Sunday Morning Worship Idolatry?

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. 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. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 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. He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple” – 2 Chronicles 33:2-7

worshippicPeople 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.

5 Responses to Sunday Morning Worship Idolatry?

  1. Michael Williams says:

    I think it could be…I remember at a youth ministry conference some years ago a minister from a large town talking about how they had an area wide youth worship on Sunday nights that their youth minister had developed. As he relayed the story the YM moved away and a group of the students came to him and their first reaction was-you are going to keep our worship arent you? You have to get someone that is going to keep our worship going! He made the point you are making to a large degree-and that we must be one body at times rather than always “segregating” and protecting our “territory”. As you said both ends of the spectrum can be guilty of protecting their territory.

  2. Jim says:

    I agree that arguing over the minute details of the worship service can cause more grief in a congregation than most anything else. Sadly Church of Christ services are just about as rigid as they can be. I can still remember two songs, one prayer, one more song, the sermon, an invitation, and communion ( three parts) and the closing prayer. That format was set in stone. Any other fomat would have been heretical. While youth need to understand that not everything in the church is done for them and that at times they need to learn how to be a part of the whole congregation. My best suggestion would be to take the regular minister and other members and let them work with the youth for a little while. In many temples, cantors (who have as much education as most rabbis) do a lot of the teaching to the youth. Just Ask a bar mitzvah boy who really taught him. You would be surprised that people of most ages can work with youth if they will just make a small effort to understand where they are coming from, the education level, and maturity level of the people they’re talking to. However, once the youth are taught, don’t treat them as ignorant. Let them learn by doing.

  3. This does resonate with me, although perhaps for slightly different reasons. As related to the point in discussion, how do you read this passage from John?

    Joh 4:19-24 KJV
    (19) The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
    (20) Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
    (21) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
    (22) Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
    (23) But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
    (24) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

    Did Jesus mean to say that the time was coming when all people would go to church on Sunday? Or might it be that within the spirit and meaning of this passage, that “Sunday church” could easily be inserted in place of “Jerusalem?” What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?

    … and historically, God eventually destroyed the temple and Jerusalem.

  4. grant says:

    I don’t know if you’ve seen that video, but that is what I thought of while I was reading your post.

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