Deep-fried worship

The Dixie Classic Fair used to be the one event that I anxiously anticipated every year. It's not nearly as big as the State Fair in Raleigh, NC, but when the Dixie Classic rolled into Winston-Salem every fall, I made sure that I had saved up a little bit of cash and had purged my system with a semi-fast so that I could indulge in as much fried decadence as my body could take. No one had to tell me to go the fair - I knew it was coming and it was where I wanted to be.

When the fair came to town, one thing I did not expect to see was the fair workers at my front door. I mean, they were busy getting the rides ready and their tents and booths set up. Why would they come to my house to see me? I knew where the big show was going to be so it was up to me to make the time to go. They were the attraction, I was the spectator.

Oh my, did I just describe many churches today?

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I think it is great that we have so many different modes of worship expression in our churches today. Sure, there are many things that are over the top that make me cringe, but no more so than the stale and dead liturgies that plague many of our houses of worship. My concern is not so much with the stylistic methodology of worship but rather with the mission of the church.

When we pride ourselves in our worship services and believe that what we've got going is good enough to fill the seats, we have betrayed the purpose of our assembling together. When Jesus charged His church to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), this was not an invitation to merely come and see. Our worship gatherings are not to be a show or a spectacle - they are the avenue by which the body of Christ assembles for biblical instruction, corporate worship, prayer, fellowship, and mutual giving (Acts 2:41-47). I prefer an energetic and engaging style of worship, yet it is important to remember that our worship services are a means, not the end.

Far too many leave a service on Sunday morning coming off the high of the wow factor. The pastor "brought it", the music was "on point", the atmosphere was "electric", and now it's time to go an take a nap after beating the crowds to Chili's so that we can process what it is that we've just seen and heard. It's almost like we leave on Sundays with a worship hangover, much like that feeling you get when you leave the fair after having one too many deep fried Oreo's. The big question that needs to invade your brain is this: Did you leave changed and challenged by the gospel? If so, then you will do more than process what you have seen and heard - you will be unable to escape the reality of what the gospel compels of you.

The goal of the church is not for others to simply come and see. It is for us to go and live and tell. The gospel does not invite you to gather into special groups once a week so that you can indulge in self-absorbed Christianity. No, the gospel compels us to live out the expression of grace that has transformed us through the cross of Jesus. Most lost people will not come to our church gatherings to see or hear this. The world is unimpressed (and maybe a bit amused) at our flashy church services that cater only to the believer. Thus we are the ones who must show up on their door steps to announce that the kingdom of God is here, that the gospel is life-changing and satisfying.


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