—Nehemiah 8:5-8 (NASB)
The core activities were worship with the Word of God. I’ll try not to nag and carry on for days about all the contradictions of this example to the many methods and strategies employed at this very hour, but it has to at least make you stop and think, doesn’t it? What is the role of worship and God’s Word in your own approach or that of your local church? You probably think I’ll take this opportunity to once again rail about the proper place and emphasis of God’s Word, but that’s only half the issue here because I not only believe we’re witnessing the abandonment of God’s Word in the average pulpit, but that even longer before that we witnessed a mass exodus away from true worship.
There are those who will argue with me that worship is better than it ever was before. Their examples of proof are that where there was once very few recordings available, there are now thousands of CD’s and hundreds of publishing houses, even entire “Christian record stores”. They’ll point to the numerous Christian radio stations that have been established where there were once none, and especially to the burst in cutting-edge worship teams that now dominate local congregations across the land. I understand what they’re saying, except for one tiny point: how exactly do you connect music to the statement, “they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground”. Hmmm. No music, no projected lyrics so they could lift their hands and faces up to heaven, no evidence of ANYTHING musical, not even singing or humming. Just when, exactly, did “worship” get redefined to mean “music”?
I’m not anti-music, I’m pro-Scripture. All things must be brought into submission with how GOD has ordained and defined them. Take your concordance and look up every verse from Genesis to Revelation that mentions “worship” or any close variation and see how often you find music involved. It’s not zero, but it’s actually rather rare. Music is more often associated with the act of praise, whereas worship is more closely aligned with bringing one’s whole attitude, mind, and body into a right acknowledgment of our place in relationship to the Creator of the universe. It’s most often the response of someone who recognizes their own unworthiness in the presence of God. When worship gets redefined as something else such as music, it’s because we’re making it all about pleasing ourselves instead of Him. Do you really think that when the worship team screams, “Join us in worship” and leads a 20-minute music set followed by 2 minutes of prayer that it mirrors the biblical example and attitude of worship?
I would further submit that if you aren’t willing to properly submit yourself to God in right worship to begin with, you’re incapable of understanding God’s Word that follows. I believe there’s a connection between the move towards polished music production values on Sunday morning and the observed trend of moving away from teaching God’s Word. One of the reasons there’s not a public outcry to return to God’s Word is rooted in no desire to truly worship God biblically. It’s not about music, but what you do with it. Everything else that follows will get tainted for the bad or enhanced for the good depending on the initial choice you make of whether or not to worship according to Christ’s standards:
—John 4:23-24 (NASB)