Victoria drew a lot of criticism for her comments at a church service recently:
“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it — we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy.
“So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”
I do think she is wrong for a couple of reasons, , but do her words really differ from most Christian's feelings and ideas? Why do people go to church, and what do they expect from the service? If all of us were 100% honest about it, we want the service to make us feel good. We want to leave feeling......happy.
And on one level, that may not be wrong. If you're feeling discouraged and depressed, often being in church around other Christians, singing the songs, worshiping, and hearing an encouraging sermon can lift our spirits, and I don't think God is against that. He doesn't want is miserable and discouraged. Does He want us happy? Not necessarily. He wants us holy.
But too many of us go to church and make it all about us. We want to be used - and by used, we mean doing something that people will see us doing, not background stuff. So we move onto another church where they might use us. We want the right kind of music to make us feel good. We want programs, fun. We want, we want, we want....... I like the sermon to be no longer than 30 minutes, I like us to sing out of a certain hymnal. I don't like more than a certain amount of testimonies...... if you get right down to it, we are a bit self-centered, or maybe a lot self-centered in our worship.
There's nothing wrong with wishing for certain things from church. I wish my church did Bible studies and fellowship things outside of the church, but those aren't necessary for worshiping God, and they are not good reasons to move on to another church.
Why do we even go to church? To worship God should be the ultimate reason, and Scripture seems to indicate for fellowship with other believers. But are we doing what we criticized Victoria O for? Wanting the service to make us happy? Or are we going to worship God because of what He has done for us, and just because of who and what He is?
The following story came to mind on how the song "The Heart of Worship" was written:
The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of apathy within Matt’s home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England. Despite the country’s overall contribution to the current worship revival, Redman’s congregation was struggling to find meaning in its musical outpouring at the time.
“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”
Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”
Matt says the question initially led to some embarrassing silence, but eventually people broke into a cappella songs and heartfelt prayers, encountering God in a fresh way.
“Before long, we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and He commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”
When the music fades, and all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus
Redman remembers writing the song quickly in his bedroom soon after the church’s journey together, with no grand intentions, by any means, for it to become an international anthem. He viewed the words simply as his personal, subjective response to what he was learning about worship.
But when Matt shared “The Heart of Worship” with Pilavachi, the pastor suggested making a few small adjustments to the lyrics so any member of the church could relate to it as well.
Amazed by how God has since taken the song around the world for His purposes, the songwriter smiles in regard to his own lack of foresight. “It nearly didn’t go any further than my bedroom. But I love that…”
The trademark tune soon became the title track for Matt Redman’s 1999 album, The Heart of Worship. The recording process was consistent with the artist’s sensitive approach to being in the studio.
“We decided to not get all complicated, and just let the song ‘breathe.’ We’re always trying to create more of a church atmosphere in the studio rather than just a technical musical gathering. Something happens when the people of God gather together and play out the praises of God in the presence of God. Hopefully something of that passion and purpose transcends beyond that studio room onto the recordings themselves.”
If I am honest, and I try to be, too many Sundays I go to church because that's what I do on Sunday. Sunday School is barely over before I am thinking about what is for Sunday dinner, or worrying about something. If I like the songs we sing, I sing along. If not, I get lost in thought.
But how often do I go to church with just the thought and intent to worship God? Not on what I am going to get out of the service, but what can I put into the service to worship God. I, and many others in my church and in churches across the world, don't vocalize what Victoria O said, we have made the worship service all about us and how we feel.
The early church didn't have programs, praise and worship choruses on a big screen, Veggie Tales for kids, and worship teams with all of the newest instruments, but they worshiped God and had fellowship...... and they added new Christians to the church daily.
Vicki - can I call her Vicki? - Vicki isn't the only one to get it wrong. I think most of us get it wrong. Worship isn't at all about how we feel, or what it makes us feel. We are to worship no matter what, in whatever circumstances we are in. There are people worshiping God in prisons, worshiping God as they are tortured for their faith. I doubt they are HAPPY, but they still worship.
And likewise, I, and you, need to worship God no matter how we feel. And if it makes us happy and makes us feel good, I guess that is just an added bonus, but that should never, ever be the focus or reason to worship God. We worship Him because He is holy, and for what He has done for us. Which is a lot.