What the church needs is to have faith that worship, as God has given it to us, is reverent enough and relevant enough to make lasting change in our world and in our own lives. Rather than going and digging newer, shallower wells to satisfy our spiritual thirsts, perhaps what we need to do is delve deeper in that deep well of refreshing biblical worship that God has dug for us already. Our Lord, in His incredible kindness, has given us a means of spiritual satisfaction that doesn’t require us to go to wild extremes.
In the 21st century evangelical landscape, there are two opposing errors concerning worship that grow out of the same root problem. One error is the attempt to be hyper-relevant. Those who succumb to this temptation seek a worship “experience” tailored to the fads of the day. They will be greeted by a charismatic speaker in casual dress who will inspire them with a non-threatening talk that is chockfull of personal anecdotes (and virtually devoid of any mention of sin, faith, or repentance). Following this, the lights will dim, as emotive music blankets the room with lyrics that speak more of a person’s experience of God than of God himself. This, as Charles Spurgeon once said, is simply “amusing goats,” which inevitably distracts from the church’s feeding of Christ’s sheep (John 21:17).
Standing opposite of this is the equally erroneous attempt to be hyper-reverent. Ordinarily, those who flock to these churches are fleeing the vapidity of “relevant” churches and looking for something more. They yearn for something serious, historic, even counter-cultural. When they walk through the doors, they are immediately taken by the sounds and smells, the ornate clerical vestments, and the (perceived) antiquity of the many rites, ceremonies, and feast days observed by the church.
On the surface, these two approaches to worship look very different, yet the reason for gravitating to either is usually the same. Fundamentally, what the searcher is longing for is something extraordinary, an escape from the suffocating ordinariness of their everyday lives. Only once they find that missing piece will they be able to experience the vital and vibrant Christianity that has evaded them thus far.
Those who visit my own church might suspect that we lean to the side of hyper-reverence. After all, we sing out of the Red Trinity Hymnal, recite creeds, and I have even been known to quote a Puritan or two. But I often explain that our intention is to occupy the perfect middle. Why? Because true reverence is perennially relevant.
That which is new, exciting, and different today will become old, stale, and commonplace within a decade (if that long). Cold, hollow ritualism will produce cold, hollow Christians at best. Spurgeon said that a baby is content to play with a rattle for a time, but when the pangs of hunger seize its belly nothing less than its mother’s milk will satisfy. The same is true of Christian worship. Instead of offering our preferred rattle in Lord’s Day worship, the church must serve a substantial meal that will truly satisfy the spiritual hunger of those gathered.