“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” Psalm 96:9 (KJV).
Definitions of worship1 : to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power. 2 : to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion. 3 : to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission (Webster’s Dictionary)
With the decline in church attendance beginning in the 1960’s, churches and denominations began tweaking their worship services in order to find the secret to once again filling their pews on Sunday mornings. They surmised that the younger generations were bored with traditional services, the classic hymns, Bible readings, and sermons emphasizing the holiness of God.
Church committees decided to make their sanctuaries into “come as you are” entertainment centers where everyone could feel comfortable. Plush theater chairs replaced uncomfortable pews. Hymns and hymnals made way for upbeat praise songs projected on a screen. The goal was to give people a joyful experience, complete with coffee shops and snack bars where they could enjoy fellowship; a sort of combination Starbucks gathering place and a rock concert, with the addition of testimonies and scriptures extolling the blessings and benefits one could receive through God’s unconditional love, where praise teams perform covers of contemporary songs popularized by Christian recording artists and rock out repetitious choruses meant to whip the audience into an emotional state.
After attending many of these modern worship services and leaving dissatisfied, I searched my soul. I’ve always believed what we get out of worship depends on what we put into it, but no matter how I tried to participate uncritically, something was missing. I asked myself what I hoped to find in these services. Was I being unreasonable? After reading and praying, it dawned on me just what was missing from these modern services: a sense of reverence. As it says in Psalm 96, we are to fear our holy God. He is worthy of our reverent worship. He is our all-powerful, righteous Creator and worthy of respectful, even fearful, worship. His sanctuary should feel holy, different than a concert hall.
Years ago we sang a call to worship which began with the words,
“Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descended,
Our full homage to demand.”
This set the tone for reverent worship, our full homage. Although fellowship is important in a church body, there are any number of clubs and associations we can join for socializing. Worship in beauty and holiness is the unique purpose and responsibility of the church.