When Manassah became king of Israel at the age of 12, his leadership really showed his immaturity,
“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger. 7 He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple” – 2 Chronicles 33:2-7
People can take something as good and holy as God’s temple and God’s temple worship and turn it to idolatry. Is it possible for people to turn worship itself into an idol? An idol is anything that we worship in place of God. Is it possible that in our worship we begin to love the songs, the beat, the trendiness of it all more than the God it is all trying to point us to? Don’t hear me saying this is a progressive issue. It can happen in conservative circles just as easily. In conservative circles, a big deal is made about the correct form of things. Is it possible for people to get so obsessed with the form that they turn the worship to the form itself instead of to God? This is not a progressive problem. This is not a conservative problem. This is a human problem. The only reason I use those words here is just to identify it in both contexts.
With churches in decline all over the place, is it possible that one of the root causes of all of this is at least hedging on making an idol out of what happens on Sunday? I am not making this as a bold declaration of condemnation. I am asking. I am asking because it is human nature to turn things into idols. If rocks and stick could be made into an idol, I have no doubt that people can turn to worship our event rather than the One the event is there to glorify. Some worship a minister or an elder or a song leader or a praise team or [fill in the blank] and all those things are supposed to be there to get you to worship God.
Could this also be what is behind the whole “They like Jesus but not the church” problem of the last 50 years? People see a congregation obsessed with what happens on Sunday with little interest on what happens the other 6 days of the week. People see big discussions over minutia of what is appropriate in worship but then lax morality of those same people Monday-Saturday. They see a heavy emphasis on right doctrine but a very poor ethic toward others. Some have become obsessed with the body (the church) and have forgotten about the head, without which the whole things falls apart.
Could this account for our discipleship problem? With so much time, resources, money and talents tied up in making what happens on Sunday come across in a professional manner (which I am fine with, by the way how many resources do many churches have left doing things other than sing, study and preach? Yet, some think all is well because we are still having a service on Sunday, still singing a certain way, and so God must be pleased.
I am asking here, not accusing. Does this resonate with any of you at all or am I just completely missing it here? It is important that we communicate with people why we do what we do. It is important that they understand who God is and why we worship Him. If we start to see that we are giving our focus to the form over our Creator, then we have an issue. That is not to say form is unimportant…it just is not always of FIRST importance. God is of first importance and everything else must fall into place around that.