Is Worship for Entertaining Men? – Ron Cosby

Ron Cosby

God authorizes what He wants in worship through His Word. When an individual asserts or practices a particular religious belief, disciples ought to inquire, “Is it from heaven or men?” Our title shows we are dealing with the purpose of worship. So, we ask, “Is the purpose of worship to entertain the masses?” What Bible verse or context would give readers even a hint that God has designed worship for man’s entertainment?

Since the Bible is totally silent concerning worship as amusement, then God has not authorized such fun and games. It was quipped fifty years ago in speaking of American Christians, “We worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.” An Internet writer gave this astute observation: “Worship is not entertainment any more than religion is a hobby.” The denominational world has built thousands of mega-churches with mega audiences expected to fill their coffers. How do you get 17,000 people to gather in one place for worship? By their actions, mega-churches have answered and they have said that “You entertainment them.” However, even many in the denominational world see the fallacy of giving the people a show. The nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.” Another added,

It may not be new, but it is increasingly popular, especially in light of our entertainment-driven culture. We see this in secular songs played by worship bands to wow the crowd. It’s hard to miss the value of amusement in the comedy-full but theology-empty preaching of many pulpits. Many of us have felt it in elaborate performances for the congregation to observe, but not to participate in. For some, Sunday morning more closely resembles a variety show than an offering made to God. The danger in bringing entertainment into gathered worship lies in the aim of entertainment and its work against the aim of worship.

Playing at Worship Has Brought God’s Displeasure on the Practitioners.

When the children of Israel left Egypt, one of the first expressions of displeasure from God was because they, as Paul said, “rose up to play” (1 Cor. 10:7). Aaron lead this worship. When men play at their worship, history teaches that they leave God.

Later, Aaron’s two sons engaged in another frivolous display of worship when they offered to God that which “he had not commanded them” (Lev. 10:1-3). In their self-destructive worship to God, the Lord emphasized, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.” This is a clear declaration of God’s mindset. It ought to stand out in our thinking every moment we are active in praise to God. Shortly after the death of his sons, God told Aaron that those lifting up His name were to “make a distinction between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean (Lev. 10:10).

Over seven centuries later, in their supposed “solemn assembly,” the children of Israel were displeasing to God when hey served “their appetites” (Hos. 9:4-5).

Paul’s thoughts to the Colossian brethren ought to be a warning to all who seek God’s satisfaction (Col. 2:20-23). Paul speaks of self-chosen activities which served their own flesh; that is, their own choice and their own appetite and their own purpose. Worship is to strengthen the spirit so it can overcome the passions of the body. An hour of entertainment and amusement feeds the flesh and weakens the soul, which is the opposite of that which the Colossians accomplished with their “will-worship.”

Beneficial to the Worshiper

Worship becomes beneficial to man when God’s main purpose for it is met; that is, Worship is to exalt God. Though the main reason for worship is for God’s delight, it is also clearly designed for the worshiper. What has God designed for man in worship? Entertainment or Edification? The main design of worship in relationship to man is so that he can achieve a greater knowledge, a greater understanding and a greater appreciation of God.

Put aside the playing and, as the Psalmist said, “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

Put aside the playing and seek to “Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy. Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy” (Psalm 99:5, 9).

Put aside the playing and let hearts be filled with praise toward Him (Heb. 13:15). “Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name.”

Put aside the frivolity and be filled with thanksgiving.

And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:18-20, Emph RC).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God (Col. 3:16, Emph, RC).

Singing has become a time to receive applause. Music is possibly the number one mode of entertainment in the religious world. Yet, such fun-filled delight on behalf of the flesh does not fulfill God’s ascribed purpose for singing. Be not guilty of replacing the melody of the heart with the mechanism of the instrument.

Men have made it a habit of forgetting God (Psalm 78:4-7). History shows he needs a constant reminder. God’s book of devotion and worship reminds the children of Israel to “[Tell] to the generation to come the praises of Jehovah” (vs 4). He gives the purpose of telling, “That the generation to come might know” (vs 6); and by knowing, “that they might set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God” (vs 7).

Men have made it a habit of forgetting God’s justice and righteousness. We needs David’s reminder in the Psalm 73. David saw how the wicked prospered, and it sickened him to know they could get away with such unrighteousness. However, entering into worship cleared his head. Through the knowledge of the overall goals and purposes of God, he had gained a proper perspective of living. Here is a quick narration of David’s observations which reminds us of the value of worship:

1. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; My steps had well nigh slipped.

2. For I was envious at the arrogant, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

3. They are not in trouble as other men; Neither are they plagued like other men.

4. For all the day long have I been plagued, And chastened every morning.

5. Until I went into the sanctuary of God, And considered their latter end.

6. But it is good for me to draw near unto God: I have made the Lord Jehovah my refuge, That I may tell of all thy works.

Men have made it a habit of forgetting God’s compassion and mercy. The Lord’s Supper upon the first day of the week is a wise prescription for recalling His great sacrifice (1 Cor. 11:26-29). Call to mind the lesson that Paul expressed to the Corinthians. The Lord’s Supper is not a feast for those who are physically hungry but for those who hunger and thirst after spiritual discernment (1 Cor. 11:20-22, 29). The Lord’s Supper is not for the belly but for the soul.

In singing, we admonish and teach one another. In prayer, worshipers are reminded that we are dependent upon One Greater than ourselves. In giving, we give to the One who hath blessed us. In Bible preaching, we learn more and more of His good works and His love toward us. In the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded of His compassion-filled death for our sins. We need these recollections, lest we forget.

Peter reminds brethren of their primary aim. “But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9, Emph, RC).

Examples of Acceptable Worship

Our first example is Abel. God is respectful toward our gift when we are respectful of His divine guidance (Heb. 11:4). “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh.”

Our second example is Noah. God commanded Noah to gather clean animals to be placed in the ark. Why? They were to be used in sacrificial service (Gen. 8:20-22). What did Noah use from the ark that was placed there by God’s instructions for the purpose of amusement in worship? Nothing. The land supplied the wood and the stones for the altar; and the animals he offered came from the ark. Simple. Easy. Satisfying to God.

Our third example is Abraham. Abraham offered his son on God’s altar. As Isaac’s father, was he entertained when he drew the knife to strike the boy dead? Not at all! His knowledge and trust in Jehovah strengthened him in his moment of faith. According to what has been revealed, the beast of burden that carried the wood for their spiritual activity did not carry any item for the purpose of amusing either Abraham or Isaac.

Our fourth example is Joshua. Joshua’s heart was focused on showing reverence as he prostrated himself on the ground before the Lord (Josh. 5:13-15). He did not take off his shoes to dance and jive. God was there; it was holy ground. His shoes came off; his reverence bowed down.

Our fifth example is Hannah. Hannah’s bowed head in prayer found favor in the heart of God (1 Sam. 1:9-18). Simple but effective. Sincere but powerful. Solemn but heart lifting. She was not seeking to entertain anyone, not even herself. However, she did please the Father. Why do men clamor for more this? Because they are thinking more of self than God.

Do Christians rejoice in worship? Yes. Rejoicing and entertainment are not the same thing. Do Christians enjoy worship? Yes. Enjoyment and entertainment are not the same thing. Do Christians delight in worship? Yes. Being delighted and being entertained are not the same thing.

In worship, practitioners have amused and entertained themselves. However, they are not better for it. They have lost the capability to enjoy delighting God.

Pray that God does not say of our worship that which He said of Israel: “I have no pleasure in you, saith Jehovah of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand (Mal. 1:10).

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Author: Editor

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