ASK AUGUSTINE

Isn’t it wrong to clap during a worship service? Don’t you think that consumer satisfaction is dictating how we worship and pray in today’s churches? How should we worship and pray?

With the exception of liturgical elements that suggest wrong doctrine, no liturgy or form of worship (traditional or contemporary) is better or worse than another. Kneeling in a traditional service or hand clapping in a contemporary service is not true worship ONLY when these activities draw focus away from God and on the activities themselves.

If we are focused on whether we are involved in a traditional or contemporary service, I would maintain that we are not involved in true worship. Also when we pray, hearts and minds should be totally focused on God.

That said when worship relegates God and His Word to a subordinate role in the church or at prayer and we elevate entertainment over biblical preaching, then worship and prayer become an abomination to God. Applause in many churches has replaced forceful preaching as the goal in many of today’s services to make worship “user-friendly.”

Some services offer no preaching at all and instead rely on music concerts, skits, multimedia and other means of communication to convey the message in a way to not make unbelievers uncomfortable. Theology has taken a back seat to methodology.

That said, please do not misunderstand my concern; worship styles are always in flux and I am not in favor of a stagnant church, nor am I bound to any musical or liturgical style. But we have forgotten that true worship is for the believer and not for the seeking nonbeliever.

In true worship God is the audience, not us. Thus I find we often applaud for the wrong reasons during praise music or hymns or when a choir or a praise team or a soloist performs. If God is the audience, He’d be the One doing the applauding.

Well some might argue that they are applauding the talents that God has bestowed upon the performer or the words given to the one preaching and thus they are indirectly applauding God. If so, then where is their applauding God during those elements of worship that come directly from Him? I’ve yet to hear a congregation break into applause to God following the reading of His Holy Word or during the distribution of His gifts to us in communion.

You see watering down worship for the pragmatic reason of churching the un-churched accomplishes nothing of eternal value. Yes, we are to seek the salvation of the lost but our primary means of doing so must be by a Christ-centered proclamation of the unadulterated infallible Word of God. Those who trade the Word for some pragmatic/utilitarian style of worship will find that in the end they have no effective means to reach the un-churched with the Truth of Christ.

God-centered worship is to honor and glorify God. The purpose of each part of the worship service is to help us focus on God Himself, and not primarily how we feel.

This is not to say that the response is NOT unimportant as we are to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” However, praising and honoring God are primary; how we may “feel” is far less important. The biblical pattern of worship demonstrates God speaking to us through Scripture and the responding (by His grace) in praise, confession and thanksgiving.

If one is counting steps, one is not dancing, but only learning to dance. If one sees only letters, or words, or print, one is not reading. If one is focused of the type of church service going on, one is not worshipping.

The chief goal in worship is to focus on the true God revealed in the Bible in all of His splendor, majesty and beauty. A perfect worship service is one in which we are almost unaware of the type of service going on, as ALL attention should be on God.