“Come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care.” (Psalm 95:6-7)
“John” comes to church every Sunday for the worship service. He sings the hymns along with everyone else. He listens as leaders pray. He enjoys the choir’s music. He listens carefully to the pastor’s message, and tries to implement it throughout the week. He leaves the sanctuary glad he came, but some days when he leaves he feels something he can’t quite put his finger on. It’s like there is some place in his life that feels kind of empty. As he thinks about it, he realizes that on those days he more or less went through the worship motions, while his mind was on work, or family, or the lake. He is still glad he was in the worship service those days, but he wishes he didn’t feel like something was still missing.
John’s experience is all too common. More people have that feeling than are willing to admit it. So, what is the problem? Why does this happen to people when they come to church hoping it won’t?
Part of the reason is that sometimes too much emphasis is placed on form rather than content, on the mechanics rather than the experience. Whether or not someone likes or approves of contemporary worship, what we see in that style of worship is mainly younger people, dissatisfied with the mechanics of worship and wanting to focus more on the experiential side of worship. They seem to be needing and even crying out to experience the presence of the Almighty God. Does that mean that a traditional form of worship does not focus on the experience? Not at all. The style of worship is not determinative. The quality and substance of a worship experience is dependent partly on those who lead it and whether they are focused on the mechanics over substance, but mainly on the worshiper. Those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth. That is what Jesus taught the woman at the well.
The psalmist show us two principles that can help our worship be more experiential than mechanical. The first principle is humility. Genuine worship always begins with humility, where we bow before God. The second principle is recognition, and there are two aspects to this principle. We recognize first that He is our Maker, our Creator, and our Shepherd, and we recognize second that we are His people, loved by Him. When we focus on humility and recognition, that then causes the mechanics of worship, regardless of style, to become more experiential and produce worship substance.
Lord, May our worship today be truly experiential and substantive. Amen.