I am not sure if any of the churches in Franklin have used
it as a marquee sign, but I have seen this message outside
multiple churches as they have tried to capture the attention of
passers-by and convince them to come inside. Perhaps you have seen
the church marquee which reads “Passionate Spirit-Filled
Worship.” Doesn’t that sound exciting? Who would not want
Spirit-filled, passionate worship? What kind of image does that
bring to your mind? Regrettably, we often feel like the person a
friend of mine recently e-mailed me about:
“For the past
several weeks, Mary Jo has been noticing one of those message
billboards that many churches use.
This one advertises, ‘Passionate, Spirit-Filled
Worship’. Mary Jo
is intrigued by the thought that worship could be passionate and
filled with spirit. After
all, her worship experience usually goes something like this:
skirt is too tight for me to breathe – I can’t wait to take it
off. I sure hope we
finish on time today, because I’ve got a casserole in the oven
that’s gonna burn if we go overtime.
Oh, no, Brother Kerry is making announcements – he always
mutilates the names on the sick list.
Well, at least we got one of the good song leaders today.
#245? I really don’t like that song and we sing it EVERY
Tear Dimmed Eyes’…that was really a sad movie we watched
last night. I just
cried and cried when that girl’s mother died…
Brother Jordan preaches when he prays – if it’s our
bonus sermon, I wish he would get on with it.
That screaming kid is driving me nuts!
All of the guys at the Lord’s table look so nice except
Morris – he always looks like he just got out of bed.
Now why did they pass the tray that way?
It would have been so much easier to pass it the other way.
Oh, isn’t that girl cute!
She has such pretty curls…oh, wait, that’s a boy!
Why do we have to stand up to sing?
It’s always too cold in here.
That’s the same sermon we had last month.
If you two don’t sit still and be quiet I’m gonna take
you out! What?
Not now! That’s
a really neat graphic on that slide – I wonder where he got
that. I need to get
on the computer and make those birthday invitations today… and I
haven’t ordered the cake. I
guess I’ve got to go to the store today.
Sit still! That
boy’s gonna need some new shoes soon.
Now that was a good closing prayer – short and sweet! “
No doubt, Mary Jo could use a good dose of passionate,
Spirit-filled worship. But what would that really mean?
Regrettably, what modern people want and expect (and all too often
what modern churches offer) to be passionate, Spirit-filled
worship is not at all what God explained as Spirit-filled worship.
What people expect.
Let’s face it. Like Mary Jo, we face a lot of
distractions from worship. Some distractions are external: babies
crying, phone’s ringing, children misbehaving, someone clipping
their nails, a preacher’s nervous quirks and habits, etc. Some
distractions are internal: not enough sleep last night, hunger
pangs, football fever, bills to pay, etc. Because of these
distractions we often long for a different kind of worship
experience. What we want is something Attention
Arresting. We are certain that if the Spirit were really
involved in our worship, He would grab hold of us and not let go.
We would zone in on the worship and could not possibly zone out.
The singing should be so intense we are struck by every word, the
prayers so moving we are right in step with the leader, the
Lord’s Supper so striking we cannot help but think about the
Lord and the sermon so powerful we sit on the edge of our seats
hanging on every word. That is what a lot of people want.
Regrettably, that is what a lot of churches try to offer as they
move their worship assemblies away from reverence and study to
glitz, glamour and entertainment.
Very few people like the same old, same old. Certainly,
worshipping God should never get in a rut. That would be boring.
After all, we have to compete with television and the movies that
train us to move to something new every 10 seconds. Because of
boredom we want a different kind of worship experience. What we
want is something Spiritually
Spontaneous. We are certain that if our worship was passionate
and Spirit-filled it would be spur of the moment. Surely we should
not have to think about what we are doing. Certainly we should not
have to plan it. We are leaving it up to the Spirit to fill us
with worship and therefore we are just going to get together and
fly by the seat of our pants, all the while claiming the Spirit is
piloting us. Regrettably, that is what a lot of churches try to
offer as they move their worship assemblies away from decency and
order to spontaneous outbursts, spur of the moment preaching and
just basic “get together” conversations handing the floor to
anyone who thinks they have something interesting to say.
Finally, when we look at our society, what drives it? Can
anyone argue that we are a feelings-driven society? America lives
by the motto, “If it feels right, do it.” Because of our
feelings we want a different kind of worship experience. What we
want is something Emotionally
Electrifying. We are certain that if worship were passionate
and Spirit-filled, shivers and chills would constantly run up and
down our spines. We do not want to trust in the presence of God,
we want to feel the presence of God. We do not want to think about
the sermon, we want to laugh, cry and everything in between. We
want gut-wrenching, spine-tingling, heart-rending,
earth-shattering emotion so we can feel like we have worshipped.
Regrettably, that is what a lot of churches try to offer as they
move their worship away from teaching the Bible and honoring God
to watching movies, listening to testimonies and reading poetry.
“The way it was in Bible times.”
Many people have this picture of passionate, Spirit-filled
worship in their minds and you can hear them say, “We want this
kind of worship, because we want worship the way it was in Bible
times.” That sounds so noble. But here is the rub. That is not
the way it was in Bible times.
they have Attention Arresting worship? I am sure at times things were going on
that were so moving every one was glued to it. Like the time in Acts
20, when I am sure everyone was sitting on their edge of their
seat because Eutychus fell out of a third story window and Paul
brought him back to life. Of course, up to that point, Paul’s
passionate, Spirit-filled sermon was so riveting Eutychus fell
asleep and fell out of the window. Here is the real deal,
Spirit-filled worship was not necessarily Attention
they have Spiritually Spontaneous worship? Surely they did, after all, they
used miraculous gifts and who knew when the Spirit would just take
over somebody and they would start talking? Really? That is not
the New Testament picture. In fact, not only did they not have
“spontaneous” worship, they were commanded not to. According
to I Corinthians 14:40,
worship assemblies were to be conducted properly and in an orderly
manner. Here is the interesting thing, this idea that the Spirit
just uncontrollably made people speak in tongues or start
prophesying is just not biblical. According to I
Corinthians 14:27-28, when the Spirit gave someone something
to speak in tongues, they were supposed to see if there was an
interpreter available. If not, they were to remain silent. In 14:29-33,
if God granted revelation to one, he was allowed to speak, but if
a revelation was then granted to another, the first was to become
silent. Then amazingly, Paul says that the spirits of the prophets
are subject to the prophets. The Holy Spirit did not make anyone
jump up spontaneously and start preaching uncontrollably.
they have Emotionally Electrifying worship? I have no doubt that people’s
emotions were fired up at times. Let’s face it, considering the
Lord’s death is an emotional moment. Hearing about false
teaching and rebellion against God evokes feelings. Watching
someone confess Christ and be baptized into Him is moving. But was
worship about feelings? Here is an amazing thing. I ran a search
with my Power Bible program for various forms of the word
“feel.” Not one single time does the Bible ever say anything
about anyone ever feeling the presence of God. Not one single time
does the Bible ever say anything about people feeling like they
have really worshipped. In the Bible, worship is about faith, not
about feelings. Interestingly, there are only two passages in the
Bible that connect “feelings” with “worship.” Deuteronomy
4:19 (NKJV) is the first and rebukes those who “feel
driven” to worship the stars of heaven. The other is I
Samuel 13:12 (NKJV), in which Saul “felt compelled” to
offer an unlawful sacrifice. So much for feelings based worship.
What God explains (Ephesians
Ephesians 5:15, Paul begins this section that deals with Christian
living and worship, by pointing out that we must be careful how we
walk (NASB). The KJV says, “Walk circumspectly.” That word
“circumspectly” means to look (“spect,” like spectacles)
around (“circum,” like circumference). In other words, the
foundation for passionate, Spirit-filled living and worship is
personal attention. We face distractions; therefore we want
something to force us to pay attention. God however says we must
be on our guard and pay attention. God will not overwhelm us and
make us focus on worship when it is Spirit-filled. Rather, we are
passionately worshipping when we are making ourselves focus on
Governed—Ephesians 5:15-21 is the perfect passage for us to study regarding
this issue because it commands, “Do not get drunk with wine, for
that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to
one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” There it
is, that is what we are looking for—Spirit-filled worship.
enough, many have completely missed the point of this passage
thinking it compared being drunk on alcohol and being filled with
the Spirit and then came up with that truly awful and unbiblical
phrase, “drunk in the Spirit.” Paul was not comparing drinking
wine with being filled with the Spirit, he was contrasting them.
Drinking alcohol leads to excess, dissipation or lack of
self-control. Being filled with the Spirit leads to worship. Not
out of control worship, but wise, circumspect, reverent worship.
what does being filled with the Spirit mean here? Regrettably too
many people just latch on to the phrase without trying to
Biblically figure out how we go about being filled with the
Spirit. After all, this is something Paul is commanding us to do.
Instead of filling ourselves with wine, we are to fill ourselves
with the Spirit. Note the parallelism of vs.
17 with vs. 18. Vs.
17 says, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of
the Lord is.” Vs. 18
says, “Do not get drunk with wine…, but be filled with the
Spirit.” Getting drunk with wine is foolish, but understanding
the will of the Lord is being filled with the Spirit. Further, the
parallel passage in Colossians
3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,
with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs…” Do you see it? How do we
become filled with the Spirit, understanding the will of the Lord?
Not by some spontaneous miracle of worship, but by filling our
minds with the word of Christ. Spirit-filled worship is not some
kind of series of spontaneous emotional outbursts because we just
cannot help ourselves in the presence of God. Spirit-filled
worship is submitting to God’s will by obeying His word and
worshipping His way based on His word. Therefore Paul concluded in
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord
Jesus…” Spirit-filled worship is Word
expectations are amazingly “me-focused.” I want something to
grab me. I want to feel something. I want to receive something.
But that is not what biblical passionate, Spirit-filled worship
was about. According to Ephesians
5:19-21, worship is about submitting to God and fearing Him.
Spirit-filled worship is not about us getting anything from God.
We have already gotten from God. He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ.
Spirit-filled worship is about us giving to Him. Spirit-filled
worship is not about us waiting on God to pour something out on
us. Spirit-filled worship is about us pouring ourselves out to
praise, honor and thank Him.
again, we find the self-centered nature of modern worship
repudiated by Ephesians 5:19-21. Not only is worship to be God Focused, it is also
to be Others Oriented.
We do not gather here to have the brethren do for us. We gather
here to do for them. This is not about whether they dress to
please us, comb their hair to please us, preach to please us or
sing to please us. This is about us giving our all in order to
edify others. No doubt, when we worship properly, we will be
edified and we will be pleased. But as we worship it is about us
helping others and submitting to others in the fear of Christ.
That is Spirit-filled worship.
I want passionate, Spirit-filled worship as much as the
next person. But I am not willing to sell out real passionate,
Spirit-filled worship for the glitz, glamour and emotional pay off
of modern misguided attempts at worship. God has told us what He
wants. He does not want emotional outbursts of spontaneous
feelings. He wants decent, orderly, circumspect worship. He wants
us to pay attention to His word, pouring ourselves out to Him, not
because He overwhelms to do so but because we want to honor and
thank Him for what He has already done. And He wants us to submit
to one another, edifying others instead of expecting all of this
to be about me and my feelings. That is passionate-Spirit-filled
worship—no matter what it feels like.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ