The Glass House
Reason 4: Insincere Worship
You cannot please God if you do not know Him.
You cannot know God if you do not worship Him. It is impossible
to worship God unless you worship him truthfully (sincerely, not
just going through the motions or modeling what you see around
you) and by means of the Office of the Person of the Holy Spirit
(which is what pastors and deacons mean when they talk about
worshipping God “in Spirit and in truth”). Whatever your
prejudices about the charismatic experience, you must separate
that thought—the charismatic experience—from an understanding of
and relationship with The Holy Spirit. To worship God, you
simply must employ this Person and understand how His ministry
God wants to know us and wants us to know Him. God loves us and wants us to talk to Him. However, we, in and of ourselves, cannot speak to God. We are too unclean, too flawed in nature, to have anything at all to say to God. Jesus Christ died to give mankind a chance to return to God, to be redeemed to Him. Jesus Christ was punished--tortured--not for anything He did but for our failures, for our flaws, so that, when we approach God, God no longer sees our sin, but sees a flawed person whose flaws have been corrected—whose shortcomings have been adjusted, which is literally what the word "justified" means—by the sacrifice of His Son’s life.
When we speak to God, when we commune with Him, it is the Holy Spirit—that third Person of the Trinity—Who goes to work for us. When we worship in church, this is what we are doing—communing with God. Worship has nothing to do with music. Nothing to do with stage lights. Nothing to do with some guy holding a mic grinning at you. The trend in modern churches is to invest tens of thousands of dollars in stage lighting and stadium seating and multimedia and complex, expensive presentations all designed to get you to worship. All of this is utterly ridiculous. We should be able to sit in a windowless room with no band, no light show, not multi-screen media presentations and have an equally satisfying worship experience. All that other nonsense is simply idolatry. It's conditioning, brainwashing. Brainwashing even for the best of reasons is still brainwashing. The Mega Multi Dimensional Wow Sunday Show teaches us that worship cannot happen without a band, without MediaShout software, without theater lighting. The more glitz in the presentation, the bigger the lie. Instead of teaching us to worship, these ministries--and a great many black ministries are likewise moving toward this phony standard--are brainwashing us into worship-by-proxy, a set of behaviors learned by rote. This is dangerous and unhealthy. When you are jailed, beaten and tortured for your faith, there will be no band. No multimedia presentation. No on-screen lyrics. In the hospital, homeless on the street, alone in your car, there will be you and there will be God. Beloved, we need to learn how to worship.
Worship is an individual and personal experience: you and God and your desire not so much to please Him or even obey Him but to know Him. In Catholic mass, they refer to this as knowing God, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.” Worship is not about raising your hands. We raise our hands because we don’t know what else to do, but raising our hands is not, in and of itself, worship. It is an outward manifestation of an internal process of surrendering ourselves to Him. If you have not surrendered yourself to God, to the worship experience, all the hand-raising in the world won’t get you where you’re going.
The reason a lot of people leave church empty and fall away is that they fail to connect, in any visceral way, to God. The biggest cause of this is (1) poor teaching at the church and (2) the timidity of the seeker. Most people who don’t know God are, frankly, afraid to admit it. Most people who do not understand what worship is are afraid to ask. They just go through the motions, like puppets, waving their hands and crying and pretending to have some kind of worship experience, when what they are doing is emulating these outward things. The outward things should be consequential to what is happening on the inside. Only God knows how sincere you are about seeking Him. You can wave your hands and twirl and fall out and all of that, but God knows whether or not you’re faking it. And, sadly, most of us—white and black—are.
We don’t need to lead perfect lives to worship God,
but we should want to
live perfect lives. There was only one Man Who lived a perfect
life, Who set that standard, a standard we, as flawed and sinful
human beings, cannot match. But we should *want* to match it. We
should try, or strive, to live holy lives, for it is only through Holiness that
we can see God or please Him [Hebrews 12:14]. God rewards our
motives, our intentions, our efforts to be more like Him. Far
too many of us just throw up our hands and use our flawed
humanity as an excuse for acting like morons. Being flawed is no
excuse. Being flawed only points up our need for Jesus. And,
flawed or not, we should desire to live holy lives, and we
should discipline ourselves (what the church mothers call, “crucifying
the flesh”) and deny ourselves in order to strive for perfection
Holiness is a discipline. It’s a journey. Many if not most black Church Folk are simply undisciplined. Impatient, insecure, selfish, vain, greedy. Holiness denies all of those things. People who behave that way are giving outward signs of an inward corruption. Thus, when they enter the church house and start speaking in tongues and rolling down the aisle and catching vapors, that whole circus is simple vanity [Matthew 15:7-9]. Discipline is Mr. Spock from Star Trek or Kwai-Chang Kane from Kung Fu. Not that you have to be emotionless like Spock, but self-controlled like Spock. Making decisions about what your spiritual goals are and denying yourself daily in order to achieve them.
You have to at least be on this journey in order to worship God. This by no means suggests you must be perfect—perfection being the goal of the journey—but you must at least desire to please God, to be more like Him, in order to commune with Him. Beloved, you simply must learn the difference between the mechanics of your particular tradition and what worship actually is. The outward expression of that communion—whether it is quiet meditation or loud hollering—is all about cultural differences. The inward process is universal: true worship is about communing with God by means of the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Far too many Christians are never taught about the essential nature of worship, which is a big reason why the church isn't growing.
Christopher J. Priest
6 July 2008