By Chris McRae, BCI Discipleship Team Leader
Worship! Humanity was created in an act of worship as the Triune God gloried in wonder at the splendor, goodness, majesty and wow! of his own existence, especially the essence of His being: the Father – Son – Spirit Oneness. His passion was to expand and extend that exuberance to creatures fashioned in the imago dei who would recognize, appreciate and participate in the glory and joy of His holiness. We were created in worship, of worship and for worship. Is it any wonder that our hearts are drawn to something we can’t even express?
Worship is the heartbeat of our existence. It’s shocking how often though I fall prey to the temptation to place things of creation, rather than the Creator, at the center of my attention. Whether those things constitute stuff in the sense of the material, or experience in the sense of accomplishment, or prestige in the sense of importance, they fall far short of the reality for which I was made. What I don’t get, in moments of honest reflection and assessment, is that I turn this profound, unutterable aspect of being into something un-sublime, ordinary and ultimately forgettable.
We get together with God’s people weekly on Resurrection Day to worship. That’s the longing of my heart but…honestly, we often come to church to take pleasure in great friendships, to enjoy great music, and to hear great preaching. In doing so, we may miss the most important thing!
Like all of us, I’ve sat through my share of “boring.” I confess to subjecting some congregants to “scattered” thoughts and “inarticulate” meanderings in my early attempts to learn the art and craft of preaching. Don’t get me wrong …please! I am not an advocate for bad preaching…though I do sometimes think we do put too high a premium on such. If you find yourself comparing your pastor to the likes Andy Stanley, David Platt or Francis Chan – or whoever the preacher of the month is, then perhaps you’ve got things a bit skewed.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a “right” emphasis on doing things well. We serve a God who does all things excellently. However, we sometimes come to the conclusion (at least in practice) that the “quality” is of greater import than the heart. A brilliant sermon may be able to hold your attention for a half hour or so, but if that distracts us from the celebration of our faith with other miserable sinners and the necessity of communing humbly with God himself, the preacher becomes more important than the One who is proclaimed…and he gets in the way of authentic worship.
An encounter with God the Overwhelming, the Magisterial, the Omnipotent takes place when his people come together in acknowledgement of their need. Such does not depend on powerful, well-expressed or eloquent preaching whatsoever. It is the Spirit of God who draws the hearts of men.
If the music is less professional and slick, if the preaching is inarticulate and clumsy, perhaps the church will listen more carefully for the Living Word and respond more quickly to the Moving Spirit.
We may prefer soaring soul-lifting music and engaging, powerful proclamation. But let’s be honest again. Those element are really more about me and my preferences than they are about God and his truth. When God’s people gather, hungering for an encounter with the Almighty, the Holy Spirit shows up regardless of the setting – in cathedrals or grass huts, with stained glass windows or amid dirty linens. It’s not that one or the other is better – intrinsically. The One intrinsic to creation, Jesus will show up at either. Sure, we’d prefer inspirational and energetic preaching, but it’s not always all that necessary. We’re called to be honest worshippers in spirit and in truth. Why then do we rate a sermon as we do entertainment? Is it engaging? Captivating? Clever? Insightful? Humorous? The Apostle Paul himself seemed to acknowledge that he was a lousy preacher. Remember poor Eutychus.
Let’s be diligent to avoid superficiality in understanding the power of God’s proclaimed Word. The power is in the Spirit, not in the preacher. A bad sermon, every now and again, ought to remind us of the real reason we gather.