and his people’s good. We cannot simply impose personal preference without idolizing our glory and good.”
Chappell goes on to say, and I agree wholeheartedly, that our worship must re-present, or present again, the gospel. We should never be “disgusted by worship testifying of God’s love.” It’s clear. God’s love for us is shown in his sovereign will and grace for us through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Our worship must re-tell that story every time we gather as the church to worship. Nothing else.
Chappell points out clearly:
We love God because he has revealed the gospel to us, so it is natural that our expressions of love would be framed by the contours of his redemptive work. Worship is our love response to his loving provision, so nothing is more honoring of his grace than making its themes our own. We honor God, confess the need of his Son, claim his pardon, bolster our obedience, bless our neighbor, and testify of our Savior when our worship echoes the gospel that saves and sustains us.
As we live our lives and gather to worship in community, let us rejoice in living and re-telling the gospel.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Hebrews 13:15 ESV