The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Is God the object of my worship? Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard observed, “In the most earnest sense, God is the critical theatergoer. . . . The speaker is then the prompter, and the listener . . . is the actor, who in all truth acts before God.” With God as our audience, everything we do in worship must be directed to him.
We don’t worship to have an emotional experience. Neither do we worship to be inspired. It isn’t wrong to experience emotion or to feel inspired during worship, but emotion and inspiration are not our goals. If we focus on what we get out of worship, we’ve missed the mark. Instead, we should worship with the goal of giving something to God—our praise and adoration.
Are love and devotion my motives for worship? A teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus responded by quoting Moses: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:28-30). Because the call to love God wholeheartedly applies to every area of the Christian’s life, including worship, everything we do in worship must be done out of love for God.
If I preach life-changing sermons but all the while am full of myself and convinced I’m a great preacher, I’ve missed the mark. If my gift as an instrumentalist or vocalist leads people into meaningful worship, but all the while I’m full of myself and convinced I’m a great musician, I’ve missed the mark. If I participate in worship and later pity myself because few people complimented me afterward, I’ve missed the mark. If I sit in worship and criticize the music, the preaching, the order of the service, or any other aspect, I’ve failed to honor God. When our worship is self-entered rather than God-centered, we miss the mark.
Is my mind engaged in worship? Jesus reminded us that we are to love God with all our minds. This suggests that we must put some thought into our worship. Perhaps one of the best places to begin is by learning to prepare for worship. Some faithful Christians prepare themselves for worship the night before. Others rise early on the Lord’s Day to spend quiet moments reading Scripture, praying, or mentally preparing to enter into God’s presence.
Are others blessed by my worship? When others worship with you, what do they see? Do they see an imperfect person doing his best to honor a perfect God? When you interact with them, do they feel loved, accepted, and welcomed regardless of where they’ve been or what they’ve done? Do they leave your time of worship saying, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25)?
If you can answer yes to these questions, it’s likely God is pleased with your worship.