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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Selfies and Worship

We live in a culture that is dominated by “selfies.” The desire to take a snapshot of oneself with friends and family in a memorable location is not new. It is common to see the collection of family photos someone standing on a boundary between two states and having one foot in both states, or some such historical or geographical place.  However, the shift to “selfie” is the focus of the subject: it’s all about “me.” “Selfie sticks” are common and feed the craze to get that best shot of, well you know, “me.” I did a search on Yahoo on “How to get the best selfie,” and got no less than 1.3 million sites. Youtube videos on the subject abound.

What does this have to do with worship? Plenty. If we live our lives with the camera on ourselves, focusing on who and what we are, we will carry that attitude into the worship service, consciously or subconsciously. Whether we articulate the question out loud or not, our thoughts are: “How well does this please me? Do I like the music? The Worship leader? The Band? Those around me? The preacher? Am I comfortable?” All the activities are measured in light of the “mental selfie” of what is pleasing to us.

Worship is the obedience response to the revealed nature and character of God. He is the focus. Any focus on ourselves must be in light of who we are in relation to Him. Though created in His image, we have rebelled breaking fellowship with God. God in His infinite love and grace sent His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice that could forgive our rebellion and restore the relationship. In humble gratitude we respond in praise and thanksgiving, worshiping the God of our salvation and desiring that all come to the knowledge of Christ. Biblical worship keeps the central focus on God, what He has done, is doing, and what He will do; “selfies” do not have a place.

In her book, Vainglory: the Forgotten Vice, Rebecca DeYoung describes how pride has been obscured by the construct of vainglory: “Put simply, the prideful person desires to be greater than others, whether others recognize this or not, while the vainglorious person wishes to attract others’ notice and applause, whether she is better than them or not.” [p. 42] Motivation becomes central to the idea of vainglory in that we want to let our light shine, not so much to dispel darkness, but because we love being in the spotlight. This is the “selfie” mentality that has infiltrated worship. “Selfie” worship in a congregation may not lack participation, but is void of biblical purpose.

What can be done? Before we can treat any sickness, it must be diagnosed and we must be willing to follow proper treatment. We must admit that we might be ill and allow for a checkup. Asking God to reveal our motives, to purify our heart’s desires, to seek & prepare to meet with Him on a daily basis as well as in times of corporate worship are good starters. When we humbly approach the throne of God, confessing sin, seeking His face, He will not slam the door of heaven on us. However, we must be willing to be obedient and do what He commands, forgive, share, and be open to His leadership.

When we find ourselves measuring how much we “enjoyed the worship,” we need to stop and do a “selfie” check. We need to turn the camera around and change the focus.

[For more on this, see the blog post: Worship and Entertainment]