haven’t found anything that can make church people as cranky as the music. Seriously.
Thom Ranier a church growth and
health consultant wrote “The comment ‘someone
complained about the music at my church’ is a universal phenomenon of our age.”
past couple of week’s we’ve been going down a path entitled. Why We Are. . . and we started two weeks ago
by looking at why we are focused on the lost.
We are by definition what some folks would call a Seeker Sensitive
make the unchurched, the de-churched and the pre-churched comfortable in our
service. That’s why we have an one-hour
service. It’s why we try to incorporate
music that at least sounds like it was written in this century and why we try
to explain churchy terms and concepts and preach and teach toward the end of
making the message relevant to people today.
To answer that all burning question that people ask during sermons: So What?
because God loves lost people. God loved
lost people enough to be willing to give his Son. And Jesus loved lost people enough that he
was willing to give his life. And so we
asked the question, if those two statements are true than what are we willing
to give to reach the lost?
of the children who were brought to Jesus and how the disciples tried turning
the parents away and Jesus got a little cranky and told the disciples, “Let the
children come to me, don’t do anything to stop them.”
invests so much time and energy into our children’s ministry. And we do that for the future of the
church. The church, this church and the
church universal is always one generation away from extinction.
will only exist until they close the door after the last funeral.
why we invest so much time and energy into our children’s ministry is because
we aren’t just impacting the future of the church we are impacting the eternity
of those kids.
believe about there being a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned I
would think there would be people knocking down the doors to help insure that
our children would have an eternity with God.
to keep the kids occupied while you are in real church, our staff and
volunteers are impacting their todays and their forevers.
scripture that was read earlier.
required for eternal life, and this was his answer: Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the
first and greatest commandment.
Jesus said that is the most important
commandment, if you can only do one, this is it. This is the one that you don’t want to miss. ‘Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind.’ So we were created to be loved by God and our
purpose in our lives is to love him back.
He should be the most important thing in our life.
If we have to pick the one item that we
couldn’t or wouldn’t do without it should be God.
And there is a word for what we do when we
love God that way and that is “Worship”.
We worship God. Goes all the way
back to the first book in the Bible, Genesis 4:26 When Seth grew up, he had
a son and named him Enosh. It was during his lifetime that people first began
to worship the Lord.
If we go all the way back to the beginning of
the story you realize that Adam and Eve were created to be in fellowship with
God. There was a direct connection and
they deliberately rebelled and walked away from the relationship. And after they were banished from the Garden
of Eden we have no idea what type of relationship they had with their
But it’s not very long into history that we
read those words about their grandson Enosh, it was during his lifetime that
people said “We need to have that relationship with the one who created us, we
need to connect with him again.” And
they began to worship God. But what does
Does it mean that they started having church
and part of that was the “Worship” service?
Did they have drums and guitars and keyboards and sing songs by Ren
Collective and Chris Tomlin, or did they have an organ and piano and sing
hymns? Was it contemporary worship or
more traditional worship?
And by the way, the term “Contemporary
Worship” is often misleading, in more cases than not it means that churches
sing songs written somewhere between 1970 and 2001. But the word contemporary as defined by Collins English Dictionary means 1. belonging to the same age;
living or occurring in the same period of time2. existing
or occurring at the present
in style, fashion,
design, etc4. having approximately the same age as one another
when he wrote : “If most churches truly wanted to be contemporary, Sunday would have a
lot more hip-hop and R&B (have you listened to the Top 40 lately?).” That
was an aside.
The problem is that we limit worship either
to what we do in church or narrow it down even further to half of what we do in
church and then we make it the least significant part. And so we have the “worship”, that is the
singing part of the service and it is the prelude to the important part which
is the “preaching”.
Sometimes you will hear people say, “I really
enjoyed the worship this morning.” And what they mean is that the music spoke
to them. And that’s not bad, but it is
personal and while it may be a part of what worship is it certainly isn’t all
of what worship is. When we limit
worship to music then it becomes very personal and anything that is personal we
become defensive of.
And that’s why musical styles in churches can
sometimes result in conflict, because it is so personal. When we say that we don’t like a particular
type of music then those who like that type of music take it personally.
In other words, if I don’t like singing
traditional hymns in church then in some people’s minds I’m saying singing
traditional hymns in church is wrong and so by implication that means that I’m
saying that those who prefer singing traditional hymns in church are wrong as
Understand that was just an example, there
are a lot of hymns I like, and I enjoy singing them at the Berkeley and at
Beulah Camp, but it’s not a part of what we are trying to accomplish at
But if I didn’t like hymns, it would just mean
that I personally don’t enjoy that style of music.
I don’t like classical music or rap music, I
don’t like reading poetry, or putting anchovies on my pizza. And if you do like
classical music or rap music, reading poetry and eating anchovies on your pizza
you probably aren’t offended because I don’t.
But worship is more personal than just our preferences.
So when we narrowly define worship as one
style or type of anything it puts God in a box.
Worship can’t be defined by style because
style is too individualistic. And so
worship music is really a mis-definition because it’s only worship music for
some and for others it just plain annoying.
Neat story, that I’ve told
before. There was an elderly pastor on
this district by the name of Walter Fernley, he passed away about five years
ago and his wife passed away a couple of years before Walter. Mrs. Fernley’s first name was Mabel but
everyone called her Mabs. One day Walter
asked Mabs to say grace at dinner, which she did, very quietly. To which Walter commented, “I couldn’t hear
you.” To which Mabs replied “I wasn’t
talking to you.”
So when you say “I didn’t enjoy the worship
this morning”, the response is “We weren’t singing to you.”
I don’t think God has a preference for any
one style of worship music. I think that
we offer our worship to Him and if we do it with the right motives and a pure
heart then He goes, “Thank you, that was so cool.”
Because as good as it might be on any given
Sunday at Cornerstone ,God has heard so much better.
Think about it twelve hours ago he heard the
worship team from Hillsongs Australia sing, and two hundred years ago he heard
Beethoven play his fifth symphony and three thousand years ago God heard King
David sing an original arrangement that that we call the 23rd Psalm.
And you understand that heaven is filled with
music that God hears all the time. It’s
actually country music, it sounds a lot like Willie.
But we are God’s children presenting our gift
of worship to Him. When your child gives
you a gift that they made themselves do you say, “Well it’s nice but it’s not
very good compared to other art I’ve seen.”
No you say “Thank you, that is so cool.”
So if worship isn’t what we do in church, and
it isn’t just music, what is it?
Paul was writing to the early church in the
book of Romans and this is what he said Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead
with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let
them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is
truly the way to worship him.
So look at the last line, This is truly the way to worship
him. In other translations it reads “this is
your spiritual act of worship.” What is your spiritual act of
worship? To offer your bodies as a living
and holy sacrifices. But what does that
mean? Well there are three things that
we need to note about that statement.
is Something You Give We are told to give our bodies and when you give something it is
voluntary. From day one God created mankind
with this incredible gift of free will.
He didn’t create us to blindly serve him without thought or choice.
In 1942 Isaac Asimov wrote a
short story called Runaround and in it he introduced us to the 3 laws of
Robotics which state
1. A robot may not harm a human
being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders
given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the
3. A robot must protect its own
existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or
Those laws were fiction of course but God
could have put very similar restrictions on humanity. But then we would have been robots and not
people and God wants us to choose to worship him and so he allows us to choose
whether or not we will obey him and whether or not we will worship him. He wants it to be a conscious decision where
we in effect say, “I offer this to you”
Francis De Sales summed it up
when he said “There are no galley-slaves in the royal
vessel of divine love — every man works his oar voluntarily!”
Of course free will is a double edged sword,
author P.J. O’Rourke commented “One of the annoying things about believing in free will
and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame
your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it’s remarkable how often his
picture turns up on your driver’s license.”
Nobody else can worship for you and if you
don’t take that step there is nobody else you can blame for it not
And that applies to what happens on Sunday as
well. We can decide to not enter into
worship during a service because the music isn’t to our taste or we find it too
loud or not loud enough, or it’s not our favorite worship leader, but
understand it will be our choice. We do
what we want to do.
Involves Who You Are We told to give our bodies, not
anybody else’s body, but our bodies. And
that simply means that you are to give “You”.
While we are here we are here in our bodies, if we are going to do
anything it will be done with our bodies.
Every once in a while someone will tell me,
“I can’t be here next Sunday Denn, but I will be here in Spirit.” Do you know what that means? “Nothing, zip, nada.” If your bodies not here then youur spirit’s
not here, they are interconnected and they go together. In this life you can’t have one without the
And so by asking for our bodies God is in
effect asking for all of us. So
understand you will be worshipping something and that will be indicated by what
you are doing with your body and where your body is. It defines our priorities.
If you tell me “Denn I really want to be at
church next Sunday but I have to be at . . .”
What you are saying is “I really want to be at church but I want to be
at . . . more.”
Because, ultimately “We do what we want to do.”
So when we offer our bodies we are offering
ourselves in a practical way to God, it’s not just something that happens here
in our mind, kind of like a card I sent to my best friend one year for his
birthday, on the cover it said “When it comes to gifts it’s the thought that
counts.” And inside it said “And I
thought about getting you a gift.” And
it’s not just what happens here in our heart, where it is a good
When I was growing up my favorite Aunt would
often remind me that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” And Margaret
Thatcher said “No one would remember the Good
Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He had money as well.”
So it’s not enough to think about worshipping
God or even wanting to worship God if we don’t actually worship God.
Demands Something. Every decision we make involves a positive and a negative, when we
say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. And it isn’t simply a matter of choosing
between what’s good and what’s bad. That
would be too easy.
As a pastor I will sometimes hear people talk
about how much they love Jesus, but they never offer anything back, no time, no
service no gifts. It was Michael Novak who wrote “Love
is not a feeling of happiness. Love is a willingness to sacrifice.” Remember how Paul said we were
to offer ourselves to God? A living and holy sacrifice.
And that often means choosing one thing over
And by the way, another aside here. On the other side when you hear someone
saying they are going to choose the lesser of two evils, remind them that the
lesser of two evils is still evil. That
was a bonus, had nothing to do with the message. Now back to our regularly scheduled Sunday
And so worshipping God, offering your body to
Him will require a sacrifice. Sometimes
it’s small. Maybe it means being in
church instead of sleeping in or mowing the lawn.
Maybe it means lifestyle choices. I will do this thing and will not do that
thing. Or perhaps there is a
relationship that drags you down and puts you in situations where you know as a
Christ follower you really shouldn’t be.
Jesus was talking about situations like that
when he told his disciples in Matthew 5:29-30 If your right eye causes
you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one
part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if
your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for
you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into
He was so serious about that statement that
he repeats it in Matthew 18:7-9 “Woe to the world
because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to
the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to
sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or
crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.
And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is
better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown
into the fire of hell.
didn’t poke anybody’s eye out or cut off anybody’s hand or feet. He was talking about removing yourself from
situations and relationship that would cause you to be disobedient to what he
is calling you to do.
are some of you here today who know exactly what I’m talking about.
Your sacrifice might be reflected in how you
use your volunteer hours. Every one of
us has to decide for ourselves where we will give our time. Because we only have so much time to give.
It is reflected in our giving, because I
understand that when you choose to give to God’s work you are choosing to not
use that money somewhere else.
But ultimately those decisions are life
changing decisions because when they come together they are saying “I will put
God first in my life. Before my family,
before my career, before my recreation, before habits.” And that’s not easy, and that’s probably why
Jesus said in Matthew
10:38 If you refuse to take up your cross
and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.
Because Jesus knew that what he was asking of
us wouldn’t be easy, he knew that it would cost something, he knew that it
would require a sacrifice. If it doesn’t
cost something, then it’s not a sacrifice.
It’s been forty-five years since Wilbur Reese
wrote these words, inflation has probably increased the price but the sentiment
is still the same.
Three Dollars Worth of God
would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
I don’t think that’s what God was asking for
when he asked us to be a living sacrifice.
What is it that you are giving up? How are you making yourself a living