Driving home from a meeting one night recently I heard an advertisement on one of our local Christian music stations that used a phrase I had heard many times, but that had never stuck out to me. The ad was placed by a mega-church in our area looking for musicians and worship leaders to help create a “worship experience” at this church. For some reason I began wondering what was meant by the term “worship experience?” Is it only an alternative to the more traditional “worship service?” I expect that is the case, but are the users of such a term unwittingly, or intentionally, changing the nature and objective of corporate worship? Such usage certainly seems to reflect the growing, and to me disturbing, trend toward experientially grounded faith in the contemporary church.
So is it right to use the term at all? Well, I suppose that it depends on whose experience we’re talking about. The only person whose worship experience we should be concerned with is that of God, who should be, but all too often isn’t really, the object of our worship. I fear that what most mean by “worship experience” is their own pleasure in it: whether their favorite song was sung, the musicians were skilled, the prayers were eloquent, thing started and ended on time, and the sermon was entertaining and/or made them feel good about themselves. Nothing at all to do with whether God was glorified or pleased with the service of worship.
As I read and study more and more of the Scripture, I am struck by the Bible’s emphasis on God’s perspective on things. The study we’re doing on Isaiah at Orange Hill points to this again and again. Whatever we may want to think about the reason we gather and what we do when we do, God’s idea about this seems to be that we are there to give praise and honor to him, not satisfy some want of our own. In fact, the real shame, and I mean that in the sense of how we should feel when doing wrong, is that our main want should be what God wants rather than all these other things.
Next time I wonder why the Sunday worship was unsatisfying, I need to remember to ask myself why I was there and who I was trying to satisfy with the songs or prayers or anything else that was done that day. Most importantly I need to ask myself if my heart was pleasing to God. Did I want what he wants…to worship him? That’s the “Worship Experience” we need to be concerned with…God’s and God’s alone.