Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Matthew 16:24, HCSB
In a world separated from God, daily life becomes a web of cravings for personal happiness. Western culture has elevated our selfish cravings to be socially acceptable and even admired. Morality has become “what makes me happy right now” rather than a behavioral standard set by God. Our culture of self-satisfaction is a trap to Christian worshipers. And the Evil One has set that trap just for you and me. Oh, how many times I have fallen into it myself. We want to be the standard by which things around us are measured. We want attention and praise and glory. Even in subtle ways we crave to have the focus on ourselves. As we humble ourselves to pray we wonder who noticed us kneeling.
In many of our churches, the absence of an intentional discipleship process leaves church members with no other frame of reference than themselves. They think they are doing the right thing because their only reference is their personal preference. But preference is only an extension of self. To enthrone my preference as the only way it should be done is to put myself on the throne of worship.
A young worship leader who I have mentored for many years was called to appear before his church’s personnel committee. On the table around which they were gathered lay his job description. One of his many responsibilities read: “Provide worship that will edify the church members and connect young families in our community with God.”
In that sentence only the first seven words had been highlighted by the chairwoman of the committee. “We have called you here to tell you that you are not meeting the worship needs of the people on this committee,” she stated.
The young worship leader reminded them that he was presenting traditional hymns as well as songs in modern styles. Then he had the audacity to ask why the second half of the phrase was not highlighted. The chairwoman spoke up, “We are not here to talk about those other people. We are the financial supporters and workers in this church, and your job is to give us what we want.”
Of course, it’s easy for worship leaders to point an accusing finger at church members. We blame our members for holding us back from true worship. But we worship leaders are not immune to idolatry. We become the self-appointed local authority on worship. We develop a worship plan and style that keeps our members happy; then we deify that order of worship. Or we may be worshiping our own personal preference for classical works or contemporary choruses or Southern gospel songs or hymns. Who are we to stand before God and tell him what he needs?
Judson Cornwall, in his book Worship as Jesus Taught It, wrote: “Whenever the method of worship becomes more important than the Person of worship, we have already prostituted our worship. There are entire congregations who worship praise and praise worship but who have not yet learned to worship God in Jesus Christ”. — Mark Powers
Cornwall, Worship as Jesus Taught It, 70.