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Monday, March 1, 2010

Worship and Entertainment



"The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment." -A. W. Tozer

As a worship leader, Tozer’s words make me really stop and think. His quote could have been said this last week instead of 45 years ago, and made me want to explore what he said further. This exploration is done with fear and trembling, since Tozer was one of God’s giants and I don’t feel as if I could add anything to the power of his words. [I would encourage the reading of his What Ever Happened to Worship and Worship the Missing Jewel for some background.] Of the many discussions that could be made from Tozer’s comment, I just would like to briefly focus on the “entertainment” aspect and do it in a Q & A type format.

Q: What so wrong about entertainment, anyway? I listen to the radio all the time and when I go to church, I want to hear my favorite songs there too. Couldn’t it be both worship and entertainment?

A: The first thing we need to clarify is what is meant by the terms “worship” and “entertainment.” For simplicity, let’s define worship as that obedient response to the revealed nature and character of God. Remember in Isaiah’s experience [Chapter 6] God revealed Himself as Holy and the prophet saw himself as sinful, confessed and was forgiven. He was then able to hear God’s voice and responded in obedience, “Here am I, send me.” The focus of biblical worship is always God and God alone; Scripture calls anything less than that idolatry. Entertainment may be defined as “An activity designed to give pleasure or relaxation to an audience, no matter whether the audience participates passively as in watching opera or a movie, or actively as in games; a show put on for the enjoyment or amusement of others.” [http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/entertainment] In both the intent of those performing and of those in the audience, the implied focus is, “How much does it please me?” Success in entertainment is measured in how well the audience found the performance personally pleasing. By nature it’s designed for that purpose. The central focus of worship is pleasing God. Personal likes and dislikes are laid aside as the worshiper seeks to focus on thanking God for what He has done and praising God for His nature and character. Entertainment and worship are polar opposites in relation to their focus and purpose.

In a consumer-driven culture, we are accustomed to having everything cater to our personal desires. However, rather than being salt and light and a reflection of biblical values in the culture around us, many Christians have allowed the attitude of “have it my way” infiltrate worship in the church. One might expect this from a believer new in the faith, much like a baby who is unaware of anything but his or her immediate needs. The tragedy occurs when the baby never moves beyond this point, – as a human being or as a worshiper– each day living as if the world revolves around “I want this,” and “I only like that.” Unfortunately, our culture certainly provides little encouragement toward more mature attitudes.

Confusion also exists between entertainment and inspiration. Look at this definition of “inspirational” and compare it to that of entertainment: “[a] a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation [b] the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions...” [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inspirational ] That which is inspirational can help move someone beyond selfish motives. It may or may not be spiritual in nature; as in the inspiration received watching the Olympics and the fruit of hard discipline and practice, and it may even motivate to be more diligent in exercise. Some music may inspire people toward a deeper relationship with God, but the focus remains on the receiver. A person being entertained with music might only want more entertainment for their own personal fulfillment. [Some may consider that inspiration is related to worship, since it might result in some kind of response, while others may debate it still would be too tied to personal feelings and not solely centered on God. That is a debate best saved for another time.] Suffice it to say that there is a confusion between entertainment and inspiration and it seems wiser to err on the side of caution, and maintain that worship finds its center in and on God, His nature and character and what He has done.

As we look at these considerations, we also need to reflect on why we approach God in worship in the first place. If we worship God so that our needs are met, we are focusing on ourselves. However, when we really focus on God in worship, somehow in God's grace, He meets our needs; the focus is on Him, not my needs or desires. We aren’t to pretend we haven’t needs when we come in worship. God invites us to bring our needs to Him; it is part of the model prayer that Jesus taught: “give us this day our daily bread..” At the same time we must remember that in that same prayer Jesus begins with a recognition of God’s nature [hallowed or Holy is Your name] and a complete submission to God’s will and purpose: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Even in the context of the Model prayer, it is a matter of priority. In worship, as in prayer, the priority of our focus must be on God.

Q: How do we measure what is entertainment or not? Is it dependent on style or tempo? Should we question motives of those leading? Can those that lead worship do it in such a way that it is worship for them, but received as entertainment, or led is such a way that it is entertainment, but received as worship?

A: Judging or trying to discern whether or not something is “entertainment” is problematic in at least two points: First, our responsibility in worship is to focus on God, not measure how pleasing it may or may not be to us personally. We are not to approach worship from the standpoint of entertainment in the first place. Secondly, if we are focusing on God’s nature and character, we are not trying to judge motivations of those participating.

Those leading worship who approach the service as “just another gig” are clueless as to their responsibility. While hypothetical situations are not always the best models to attempt explanation, I believe that there is less of a possibility of an entertainment-driven model producing worship, simply because the goal and the focus of the performers would not center themselves in God and would not be driven and controlled by the Spirit. I don’t doubt that such a situation might produce a myriad of emotions, but our measure of worship is adherence to biblical truth, not feelings, since the “heart is deceitful above all things.” [Jer. 17:9] As to whether a group that has lead worship in truly biblical manner might be perceived as entertainment, I believe that it is certainly possible if those on the receiving end are ignorant of what worship is and unprepared for it.  

Worship should not be defined in terms of emotional expression, though such expressions are sometimes a result. The danger arises when we begin to measure our worship experience in terms of an emotional response. Consider the following statement: “I don’t think I really worshiped today, I only got to like a ‘5,’ instead of the “10" I had last week.” Although few might say this out loud, the number of worshipers that “church hop” from church to church seem to express the intent. Let’s review again the definition of worship: that obedient response to the revealed nature and character of God, not some predetermined level of emotional response. However, worship is not the annihilation of our personalities; reading through the Psalms confirms the myriad of expressions David had in worship.

Q: How are we to deal with our emotions, then, in worship?

A: Consider this illustration: A father goes on several business trips a year and each time brings a gift for the children. After a while, the children would meet him at the door when he returned, but they really didn’t want to see him as much as to see what he might had brought them. Their focus has changed from their father to what might be given. If we are not careful, our worship can shift from waiting on “Daddy” to the “gift.” Whether or not there is a gift of emotion, that should not become the measure of our worship or the change of our focus.

The depth of our knowing Christ is related more to our experience with Him, than just our feelings of emotions. The broader and deeper our life experiences, the wider and more profound the depths that God can take us to show us more of Himself. I can only know Him as “Comforter,” when as I experience sorrow. I learn to know Him as my “Refuge” when in storm; as my “Healer” in sickness, etc. I may know mentally that He is my “Teacher and Guide,” but when I am faced with a difficult decision to make or direction to take, as I trust in Him, I learn from experience who He is those areas. True depth of our knowledge of Christ is much more profound than our feelings and help us learn the multitude of facets of His nature and character.

The role of the worship leader is not one of providing great entertainment. Churches that demand such only reveal how bankrupt they are in their understanding of biblical worship. Leaders that succumb to the temptations of entertainment miss the joy of pleasing the One who really matters. May God keep us focused on His priorities and grant us the desire to remain grounded in a biblical understanding of worship.
  

Ed Steele

97 comments:

  1. Wow. What a blessing. I pray these last words in this blog for my own ministry. Thanks.

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  2. That blog post was such a wonderful reminder of how we are to worship! I loved the illustration that you used about the father returning home from business trips and his children more concerned about their gift then about him. I think many times we are so concerned with the struggles that we are facing that we enter worship services desiring for healing from God instead of focusing on God himself. Truth is that if we would just simply focus on God we would find that healing we desire. We have to stop focusing on ourselves and focus on who we are worshipping. Thank you for this conviction!!

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  3. Anna:
    Thanks so much for you thoughtful reply. I realize that focusing on God in the midst of deep hurt is difficult, even painful in and of itself, but in the end it is well worth it. May God bless you, your family, and ministry.

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  4. I love Tozer's comment. Oh that we would be worship leaders rather than entertainers!

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  5. It is so easy to fall into the "American Idol" version of worship leading, especially when there is almost a call for applause after every song that is sung. It is easy to forget that all we do need be directed to our "Audience of One." I like the term "lead worshipers" even more.

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  6. Dr. Steele,

    I received a great deal in reading your information. This is for a class assignment; however, I am thankful that we were pointed to this powerful session…… I was enlightened by your references to A.W Tozer and of course our Lord's model prayer. You have touched on the heart of worship pointing us back to the only one who should receive our focus, attention, and hearts in honor and praise to Him and Him alone. Your contrast to worship vs. entertainment was well in line... how easily we can get caught up into ourselves and what we want to hear and experience and lose sight of our Lord and Savior.

    Thank you for sharing your insight on true worship.
    Miller
    11/3/2011

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  7. Miller:
    Thank you for your kind comments. Understanding worship, helping our churches recapture biblical worship, and being a worshiper are passions. I would ask for your prayers as I finish a book that puts all this together. The title is, "Worship HeartCries: Personal Preparation for Corporate Worship." God Bless.

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  8. Dr. Steele,

    Your post is right on. The primary problem, I think, is confusing the object of worship. As Rick Warren says in the opening line to The Purpose Driven Life, "it's not about you."

    As you correctly point out, worship is a response to what God has already done. It is about him. The appropriate question, is not whether or not it is pleasing to me it is whether or not it is pleasing to God.

    If we are asking whether or not it is pleasing to us, then what we are engaged in is, by definition, not worship.

    Michael

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  9. Michael:
    Thanks for your post. If we start out with the wrong questions, we will get the wrong answers. I try to keep in the back of my mind what worship will be like in heaven: only one focus, not on my tastes, not about music, the center of our focus will be the Lamb on the Throne.

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  10. Dr. Steele:

    On a personal note: Thank you for doing this blog. I follow it continually. You are an inspiration to me and a blessing. You ARE a true worshipper, and I thank God for your willingness to share all of your wisdom and insight!

    Tozer's statement is certainly thought-provoking. After reading his statement, I thought to myself, "Well, there you go...that says it all." The worship leadership class that I am taking this semester has opened my eyes to the value of "what" we sing and "who" we sing to. God is our audience. Thank you for your definitions of worship and entertainment. Those definitions really solidified Tozer's statement for me. Everything is about Him. Why are we so selfish that we try to make worship about ourselves? Worship is not about meeting OUR needs; it is about Him. A style of worship or an emotional response should never be our goal. Like Anna, I enjoyed your example of the Father bringing gifts home to his children-what a great illustration. I also liked your statement,"The depth of our knowing Christ is related more to our experience with Him, than just our feelings or emotions." How true. Every day is a learning experience for me. I strive to know Him and to worship Him every day of my life.

    Kim

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  11. Kim:
    Thanks for your comments. When I was in Seminary the first time [1974-76], Dr. T. W. Hunt shared some of his insights into worship that God has used like glowing embers ever since. God has been so gracious to allow me opportunities to be with many Godly people who know much more than I. We can never truly plumb the depths of the richness of knowing Him, which is a basis for worshiping Him more fully. May God continue to deepen your relationship with Him and be that living example of what God does through His children!
    In Christ,

    Ed

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  12. Dr. Steele,

    I really appreciated reading your blog. I received many valuable "gold nuggets" to reflect upon. I will just share one of the many thoughts given: Concerning emotions, you put it well in the illustration of the children waiting on their father’s return to waiting on their father’s return because of the gift that he would bring. Am I entering worship to experience God or to experience what God offers me? What a great examination question based on your illustration. I must desire to worship God apart from any experiential, self-focused desire. I am made to worship, and that is what I must do and must deeply long to do each day, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, breath by breath.

    Thanks Again for Your Ministry,
    Jeremy Starnes

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  13. Jeremy:
    Thanks for your post and encouragement. Though I may a deep emotional experience when worshipping, I cannot let that become the measuring stick for the depth of my worship, but rather how obedient I am afterwards. As Scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things..."

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  14. Dr. Steele-

    Your article is rich in thoughtful content. I especially like the reminder of Jer. 17:9 and the connection you made between this truth and our propensity to judge or grade worship (and how errant we can be). I also loved the fact that you showed how we know God in His various roles (i.e. Healer, Comforter) only as we experience the need associated with each of these perfect aspects of God's character. I agree wholeheartedly that worship is all about God and not us, although if I am unhappy or distracted it seems difficult to focus on God. For instance, if the music is so loud that I can't hear myself think, then how can I begin to worship in Spirit and truth? Nonetheless, I'm reminded that I'm a sinner and that God's thoughts and ways are far above mine...So, just because a worship experience doesn't seem fulfilling for me, it doesn't mean that God was dissatisfied or unpleased with the effort. I must seek His will and His thoughts and stop pushing mine to the forefront. I pray that your article will help me to better seek God in all my worship.

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  15. Leigh, Thanks for your comments. You have touched on a very sensitive nerve: distraction in worship. Unfortunately, many of these are not from outside sources, but from those actually leading worship. I have dealt with some of these it other blog posts, but I agree, sound system abuse, and related issues, to quirky things that leaders do as they worship become barriers rather than bridges for worship.

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  16. As worship leaders, it is important to remember the reason why we come to worship. Worship is not a once a week gathering of people for the purpose of fellowship and a bit of discipleship. Rather worship is an on-going, daily, encounter with God. Worship is very personal because only the person can meet with God. No one person can stand in the place of another and that one person still benefit from the joy of being in the presence of God and worshiping Him. There is no such thing as vicarious worship. It is all too common for worshipers to come to worship with the sole desire of "What am I going to get," and "What needs of mine are going to be fulfilled today?" Even the attitude of "I graced the church with my presence, therefore I worshiped today" is expressed. It is as though there is a strong belief that physically coming to a worship setting is what matters the most to God. But this attitude can surface both ways and not just with the worshiper. The worship leader can take for granted that they are vessels that are to be used by God. Insted of having joy in worshiping God while leading others in worship, the worship leader can fall into the trap of being joy-abusers. The glory goes to God, not the worship leader. It is the responsiblity of worship leaders to help people understand the true meaning of worship, that worship is meeting God where you are, recognize the sin in your life and your total need of dependence upon Him. We must remember that God has called us to not be entertainers but rather servants. Servants that usher in the presence of God.

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  17. Jenn: I agree with your concerns. Learning to change how we prepare for worship is critical. In addition, I like the idea of applying principles of a sacrifice to the "sacrifice of praise" found in Hebrews 13:15: [1] All were required to offer a sacrifice, [2] it had to be the best they could offer, and [3] it was always for the God's glory, not for the person offering the sacrifice.

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  18. I really appreciate your referral to this post, Dr. Steele. It was helpful. I hope to "distill" it in a way that can be communicated to young (and not necessarily well-versed/trained) lay-musicians. Any additional suggestions will be greatly appreciated! Thanks for your service to the church.

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca. I will send a powerpoint presentation I did for worship leaders that touches on some these topics. God Bless, and don't give up. I have found that we can do more to help other grow by being an example of what Christ wants and loving those with whom we work. I know that is nothing new to you.

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  19. We cannot go to church and simply change the station if the music isn't what we like. Our worship should come from God revealing to us our great and constant need for Him and us accepting this revelation. I appreciate you sharing and expounding on Tozer's penetrating statement. Wonderful insight.

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  20. Brian, thanks for the comments. Tozer has written much on worship; I would encourage you to read any one. God Bless!
    Ed

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  21. Dr. Steele,
    I very much appreciate your thoughts on Tozer's quote. Your illustration at the end was particularly powerful and very much on point. In the question of worship vs. entertainment, the question of focus must be answered. Our flesh is particularly prone to idolatry, and especially idolatry of the flesh, and I believe this is exactly why we struggle so much to keep our hearts engaged in worship rather than being pulled by the allure of entertainment. You also make an important point in setting Scripture as the authority and standard for whether or not we are worshipping. In our focus on ourselves, sometimes even our definitions of worship are based more on preference and opinion, bringing us right back to the original problem of self-focus even as we try to steer away from it. Scripture must remain our authority. Again, thank you for your insights.

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    1. Thanks, Robert, for your thoughtful comments.

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  22. I agree wholeheartedly that worship is all about God and not us, although if I am unhappy or distracted it seems difficult to focus on God. For instance, if the music is so loud that I can't hear myself think, then how can I begin to worship in Spirit and truth? Nonetheless, I'm reminded that I'm a sinner and that God's thoughts and ways are far above mine...So, just because a worship experience doesn't seem fulfilling for me, it doesn't mean that God was dissatisfied or unpleased with the effort. I must seek His will and His thoughts and stop pushing mine to the forefront. family vacation packages to tahiti

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  23. You have brought up a valid point that has to be addressed on the leadership side of worship: volume of music, which can actually damage hearing, and other leadership issues really distract from, rather than aid in worship.

    In this case, the leadership needs to address the fact that if the volume level remains above 90db's for an extended period of time, they are actually damaging the hearing of the very one they are trying to lead. I dealt with this in a blog entitled: "The Elephant in the Room", if you would like to read more.
    If it is a chronic issue, seek another place to worship. The insensitivity of worship leadership is not a healthy place to be.

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  24. Dr. Steele, this was an excellent article and one that is very relevant for church leaders today. As a pastor of a church that is experiencing revitalization, this is a topic that has surfaced as we are seeking to revitalize our worship. We are leading the way with teaching what biblical worship is and so far so good. We have had some of our original members struggle with the transition and it was hard to understand where they were coming from. Your illustration of the dad bringing gifts home to his children flipped on the light bulb for me. I realized that most of our folks have been so used to those "gifts" that they have neglected the one giving the gifts. I am continuing to encourage and lead our worship team to lead our people to encounter God every weekend. Pray for us that we stay out of the way and keep the spotlight on God and not on ourselves.

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  25. Thanks, Nathan, I appreciate your sharing. I am grateful to the Lord for pastors willing to search out what Scripture says about worship and be willing to teach those under his watch care.

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  26. I was reminded through the blog that worship is about the condition of the worshipers heart. If the heart is right, anything said or sung will be pleasant and beautiful, because it isn't about anything other than being with God, every else fades away. I would like to further add that a worship leaders heart may be "right" with God, but not really living a grace filled life. Without a complete abandonment to Christ's will on our lives, we will not be able to lead in worship, the way God intended.
    I have experienced this in my own life. I remember growing up as a young girl and singing songs I knew nothing about and still finding joy in my heart singing to God. It was less about the lyrics, at that point, and more about a prayer and a relationship in my heart. As I have become an adult, from time to time worries of this world creep in and choke out the joy and freedom I have in Christ. We have to be constantly on our knees, knowing God is the author and perfecter of our faith and knowing we can not do anything without him. Without this kind of humility and submission, we will not be all that God wants us to be or be able to lead in the fullness of His grace. I pray that we will daily examine our hearts before the Lord and have Him diligently weed out any wicked way in us.

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    1. Thanks, Erin, for your comments. I am reminded of Paul's words in Philippians: "for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." [2:13] God gives us both the desire and the ability to worship.

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  27. My name is Paul H.
    After reading the article and reflecting on worship and entertainment I thought more about the word "Entertainment." Entertainment implies something physically being done within the worship service to satisfy the worshiper, therefore, experiencing God becomes unnecessary for those seeking the entertainment. My thinking is that, ultimately, God is the one who must be entertained and satisfied by our adoration, praise, and worship of Him. In response to our genuine reverence, God enters into our presence and blesses us with His glory. The Holy Spirit then speaks to our situations and brings peace, joy and comfort to our soul. In essence, we should never attend worship service seeking the satisfaction through disingenuous charismatic gestures, instead we should seek the face of God by humbling ourselves and offering up high praise.

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    1. I appreciate your comments, Paul. I think instead of the word "entertain" in reference to God, it might be better to use the phrase, "give pleasure" because of the negative associations. Actually, I'm not sure there really is a word that can describe God's response to our obedience adequately. When I think of our doing something "for God's entertainment" my mind shifts to the question, "What if I can't jump high enough, sing good enough, etc., what do I have to do to make Him feel entertained?" We must remember that we are pleasing in His sight because of what Christ has done, not for how well we might measure up to some nebulous standard. We know that faith and obedience pleases God, so our worship must center itself in Him in faith and obedience. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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  28. The story of the father and sons was a very good illustration of the distinction between pure and false worship. I also believe that the "expectation of a gift" attitude leads to worship becoming entertainment. I also think that there is a direct correlation between true worship and the strength of our relationship with Christ. If our relationship with Christ is not increasing, then we are at risk of false worship. When we approach worship, we should confess our sins so we can come to worship with the right attitude and motives. This means confession is a crucial part of worship. This was a thought-provoking post.

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  29. Jonathan:

    Thanks for the note; I believe you are right. While it is normal for a child to look for the "gift" more than the giver, as the child matures the relationship should deepen beyond the "gift." I was just reading in my devotional time this morning in John 6: "26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” The multitude saw the sign, but missed its meaning. In a similar way we can "enjoy the gifts" of worship, but miss the meaning, miss the relationship that God is trying to build in our lives. May God Bless as you continue in Him.

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  30. Dr. Steele,
    Thank you for your post. After some reflection, I wonder if Tozer's quote could be slightly modified to substitute the word "won't" for "can't". The church that won’t worship must be entertained. And men who won’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that worshipers of God must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). As you stated, there is "a consumer-driven culture", especially in the West, that seeks its own preferences. Perhaps this is a symptom of a rejection of the truth of the Word of God and of who God is. At times I get the impression that people are more interested in a god who is only love. The Triune God of Scripture is certainly more loving than any mere human or angelic being. Yet He is also holy and righteous and "knows how ... to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:9 ESV). Without a balanced view of the character, nature, and work of God, new believers will not grow spiritually in a healthy way. They will tend to stay spiritual babies. As you indicated in your example, babies only focus on what they want. Spiritual babies are no different in this respect. In addition, without this balance of truth unbelievers will not be confronted with their need for spiritual regeneration and led to God who wants to provide it in reconciling humans to Himself. If so, then a desire for entertainment is a result of God giving people over to their desires with the goal of leading them to repentance (Romans 1:18-32).
    Michael Babb

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  31. Michael:
    Thanks for your comments. I have too much respect for Tozer to try to second guess and rephrase, though I think you have some valid ideas. I think that if we are not careful, some people misunderstand what might be meant by a "balanced" view of God's love and holiness -- that He is a loving Father on one side and wrathful being on the other. Since the Garden of Eden, God's desire has been to have fellowship, a relationship with His creation. God's nature did not change after the fall, He was just as holy and loving before the fall as He is now. Paul shared in Ephesians that God had everything worked out before creation. His desire is that relationship and all the implications that relationship has: an understanding of His greatness, majesty, grace and holiness, etc. His love draws us in to that relationship and His holiness sets the standard for that relationship. [Some see the holiness of God as more the “wrathful” side, when really it is more of the nature of purity and love. His love would not be pure love without His holiness.] What Christ did for us was make the relationship a possibility, as we are saved by God's grace through faith. One of the reasons worship is so important is that as we worship we get to know God better, deeper, learning to trust Him more, deepening that relationship and restoring what God had desired from the beginning. I don't think the " a desire for entertainment is a result of God giving people over to their desires," but more a result of God allowing man to choose following God or trying to be god. God leaves us with a choice, otherwise, it could imply that God is leading people into sin, which is contrary to His very nature. I believe I understand what you intend, however the Romans passage [1:18-32] deal more specifically with a people who had rejected God, worshiping creations, rather than the Creator. What I see happening in some worship services is that there are people that actually think they are worshiping God, but in reality are only engrossed in self pleasure. I agree with C. S. Lewis who said, “In the end there are only two kinds of people, those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘thy will be done.’”

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  32. Great post Dr. Steele. My only question is what do we do when worship is just bad. For example what should our response be in a situation where the worship is described as flat, boring, non-engaging, lifeless, cold, or just plain bad. Lets say the music is terribly off and the leaders appear to just be going through the motions. I know worship is not about us; worship is not about our entertainment. But what should one do in a worship environment that is not worshipful.

    For the record this is not a reference to any church that I have served at or been a part of both past and present. Just a question.

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  33. Joshua:

    I tried to print a response, but it was much too long for a post, so I am going to ask you to go to the blog itself. Your question was too good just to not address in a fuller fashion. Go to http://www.edsteeleworship.com/

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    1. Dr. Steele read the blog post response, awesome! Thanks for taking the time to respond. I know it will be a benefit to all who read it.

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  34. Thanks, Joshua, I appreciate your comments. I pray God would bless and deepen your relationship with Him in worship!

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  35. Hi Ed thank you so much for your spot-on insights in this blog post. I have a book by Tozer called "Tozer on Worship and Entertainment". His critique of the man-pleasing value system in corporate worship is more relevant today than ever. I look forward to reading your book (just got it on Kindle).

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  36. Thanks, Rob, for your comments! Tozer is just as powerful now, as before, and perhaps even more!

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  37. Hello Dr. Steele, I would like to thank you so much for your post. I am so blessed and encouraged every time I meet people of God who have the courage to stand up and speak the truth in love. I pray that each worship leader would be able to read this post and take this passion for true worship to their congregation leaving behind any desire for entertainment. May God help us worship Him in Spirit and in truth. God bless you Dr. Steele.

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    1. Thanks, Andrei, for your comments. I believe that there is a sincere desire to turn from entertainment and to seek God for Who He is. God Bless!

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  38. Thank you for your thoughts on this subject. It is unfortunate that many of our churches design their worship services based on people's preferences, We have contemporary worship, traditional worship, and blended worship depending on what we think our congregation will enjoy. The "worship wars," that have been going on for years and years, are based on people fighting for their preferred style of musical worship. It is heartbreaking that this has gone on in our churches for so long. When we focus on our preferences and desires, we take God off of the throne and set up ourselves as our own God. The focus in our churches needs to be turned backed to God and his glory.

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    2. Thanks, Kurt, for your comments. As we pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.." we must realize that part of that includes how we worship. That is, our worship should model what it is in heaven. As we look in the book of Revelation, we see every tribe and every nation focused on the Lamb on the Throne, not their personal interests.
      God Bless,

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  39. Thanks for your thoughts, Dr. Steele. Something I thought about while reading your article was the definition of entertainment, which used the amusement. Such a common word, but when you think about it, such a devious one. It comes from "amuse," which means "to divert the attention, beguile, delude." That hardly seems to be the proper attitude for worshiping God! Your post is a poignant reminder of how we need the proper attitude regarding worship.

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  40. Sean:
    You are right. Satan will anything to divert our attention away from biblical worship. Oddly enough, worship leaders can easily become a part of the problem or the solution. Worship is a focused activity and those that lead worship have musical issues and tech issues that can also "divert attention" making it difficult for them worship.

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  41. In our consumer drive culture, the worship leaders must focus on the Kingdom and not their particular church. It is natural to try and appeal to as many people as possible, but what about appealing to the God of heaven and earth by leading the people to Him in worship. I think leaders can easily become confused or self-focused upon their own church. If we come for the purpose of true worship, will we not find pleasure in experiencing the presence of God?

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  42. Those that lead worship need to be cautious about the words which we are placing on the lips of those with whom we worship, for that which passes over the lips can take root in the heart and remain long after the music has stopped.

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  43. Thank you for this blog. The push towards churches being entertainment venues are ever increasing. The struggle is walking that line between leading worship by giving the Lord our best, and not letting it be a concert. Often times, the biggest difference is simply the heart of the one leading. The consumer culture has crept into the church and not just worship/entertainment, but also in preaching the Word of God/preaching the word of man.

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  44. It is true that only God sees the heart, so we can never judge what we see in those that lead to use as a model. Our relationships with God and others must be right, our hearts & thoughts pure, our desires centered on Christ alone.

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  46. I appreciate your blog. I think we have forgotten what the definition of worship really is, not an event on Sundays but a response. Now how to teach and reframe the American perspective of worship so that it is accurate? It will be a fine line to walk because we will want to evaluate if it was worship, and as you noted, only each person can judge for him or herself if they worshiped. Great thoughts and insights! Thank you!

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    1. Jessica:
      You brought up a good point: there is a cultural component in worship that we cannot avoid. My wife and I served with the IMB for 20 years as missionaries, and we all respond to God out of our culture--it is an integral part of who we are. I think that the best we can do is to keep our understanding of worship as simple as possible, so that it relates through the culture not the other way around. That is one reason I use a simple definition for worship: "Our obedient response to the revealed nature and character of God." Christianity will always have aspects that cross culture because culture is a man-made and we are all sons and daughters of Adam & Eve, sharing a sin nature. Yet, an obedient response would thus be consistent with Scriptural truth and still cultural in its ability to perceive the nature and character of God.

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  47. These words are very helpful as you process through the motives and focus of worship. I find that there is great ignorance in the pew concerning worship. As you have said quite clearly, there is a bankruptcy of understanding there. As a pastor, I feel that it is my responsibility to teach, preach, and educate weekly on the topic of genuine worship so that my congregation understands the purpose and focus is not horizontal or even internal, but vertical. Loved the analogy concerning the father and gifts! It drives hope the intimacy factor that is critical to biblical worship!

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  48. Joey:
    Thanks for your kind words. I praise the Lord for pastors who are not only sensitive to biblical worship, but are willing and active in teaching worship to those whom God has entrusted in their care. In this post modern culture where it is a common belief that everyone is right in their own eyes, it is imperative that Scripture be held as our standard and absolute. May God richly bless your life, family, and ministry.

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  49. This article hits the nail on the head regarding distinctions between "I" centered entertainment and God-focused, biblically-centered worship. My only question is in regard to the following statement by Dr. Steele, "In a consumer-driven culture, we are accustomed to having everything cater to our personal desires. However, rather than being salt and light and a reflection of biblical values in the culture around us, many Christians have allowed the attitude of “have it my way” infiltrate worship in the church. One might expect this from a believer new in the faith, much like a baby who is unaware of anything but his or her immediate needs. The tragedy occurs when the baby never moves beyond this point, – as a human being or as a worshiper– each day living as if the world revolves around “I want this,” and “I only like that.” Unfortunately, our culture certainly provides little encouragement toward more mature attitudes." How do we balance our worship so that it draws the unbeliever or the "new" or "baby" Christian and yet remains God-centered worship for the mature worshuper?

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  50. First, thank you for your comments; the first step in correcting a problem is to realize there is one. You have raised a great question; I only hope that the answer might match it. I do address some of these issues in Worship HeartCries: Personal Preparation for Corporate Worship, [that was a shameless plug my book, excuse me....], but I will try to add some details that I am learning and still continue to learn.

    I believe we need to be careful that we understand that the purpose of worship is not to “draw the unbeliever,” but the center and purpose is glorifying God. Worship is not just the music, but is our obedient response to the nature and character of God, which can be carried out in a variety of actions. Our worship needs to be understandable to unbelievers, but to design worship to draw a non-believer changes the focus. [Even Sally Mogenthaller has revised her views on this.] In worship, God is the Audience of one; our aim is to please Him, to glorify Him, to surrender and respond to Him, – not to the whims and fads of the crowds. We must do this in a way that the generations can come together as the Body of Christ and focus on the Head, who is Christ. Some questions we can ask are the following: Is the focus of this service clearly and singularly on God? Are the activities in this service designed so that the various generations represented may respond? Are the songs sung biblically sound and of a nature that the congregation can participate? Are we regularly teaching and mentoring what biblical worship is as leaders? I promise that these things just don’t happen on their own, they are intentional and must be led by the Holy Spirit.

    I have a blog article on this question and invite you follow the link:

    http://www.edsteeleworship.com/2016/10/how-do-we-balance-our-worship-so-that.html

    May God continue to bless!

    Ed

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  51. Thank you for such an honest blog. I completely agree with everything you have commented on here. Worship is not about us, it is about God. You mentioned that we worship God for what He has done for us, if I understood correctly. So in effect, aren't we still worshipping because of the gifts we've received? If so, then isn't our true form of worship based on what we have already received? In other words, it seems as if we are still focused on us instead of Christ. For those who are not receiving many gifts, how are they to worship if they feel that God has not taken care of them? I hope that I am making sense. God should always be the focus. I am afraid that church's have lost sight of that. How do we change that focus without losing people in the process? Or do we not worry about losing people?

    In Christ,
    Josh A.

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    1. Josh:
      Thanks for the thoughtful response. I believe the illustration may have pushed the ideas into another area. I really do go into this more in my book on worship, but don't really have space here. Let me try to clarify: Entertainment by definition is measured by the response of the audience; the focus is on what the audience perceives as good by their own standards, whatever they might be. Worship on the other hand finds its center and focus in God and what pleases Him, by His standards. I like the definition of worship that states that worship is our obedient response to the revealed nature and character of God. If that is so, I am believe it is, then it is independent on whether we "get something out of it or not." [Though I believe most times we will.] Don't get lost in the illustration of the father and children. The point is too often our focus as been on what we get out of worship, rather than an obedient response to what God has commanded us to do. Taking the time to center our thoughts on His greatness and majesty, His power, love, mercy and grace will transform us, but that is not the focus. We just surrender to Who God is, because of Who He is.

      You asked: "How do we change that focus without losing people in the process? Or do we not worry about losing people?"
      Great question. I wish I had a simple answer.

      I think we have reached a critical point in the life of the church that we must change how we are discipling to include worship as part of that instruction. I also believe that we need to learn how to become spiritually healthy. I just posted a blog on this today and can be found at:http://www.edsteeleworship.com/2016/10/how-do-we-balance-our-worship-so-that.html
      I trust that this is at least a start of an answer. Thanks again for writing.
      Ed

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  52. Dr. Steele,
    I am a worship leader, and I recognize in myself the propensity for being a showman or entertainer rather than a worshipper. When I was in college, I played in a jam band for about a year. We performed in a lot of the venues around my hometown, so I know what it means to be an entertainer, and I would like to think that I recognize when that urge comes up. It's one of my most common prayers for myself, as well as for my praise team, that God would inspire and preserve in us the humility that is necessary when we come into his presence for worship.
    I greatly appreciate your article, especially the attention you gave to the tendency we have to begin focusing on the benefits of worship as opposed to the obedience of worship. We say things like, "Man, God really showed up in worship today," but how often do we simply say this because of the emotions provoked within us by the sermon or the music, and is our assumption at that point that God has not "shown up" at other gatherings where our emotions weren't tickled? How do we guard ourselves as leaders from that mindset, and how do we teach our congregations to do the same?
    Tyler

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    1. Thanks, Tyler, for your sensitivity to the situation in which we find ourselves. I believe we could spend a book on your questions alone, but let me try to propose a few things:
      1. We must really learn and practice biblical worship ourselves: we don't invite people to where we have not been ourselves. It is easy to talk about, but not consistently practice.
      2. We must teach biblical worship to the congregation, perhaps in bits and pieces, but it must be repeated and reinforced. Hearing something one time is not enough; we must repeat it week after week and aid them by showing and explaining how it all fits together. Rather than saying, "We know worship is all about Jesus, so we're just going to stop thinking about everything else and think about Him," is about as effective as telling someone not to think about pink elephants--that's all they will think about. It would be better to just lead in prayer directed to Christ, not trying to preach through the prayer, but focused prayer and adoration to the Son of God.
      3. Knowing that the Spirit of God lives in us is fact enough to know that the Spirit is in a service; I believe the bigger issue is that because of our distracted nature, we are not aware or paying attention to the fact that He is there in us and among us. God speaks; the issue is not that God is not speaking, but that we are not able to hear. [The chapter on Isaiah 6 in Worship HeartCries deals with this, which is much to long for this post.]
      4. We need to learn to change the measure of our worship experience by our feelings, but our obedience and sensitivity to God's direction and leadership in our lives. If we are not immersing ourselves in the Word every day, meditating, memorizing, spending time with the Father, how will we recognize His voice on Sunday? Worship becomes the natural obedient response to God as He reveals Himself in His Word. We can celebrate His grace and goodness in the service, but it must stem from regular fellowship and intimate time with God, not drummed up emotion from the rhythm and music.
      I can tell right now that this post is too long. I hope that this has given some help. I will re-post part of your question and this answer, perhaps expanded in the next blog.
      God Bless,

      Ed

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  53. Dr. Steele,

    I believe you make great clarifications between worship and entertainment. Instead of focusing on methods, you do a great job of pointing out the aim of those methods being practiced: Is ______ done to cultivate an environment where people meet God and respond to Him, obeying His voice or is it to create an "experience" that fades when the smoke clears and the lights turn off.

    One thing is clear concerning worship in Isaiah's account and the accounts found in Revelation: the focus is on God. There is nothing that captivates the "audience" and overwhelms them but the presence of God. May we grow in our understanding of worshipping the Creator and not the created.

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  54. Thanks, Matt, for your comments. When we pray "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.." that certainly includes worship. As we see in Scripture in the book of the Revelation, the focus is on one throne, with every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping. That being so, our worship here should be no less focused on God alone.

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  55. What a great reminder of the true nature of worship. The truth of the matter is when we seek to make God the center of our worship and desire of our lives, we experience genuine fulfillment that any amount entertainment could never bring us.
    The emotive catharsis that many of us seek through worship is never truly found in our cheap, unsatisfactory attempts. Our emotional needs can only be satisfied by Him who is able to meet all of our needs according to His riches in glory. Unless He becomes our prize, not our selfish gain, then we will never experience true satisfaction or fulfillment.
    How sad for those that seek their own enjoyment in a worship service. They may never experience true joy. How sad for those that make priority the entertainment of others through means of a worship service. They may never understand the magnitude of the opportunity that they have missed. Ironically, the satisfaction these individuals may be seeking through entertainment, emotional filling, or acceptance from others, will never be found through these means. God is the only one that can give them life to the full.
    This article serves as a reminder to us all to make God the prize and center of our and the people we lead's worship. He is worthy and ultimately, because He is good and gracious, we will find it is for our good.

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  56. Wesley you have shared some good insights. Entertainment is Satan's subtle substitute for what would really meet the needs of our hearts, that is, God Himself. Thanks for posting. May God continue to bless you and your ministry!

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  57. I agree with your points. Churches have a tendency to be overly interested in emotional responses to worship. Worshipers are usually too interested in what they get out of worship. Both of these focuses completely miss the mark; however, both are understandable given our culture.

    Our culture is focused upon emotions and entertainment. Nearly everything we do is built around our desires, our preferences, and our likes and dislikes. So, it's really not a huge shock that people bring this mentality to worship. After all, we're taught from the womb to be the quintessential consumer.

    So, while I agree with your points, I think that getting a church congregation to accept these points could be difficult. It would be much to their benefit to realize that worship isn't about emotions or their personal likes, but it would be a radical adjustment for the average parishioner. However, the church is called to be counter-cultural. So, perhaps the inherent difficulty is appropriate.

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  58. Nick: Thanks for your comments. I agree that the solution may be simple in that it is a changing of focus, but putting this into practice is an entirely different issue. I would think that a biblical understanding of worship needs to start with the initial follow up and discipleship of the new believer and needs to be modeled by a mature believer. For years I had the principles of what worship was scrolled one our screens at church, but just knowing the information will not change hearts and ingrained habits. We have to unlearn and learn, and learn by loving models around us. God Bless as you continue in your walk with Christ and growth in Him!

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  59. Dr. Steele, I enjoyed this blog post. As one who leads children's ministry, which includes planning some children's worship, it is a very fine line that I find myself sometimes walking as I try to balance worship for its true definition and to create an environment/experience that is interesting to children. I don't want to become only "fluff" and I do not want children to miss out on an engaging, unique way to worship and receive the gospel. I know your blog is geared toward a more adult audience, but churches today are pressured to create an amazing experience... I can see this develop within the Southern Baptist's evolution of the VBS experience. We've taken our greatest outreach/evangelism event for children and "consumerized" it. I have a marketing/design background as well, so I look at most things with the critical eye of presentation, aesthetics, and return. I feel that I too have drifted away from some of the authenticity of worship, hindered mostly by my professional degree training.

    What I am wondering is, why don't churches and church leaders find ways to remind and instruct its congregations on what true worship is? I do feel it is being packaged sold as an emotional experience. I naively thought for many years that God would transform my heart and mind once I entered a sanctuary, but I now know that true corporate worship should be prepared for before entering a sanctuary.

    This blog post ultimately makes me think of how I can structure and train the children I serve to develop true, authentic worshiping hearts and minds. I thank you for inspiring this line of thought toward my own ministry.

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    1. Nancy: Thank you for your post. You are exactly where we need to be teaching about worship--our children. Granted, it needs to be done in a way that they can grasp, but if we way until later, habits are already formed. You touch on what I believe is at least part of the solution: Instruction on worship needs to start as part of our discipleship. It needs to be modeled, it needs to be lead and handheld. May God bless you as you form this process!

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  60. Hey Dr. Steele! Thank you for sharing your heart and your wisdom! I see this struggle with entertainment-based consumer-driven worship each week as we try to plan worship in our church. Many pastors today are trying to appeal to specific audiences through the latest and greatest in music and technology, and it’s so difficult to reconcile that directive with planning biblical worship that honors and focuses on God. One thing you said really convicted me, though. “First, our responsibility in worship is to focus on God, not measure how pleasing it may or may not be to us personally… Secondly, if we are focusing on God’s nature and character, we are not trying to judge motivations of those participating.” Through all of my worship classes, we have had to analyze and dissect our worship experiences, both in our own church, as well as those we visit for various assignments. While that process of analysis has been incredibly instrumental in helping me grow as a worshiper and as one in worship leadership, I have found that it is easy to become cynical and judgmental. I have been approaching our corporate worship times from an analytical view, looking at what we are doing that we shouldn’t be, or judging how much time we spend on videos and announcements rather than being in the Word and exalting Christ. While there is a place for that critique, I need to worship through a different lens during our corporate worship time. Instead of judging motivations and measuring how appropriate each worship element is, I need to worship God. When I focus on Him, His nature, and His character, I will automatically have the appropriate obedient response of overwhelming gratitude. Thank you for sharing this! I definitely needed to read these words!

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    1. Lynda:
      Thanks for the post, and thanks for the transparency in sharing. The longer I'm in ministry, the longer I teach what I teach, I have to make conscious efforts and ask God to help me focus. If I am not careful I am counting how many times the bridge is repeated more than what God may be wanted me to hear in the text. But praise God, as we ask Him, He will help us. May God continue to bless you, your family, and ministry! Give our greetings to David and family.

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    2. Dr. Steele,

      Thanks for your insight. I am a bi-vocational Pastor at a church that has as Aesthetic worship design. I came from a church that was blended to heavily contemporary in worship style. I sensed that to reach a younger audience, the blended or kinesthetic design of worship was needed. I pray that I have not been guilty of wanting my own needs fed in worship and remembering, "it's not about me, it's about God." Great thought provoking comments.

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    3. Thanks for the post and your concern. When we travel to Cuba, my wife and I teach in Spanish, because that is the language understood. If we are to communicate the Gospel, we must speak the language that is understood by those we are attempting to reach. If I understand your concern, I believe the answer lies in part with motivation. If we evaluate the depth or effectiveness of worship by how much it pleases us, then we have morphed into entertainment. If we evaluate it by our obedient response to what God has revealed in His nature and character, then we are being submitting to what God desires and it brings Him glory, the focus remains on Him, not us. I trust this helps. God bless as you continue in God's work.

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  61. Dr. Steele,

    Thank you for your post, I can imagine that just as Tozer’s comment on worship 45 years ago is still applicable today so will your post be for years to come. I wonder what was happening around Tozer that made him say these words as I generally associate worship entertainment as a newer trend. Regardless, Tozer’s quote is not the first of his that has been true over multiple generations. I found your post compelling and humbling as I myself am a worship leader, and I struggle sometimes to find the balance. As a musician, entertainment is fun and it is so much easier to entertain an audience than it is to submit yourself to leading in true biblically sound worship. I feel like in recent years too many songs are focused on the “I” of worship, proving that today’s worship often follows the trend of our culture focusing on us and not God.
    Another trend I’ve seen in church services that is troubling is the use of prayer in service. Many churches seem to use prayer as a convenient transition rather than an earnest prayer moment. Some services seem to pray 7 times in one morning just so that everyone’s eyes are closed while the band walks to the stage. Also, as a musician in worship bands, I hate walking around and getting back to my seat while the rest of the church is praying to God.
    I recently interviewed for a church in New Orleans and their style is more traditional. I am not used to traditional worship, but the congregation worshiped and it was beautiful. There were only 75 people, but their voices were singing loud and earnestly. It’s amazing how genuine and humble worship seeking to please our almighty God completely overshadows and outcasts mere entertainment.

    Anyways, thank you for your post and if you have time to respond to this, I would love to know your insights into the use of prayer in church today,
    Atley Nugent

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  62. Atley: Thanks for your post. I believe there will always be a struggle in this area because it helps keep us dependent on the Father. Though Tozer wrote so many years ago, his insights into worship seem to have been written for today!

    As for prayer, I share your concerns. Let me put it this way: if we only talked with our spouses when we wanted something from them, I don't think the relationship would even last. God is not our convenient time killer; He is Lord. God. Savior. Judge. Unfortunately, when we use [abuse] prayer as you mention it reflects more on what we think of God, than anything. If a slick transition becomes more of a priority than really communicating with the Father, do we really think our motivations for worship itself are valid? I seriously doubt [at least have hope] that such behavior is not a conscious minimizing of respect for God, but a pattern that grew out of necessity. We don't just turn around one day and treat God that way, but by dozens of little steps. As C. S. Lewis said through the lips of Screwtape: "the safest way to hell is the gentle slope." No, I don't think that doing this means someone is going to hell, but I think it does underscore how Satan works. We can make transitions in worship that don't call attention to themselves, but prayer is to pray, not to be used or abused. We may not be able to change what others do, but we can commit to doing what is right ourselves. Unless we are in a position to change the setup, we can only be responsible for our own actions. We need to be careful not to stand in judgement; we must make sure that our focus in worship. Two wrongs do not make a right. In the meantime, let your own prayerlife be such that God is glorified and hearts are awakened to the power of prayer. May God continue to bless you, your family, and ministry!

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    1. Thank you for responding! I agree with everything you said. I deeply admire your dedication to personally respond to most every message from anyone who responds to this blog.

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  63. Hi Dr. Steele,
    Thank you for clarifying the difference between entertainment and worship. I agree that worship should not be measured by an emotional response. In my church, the worship leaders make sure the worshipers are focusing on God by saying "it's not about you but it's all about Him." There have been times in my car when a song would come on that was focused on who God is and I would start to worship. I didn't find the song entertaining because I began to reflect on God. There have also been times when a song has come on and it was simply that I enjoyed the melody but I was not engaged in worship. It is easy to respond to entertainment as worship when you enjoy the song.It is easy to enjoy many inspirational songs but I like the distinction you made that "worship finds its center in and on God, His nature and character and what He has done." This distinction will cause me to be more intentional in my worship to ensure I'm not focusing on my needs but God and Him alone.

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    1. Eboni:
      Thank you for your post. I am grateful for your sensitivity to biblical worship. Our awareness grows as our relationship to the Father grows. Although there was not room to add about other aspects of worship in the article, remember that worship is much more than just the music. May God continue to bless!

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  64. Dr. Steele,

    First of WHAT AN EXCELLENT BLOG POST! I have struggled with this idea myself for about 10 years now. Even as a college student I boycotted the Passion conference because when my friends would return all they did was talk about how great such-and-such a band was. Of course in hindsight I regret those decisions, but I can see where there was at least some truth in my convictions. But the fact remained I was being judgmental toward those leading worship and those worshiping and not focused on giving God glory during the conference. I still find myself struggling a bit in the church I attend wondering how much of the lights and fog machines are necessary to create an atmosphere of true worship and how much is there for entertainment value. I know that worshiping in spirit and truth begins with my mindset when I walk into the church and no matter what the leader on stage is doing (under most circumstances) I should be able to walk away from the service having worshiped God. This also makes me wonder what worship leaders can do better to make sure the focus is on God and not on the "gift" (wonderful illustration by the way) of worship.

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    1. Sean:
      Thank you for your transparency in sharing. A major victory in learning to worship is being aware of our own thoughts and feelings and honest enough to admit them. I have some blog post on worship preparation that you might be interested in; just type worship preparation in the search bar under the blog title. May God continue to bless!

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  65. Dr. Steele, I appreciate this post. This is a very timely topic, many churches today are erring on the side of entertainment in a valid attempt to be culturally relevant. Unfortunately, we have made "worship" a distraction away from God, and turned the attention of the congregation toward the show happening on stage. As a college pastor, I get questioned every year about why we do not attend the Passion conference, and every year I have to explain that we don't go because inevitably we have students who experience "worship" there and begin to associate "real worship" with the feelings and emotions they felt at the conference. The problem is, our churches cant reproduce those services without hundreds of thousands of dollars and world class musicians. The truth is, if a student cant worship God with hymns and spiritual songs--without an electric guitar and Chris Tomlin (I like him for the record)--they aren't worshiping the Lord, they are chasing after an emotional high. At that point, "worship" is no different than a concert.

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    2. Jonathan:
      Thanks for your post. We do indeed live in a time of difficulty regarding worship. One thing that I found helpful in dealing with these issues: it is important to recognize what worship isn't and it is important emphasize what worship is. Worship is more than just the music and the style is not really the issue as the focus. Sometimes it is easy getting stuck in the negative without modeling the positive. A strong emphasis from Scripture is "put off, then put on". We desperately need to model biblical worship and teach biblical worship. This is a challenge, but one that is worth the effort. May God continue to bless!

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  66. Enjoyed your comments on this quote from Tozer. I believe you hit the nail on the head in reference to our approach to God, our focus on Him, He is the object of our worship. This is why we can worship as a lifestyle not in a corporate setting. Per the corporate setting, He is still the focused. In conversation with others, the point always comes up with what about me, what's in it for me, I need God for this or for that, seemingly He is just cosmic santa. When we take this attitude to corporate worship we are still self focused instead of vertical focused. Your example with the Daddy & Gift was fitting. Thanks

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  67. Thanks, Joe, for your comments. My desire is that as we gather as the body for worship that we come prepared and with the clear understanding that it is about Him, not us!

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  68. "If we worship God so that our needs are met, we are focusing on ourselves."

    I love that you said this and then followed it by reminding us of our focus in worship - our Creator. AND that when our focus is correct we still receive what we need. It isn't as if we take our focus off the need it disappears, but when we take our focus and place it on God our concern is for him and not the need. Yet he still takes the need and answers it as we focus and worship him.

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  69. Thank you, Seth, for the kind words. Join me in prayer that we can raise up a generation that not only understands what worship is, but practices biblical worship.

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  70. Dr. Steele,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thought provoking post. I appreciated the way you presented the subject and your handling of it. I especially liked the part where you encouraged us to focus on our worship of God and not to try and discern what is going on in the heart of others in worship. You also brought out that worship is not determined by feelings but I would summarize in truth. Like you said in the post our focus should be on God not ourselves. Thanks you for your valuable thoughts on the worship of God.

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  71. Thanks, Mark, your concern for worship is encouraging!

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  72. I love the distinction between worship and entertainment here. I had never thought of this - the real difference between the two is that worship is focused on God and entertainment is focused on me. This is a hard line for me to find sometimes since I work at a church that is very modern and values a high level of "production" (I don't like that word very much). Sometimes my pastors expect things from me that can feel more like entertainment than worship. However, it is my responsibility as a worship pastor to turn whatever service element that is towards God. Always always always towards God. It's also my responsibility to make connections for the congregation, helping them to see that each element is about God and not themselves. This is a good perspective for me in my current situation.

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  73. Andrew: Thanks for the note. We live in a "selfie" culture, but in worship we must learn to turn the camera around and focus outward on Christ and not ourselves.

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  74. What an insightful post! I concur wholeheartedly with your assessment of how a consumer mentality is so harmful to authentic worship. Getting our needs meet, while legitimate, should not be our primary goal in attending church. As you pointed out, God is fully aware of our needs, and delights in meeting them. Your illustration of the Father bringing gifts is a spot on depiction of far too many Christians today. Thanks for helping us think critically about this issue.

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  75. Thanks, Ron, for your comments. Our identity and our needs are found in Christ... "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." May God continue to bless you in His ministry!

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  76. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and it was very thought provoking. I would like to explore more thought on the role of emotion. While I agree that emotion for the sake of emotion is not worship, there are emotions that well up out of a deep connection with God. I am afraid that we tend to discount emotion as contrived or a surface connection, when it can be a part of the most basic expression of our relationship with God.

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  77. Melissa: Thank you for your comments. Because you said that you "would like to explore more thought on the role of emotion," I have given more thought and would like to refer you to a new blog post on the subject. Please look for "What About Worship and Emotions" on this site for a more robust answer than I could give here. God Bless.

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