In Search of Worship

I have been searching for a new church since I moved back to this area a year ago. I have had to leave several services early because the music was so loud it gave me a migraine. Is this really worship, or is it a concert? Does it enable the average church member or visitor to set aside the cares of the world and focus on God, or is it meant to entertain? Do we need a darkened auditorium, spotlights, and fog machines to proclaim the majesty of Almighty God? What I see from my seat in these environments is less and less participation, especially when the “worship team” chooses songs with too many words or a melody line outside the range of most average singers. It is becoming a spectator sport instead of a way of coming together as believers to give reverence and awe to the God who gives us hope in a lost and dying world.

I know this will age me, but I was taught that praise and worship served a purpose, and that was to bring us into the throne room of God and prepare us to hear what God wanted to say to us. It was a way of setting aside the worries and concerns of daily life, unifying us as a people, and focusing on the One who could give us hope when all hope was lost. It was, at times, a sacrifice, especially when we were struggling or hurting or angry. It was a way of declaring that even in the midst of our trials and tribulations, God was still on the throne, and we were going to set aside this time to focus on Him instead of ourselves.

Our worship team was seen not only as a vital part of the ministry of the church, but also as people who set an example for young believers and newcomers. We dressed appropriately, wearing modest clothes so as not to draw the eye of the weak to areas they shouldn’t be looking at. We were not seen as the focal point, but rather as vessels. Our goal was leading the church into the presence of God. Being on the worship team was a privilege and a responsibility.

I fear that in the search for contemporary relevance and relatability, and in an attempt to get more backsides in the seats, we have lost sight of our vision. We have watered down the truth of the Gospel to pacify people who want to come to church, but don’t want to change. They want to feel good about what God has done for them, but they don’t really want to do anything for God. They don’t want to alter their lifestyles, give up their sinful behavior, or make any significant modifications to their lives.

We have taken the phrase “Come as you are” and forgotten that an intense, sincere relationship with God will not leave you where you were when you began. Failing to challenge believers to become more holy, to be in the world but not of it, and to seek to become more Christ-like is falling far short of the mark of excellence we are called to as Christians. We should be different. We should be peculiar, odd, & seen as out of place on this planet where sin, hate, strife, and division are spiraling out of control. We should be a light in the darkness.

It is simply not enough to come to church on Sunday, sing three songs from the current CCM radio station playlist, listen to a feel-good sermon, and walk back out the doors unchallenged and unchanged. That is not worship…. It is entertainment.

6 Comments

  1. Churches have personalities, just as humans do.

    I sympathize with your struggle to find a church that fits you. I searched for years for a place to belong (you can read about my journey here if you want: https://saralivingfree.com/2019/04/01/beloved-a-sheep-ly-story-of-sanctification/).

    I also agree that churches can easily get caught in a trap of entertaining rather than facilitating worship. I love my church dearly, yet I try to remain open to God’s whispers warning me when leadership is straying from true worship or teaching. If I feel the Holy Spirit’s nudge, I can pray! Prayer will restore the church. 🙂

    While reading your post, I found it quite fascinating that you dislike the very things I love about worship: I love dim lights because I am a private person (the dim lights free me to raise my hands and worship without worrying about spectators), and I love loud worship because I am a passionate person (I want to sing as loud as I can to God without disturbing others).

    Searching for your church can be a frustrating and lonely journey, but God will help you find a home where you can connect with him in a way that suits you. 🙂

    • As a musician, it disstresses me when I cannot hear my neighbors singing because I like to harmonize. It’s even more upsetting when I can’t even hear myself. For those of us with hyperacusis, these rock star/concert worship environments are distressing if not damaging. I have had 24/7 tinnitus since 2005, and I simply cannot tolerate music so loud it makes my body vibrate. Corporate worship, to me, includes both people who are musically talented and those who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. It’s not about being on pitch, or even knowing the words — it’s about what’s in your heart. At one church, I led a worship team where one of the backup singers was — well, other churches wouldn’t have allowed her to be up on the platform. However, she had an unreserved and unashamed love for Jesus, and she was a worship leader by example. I don’t like performance-based worship. That’s not what God is looking for. Every church doesn’t have to put out an album or podcast or YouTube videos. It’s about God, not us. We’ve lost the focus. I am glad you have found what you need. Maybe one day I will, too.

  2. Yes, it’s all about the heart. 🙂

    (Also, I’m familiar with tinnitus, but I admit I had to look up the word “hyperacusis.” Now, I’ll have to pass this word on to my husband – I wonder if HE has this! No joke. It would explain so much of our struggles at home with the kids and noises that I think are normal, but they hurt his ears. I’m sorry you’ve struggled with these issues for so long.)

    • Thanks. I’ve learned to live with it, though it certainly can make life interesting (I can actually hear the bubbles in an open can of Diet Coke on the table next to me). My oldest daughter and I also have misophonia. Fortunately, the same types of sounds annoy both of us; at least we know how not to trigger each other. 😊

  3. I sent a link about hyperacusis to my husband while he was at work yesterday, and he was, like: “That’s me!” Even though it doesn’t change what he has to live with, sometimes it’s helpful to understand WHY he’s so sensitive. And it really helps me to be more understanding, too. So, thanks!

    • Yes ma’am! It certainly helps when you can put a name on something.

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