Tag Archives: Traditional vs Contemporary Worship

(Psalms 49-52) Going Through The Motions

The psalms are full of reminders that God isn’t interested in our “just going through the motions” kind of worship. He often asks the Jews, who were given the sacrificial system by God Himself, if they thought He actually needed those animals. He owns ALL the animals in the world, so why would they think He placed some special value on one of His own animals burning on an altar? The sacrificial system was never about the animal, except as a picture of Jesus. That sacrificed animal was about sin, about the sinner’s heart condition before Holy God.

Warren Wiersbe in his “Be Worshipful” commentary on the psalms said this in reference to 50:14-15):

“What the Lord wanted from His people was thanksgiving from their hearts, obedience to His Word, prayer, and a desire to honor Him in everything. But the Lord doesn’t want ritualism or formalism. He wants our worship to come from the heart.” (David C Cook publisher; 2009; page 182)

I can hear all the contemporary worship proponents shouting WOOHOO! Told ya!

But haven’t we simply replaced tradition with a new tradition? We may have stopped worshiping with hymnals in front of us, but now we worship with screens in front of us. Where hands and heads used to be bowed in worship, we’ve replaced that with hands and heads lifted.

We’re told to smile, look joyful, move our bodies, be free (but they usually don’t mean you are free to worship with your head bowed and hands folded). We are no less concerned about ritualism, we have just changed how ritualism looks.

I believe that is no less offering God a “going through the motions” kind of worship than before. And I believe that is still worship that God rejects.

“Surely you desire integrity in the inner self…purify me…wash me…turn your face away from my sin…create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me...”(51:6-10)

“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit…” (vs 17)

Stop focusing on how people look when they worship. Stop organizing worship around what people like. We have got to focus on worshiping God with clean hearts, not upraised hands. We need to worship God in purity and not worry about whether people are clapping their hands or not.

You can have a rocking worship service, and still just be going through the motions.

The worship God accepts is only that which comes from people who have dealt with their sin problem first, who approach God in His holiness through the blood of Jesus. Clean hearts. Purified. Washed.

Anything else is ritual and formalism and simply going through the motions.

2 Samuel 4-6; What Does Worship Look Like?

Some have said 6:12ff is a blueprint for worship; that David, dancing and praising God with abandon, offering sacrifices, freeing himself from his robe, is the picture of true worship. It certainly is a happy picture of worship, a joyful occasion celebrating God’s Presence. Are we missing something if our church services are not like that?

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know I am not a fan of what is referred to as contemporary worship styles. And I am adamantly against church services with an agenda to entertain church-goers. But I am not discounting this picture of worship here in 2 Samuel.

First, David has reason to rejoice. The Presence of God represented by the ark, is coming home! I don’t know about you, but God’s Presence in my life makes me want to rejoice, too. When I confess sin and experience the rekindled relationship with God that had been broken because of sin, I want to sing His praises.


However, what we witness here in 2 Samuel is not a church service. It did not occur in the temple. Although it is a glorious picture of what worship can be, I do not believe it is a blueprint for what worship should be. There are many examples in Scripture where worship is expressed by falling flat on your face, laid out on the ground in humble submission and awe before our Holy God. I see examples of church services where Jesus taught with no mention of dancing or even of smiling.

When I hear a “worship leader” reprimand a congregation for not smiling or looking joyful as we sing, or for not bringing the same enthusiasm to worship as we bring to a football game,  I immediately know that person is looking horizontally, at people, and not focused on his own worship of God. Personally, I don’t want anyone leading me to look at people. Period.

I honestly don’t care what you look like when you worship. If my head is lifted toward heaven and tears of joy are falling from my eyes, I’m not going to judge you if your head is bowed and tears of conviction are falling from yours. If you raise your hands in worship, don’t judge me if I stare at the hymnal in my hand and let the words of the song break my heart in worship.

I don’t know what worshiping God looks like for you because I can’t see your heart. That’s where true worship occurs. Let’s not be bullied into looking like someone thinks your worship should look like. It’s not a performance. It’s not a contest.

Let your worship of God focus only on Him. Your expression of that will follow in a personal, God-directed and God-honoring way. You may end up singing at the top of your voice with hands raised and heart soaring. Or you may bow your head in humility as you worship your Holy Father in the quietness of your heart.

The only worship leader I’m interested in following is God Himself. The only worship  I want to offer Him is that which comes from my heart, no matter what that looks like to anyone else.