Category Archives: Worship

Is Your Church Too “Worldly”?

This is a little piece written by a long-time friend of mine, Dr. Tom Lawson. Tom is a professor at Ozark Christian College with a focus on the theology and history of Christian worship.

My Church Looks Like a Bar.

When people walked into First Christian Church on a Sunday morning not long ago, most of them were not prepared to see the newest fad in popular worship music sitting in the front of the sanctuary.  Some of them had enough musical background to know they were looking at a percussion instrument.  For a lot of people, the one thing they knew was it made their church look like a bar.

 The reason First Christian had caved to the world was the music the popular media blared out to the teenagers day after day.  You couldn’t even turn on a radio without having popular Christian music pounding out rhythms, while your kids kept begging you to turn up the volume.  Everyone knew if it wasn’t for the broadcast media, in fact, they’d have been able to keep the music they grew up with in church.  But now that wasn’t going to happen.

 Some would object.  They’d point out that percussion had no place in church.  And, the disgusting popular Christian music that needed these new instruments had no place in God’s House, either.  The church was supposed to be in the world, but, instead, there was the world sitting right there in church.  Sure, churches needed to change some things every now and then.  But, to many who stood there gaping at the front of the sanctuary, this visible emblem of a compromised church was one change too many.

 But, what could they do?  The pastor wanted it.  Most of the congregation was willing to live with it.  Some musically tasteless people probably even liked it.  But, even the traditionalists knew, you can’t turn back the calendar.  After all, this was 1934 and there was nothing to be done in this modern age, but to let that unwelcome monstrosity, the piano, stay.

It’s amazing to me how corporate worship practices have changed over time. It’s really nothing new, I suppose. Change in worship services, and music in particular, has been happening and causing conflict for hundreds of years.

In the early 1700s Isaac Watts wrote many hymns that are still familiar today…but at the time they were considered “worldly” by a lot of folks because, up until then worship music was limited to the Psalms. In fact, there were those who would stand up and walk out of a service when one of his hymns was sung.

One of his songs is “Marching to Zion.” I think he may have written the third verse of that hymn with those folks in mind:

“Let those refuse to sing, who never knew our God.
But children of the heavenly King may speak their joys abroad.”

In the 1800s it was Fanny Crosby. She was probably the most prolific hymn writer in history. She wrote over 8,000 hymns! In her lifetime, she was one of the best known women in the United States. In spite of her popularity, or maybe because of it, she received her share of criticism for her intensely personal and subjective content. Her songs were criticized for being “overly sentimental.” My point is that her music was new. It was criticized as “worldly”…and it changed how Christians worship.

My personal belief is that, generations from now, the songs of Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Keith & Kristyn Getty and others will be part of that same heritage. are those who complain that the church of today has allowed worldliness to creep into our worship services. Now, when we Christians use the term “worldly,” what we mean is that we’re becoming too much like everybody else in the world who don’t follow Jesus. That we’ve lost what is distinctly Christian about the church.

It’s not a new criticism. And, the truth is, I agree. I believe that we have indeed allowed too much worldliness into our corporate worship gatherings. But it may not be for the reasons you think. We’re not worldly because we use lights, technology and modern music any more than the church was worldly when we started using the piano…or the electric organ.

Worldliness is not using the stuff of this world to accomplish God’s mission. We use bricks and mortar to build a church building. We use paper and ink to print Bibles. We use the telephone, email and social media to communicate with our congregation and with our community. This doesn’t make any of these things worldly.

Worldliness is a spiritual condition. It’s when our hearts and attitudes remain unchanged by the Holy Spirit.

What is it that makes Christians different from the rest of the world? How would people of “the world” recognize a group of Christ-followers?

Here are a few passages of scripture that speak to this question:

Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

I therefore…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 12:1-2)

These are the things that make the church uniquely Christian…and they have nothing to do with the style of music or the instruments played. Where in this world can you find these things?

If the church would concentrate on developing these attitudes we would banish worldliness from her gatherings.

Together let’s commit ourselves to practicing deference instead of demanding our preference.

Talk about not being “worldly”!

I believe a church like that would shine like a beacon to the “world” around her.


Here & There

here and there“We enter the house dedicated to God,
made out of bricks, linoleum and other stuff,
and we say,
‘The Lord is in His holy temple; let all kneel before Him.’
…but it does not stop there.
Come 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning if you do not say,
‘The Lord is in my office and all the world is silent before Him,’
then you were not worshiping the Lord on Sunday…
God is not present in the church building any more
than He is present in your home.
God is not here any more
than He is in your factory or office.”

-A.W. Tozer

A Thrill of Hope

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new glorious morn!

We desperately want some good news.

That’s why Hope is so thrilling.

Christ made evil temporary; good, eternal.
Unrighteousness may have its day; righteousness is forever.
Injustice seems to be holding court,
but the final verdict is just, and God will repay.
This momentary affliction is working for us
an eternal weight of glory.
The poor now will soon be rich.
Fear is fleeting; hope is eternal.
Love will win; hate will lose.
Sorrow is passing; joy is lasting.
The last will be first.
Losers will be winners.
Satan’s power is passing; Christ’s power is here to stay.

All of this was made possible on that one holy night,
when Christ was born,
and a thrill of hope set off a chain of events
that will culminate in ultimate victory for the forces of good
in heaven and on earth.

This is our story — this is our song — and you can bank on that.

John Fischer

Not Your Typical Christmas Post

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but Christmas is two weeks away.

I like pretty much everything about Christmas, I really do. Well, except for the sappy Hallmark movies, but I watch them because Kathie likes them.

I mean, we decorate our house with Santas in the kitchen… DSC_0028

…snowmen in the bathroom (even though they sometimes make me feel a little self-conscious)…



…a Teddy Bear tree in the front window…DSC_0016

…a regular tree in the family room…DSC_0024



…a nutcracker guarding the front door…






…and some outdoor lights…

DSC_0023 And it’s all stored in an assortment of plastic bins and cardboard boxes that I dutifully drag down from the attic every year after Thanksgiving, and then haul back up in January.


I like the food, the family gatherings and the candle light Christmas Eve service at church. I like breakfast casserole with the kids and grandkids on Christmas morning. And I LOVE watching loved ones, especially the kids, opening their gifts.

However, I sometimes think that all this stuff may play a role in keeping us from seeing the real meaning of Christmas.

The real meaning of Christmas.

To be honest, I get sort of tired of hearing that phrase. It seems everyone has their own idea about the “real meaning of Christmas.”

Love for all mankind.

The warmth and comfort of family.

Giving to those in need.

Peace on earth.

A Baby in a stable (“no crying He makes”).

To be sure, I have nothing against any of those things. In fact, in one way or another, they all spring from that first Christmas.


Have you ever stopped to look at Christmas through the eyes of the people who lived it?

We tend to sentimentalize the events of Bethlehem that night. But,  for starters, try to imagine living in a land where the king could order the execution of all children under the age of two…and it would actually be carried out. Many people live in fear today. Fear of terrorists. Fear of politicians. Fear of big business. Fear of genetically modified food. Fear of vaccines. Even fear of our neighbors. But never in my wildest dreams could I imagine living in a society where a ruler can, on a whim, decide to violently eliminate everybody’s children! Can you? I know there are places in the world where this can happen, but it is completely foreign to my experience.

To all of this God says, “Fear not.”

Now let’s try to lift our mind’s eye away from this physical world completely. What did (does?) Christmas look like from the spiritual realm?

What was God up to?

What was Satan’s reaction?

We have a glimpse in Revelation 12. It’s couched in language that seems wild and hard to comprehend because the author is attempting to describe something that is truly beyond our experience. Take a look at Revelation 12:1-6

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Go ahead and read the rest of the chapter. Don’t get bogged down in the details, just soak up the images and sensations.

I’m telling you, something cataclysmic happened at what we refer to as Christmas. It’s not a warm, mushy, sentimental event.

It’s nothing short of a declaration of war.

A war of (literally) biblical proportions.

A war between God and Satan.

And here’s the most amazing part:
They’re going to war over you and me.

And that, my friend, is the real meaning of Christmas.


PS – We know who wins. So “fear not.”

A Gift Worth Giving

How’s your Christmas shopping going?

Now, be honest: how many of the gifts you’re giving are just stuff you feel like you are required to give? These “gifts” don’t have any real significance to you OR the recipient. And, if the truth were known, they will likely end up in a land-fill sometime in the foreseeable future.

But there are other gifts, aren’t there? A few of the gifts you have planned are special. These are gifts that you have thought long and hard about. You’ve searched and/or labored to make sure this gift is exactly right. It’s significant. The recipient will likely keep this gift for the rest of her life and every time she sees it or uses it, you will come to mind.

I’d like to tell you about a birthday gift I received a few years ago.

The gift is a desk. It’s a lovely piece of furniture. Here are a couple of pictures of it…



What do you think this desk is worth?

Now there are several things to consider when you try to figure the value of something like this.

One thing would be the raw material. This desk is made from solid cherry wood and fitted with fine hardware.

You would also have to take into consideration the time and labor.

But another factor would be the quality of the craftsmanship involved. I mean, a desk made by me wouldn’t be nearly as valuable as one made by a skilled master craftsman. So the identity of the person who made it affects the value.

Now this is where it gets a little tricky, because if all you’re considering is the skill of the craftsman, that’s one thing. But what if you actually know the person? What if you have a personal relationship with the one who made the thing? How does that affect the value to you?

What if I told you that the person who made my desk was my dad?


Suddenly the value changes, doesn’t it? All of a sudden, the value of this desk, which may be worth a large amount of money to most folks, has increased exponentially to me.

Now, if you look inside the top drawer you’ll find a small brass plate that looks like this…


It says, “Lloyd | Mk. 1:11b | Dad & Mom | 8-15-04.”

Do you know what Mk 1:11 says?

It says: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Now…how much do you think this desk is worth to me?

This Christmas, when we are all very wrapped up (See what I did there?) in gift giving and receiving, I want to take a little time to consider the gifts we give to God.

I want to suggest that the service we offer to God at our church or in our community – whether we preach, teach, sing, greet, bake, rake, shovel, tutor, clean, cook, listen, visit, or any of a hundred other acts of kindness to individuals or involvement in church ministry … whatever you do – do it as an act of love and worship. When you do, the raw material of your time and talents, combined with your skill and personal relationship, makes it a valuable love gift to God.

Like my desk, the value is far more than the simple combination of raw materials because it’s given as a demonstration of love to God who can multiply it until it has eternal significance.

Now that’s a gift worth giving.




A Hymn of Grateful Praise

For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise. the joy of ear and eye,

for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
For the joy of human love,

brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
For thy church, that evermore

lifteth holy hands above,
offering upon every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

DSC_0950For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

-Folliot S. Pierpoint (1835-1917)