— THE REV. LOU TISCIONE
I believe God is issuing a wake-up call to the church. No, I’m not a prophet. I haven’t received a special word from the Lord.
God’s wake-up call was issued through His prophets in the Old Testament. His wake up call to the church is very clear and simple. He has called His people to know Him! The church, commanded to be holy, has a primary responsibility. She is to teach God’s people His revealed character. God declared what He required. He told His people to do what is right, to love kindness and to walk humbly before Him. (Micah 6:8)
Each action: doing what is right, loving kindness and walking in humility requires knowing God as He has revealed Himself in His word.
The church will make little difference in the world if she turns to pleasing men rather than God. If the church ignores her responsibility to teach the revealed character of God, then her members will not reflect His holiness.
Corporate worship is one of the primary means by which the truth of God is declared and learned by God’s people. It is also the first place in which the church can be seen to either submit to God or pander to man. Some churches have chosen to design worship services to “attract people to God.” As well intended as the motivation is, the result is that people may be attracted but not to the one true God. Jesus said that the Father is the seeker of worshipers. (John 4:23) God has also revealed the content of worship, referred to as the biblical elements of worship.
The biblical elements of worship are: reading Scripture, singing psalms and hymns, offering prayer, preaching the word, giving tithes and offerings, confessing the faith and observing the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These elements are ordained by God for His glory and our enjoyment.
Conversely, man’s desire to serve himself is as old as the Garden. There is a narrative that records a truly “seeker sensitive” worship service emphasizing man’s desire to please himself.
Aaron, Moses’ brother, designed a “seeker sensitive” worship service to satisfy the people rather than honor God. Exodus, Chapter 32 is the record of this worship service and verse 6 is especially telling. “And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” The people celebrated the satisfaction of their needs, when in fact they had become idolaters.
The Apostle Paul quoted Exodus 32:6 in his warning to the church about the certain judgment of God against this kind of self-serving idolatry. (1Corinthians 10:6)
Psalm 50 is another example of God’s view of self-serving, empty worship. God indicted His people, calling them “my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice,” Psalm 50:5. He then proceeded to tell His people to keep their useless rituals. He reminded them that He didn’t need any bulls to be sacrificed. He owned everything. He further declared that His requirement was “a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 50:14)
The church of the Old Testament demanded that Aaron make gods for them. God judged them. The people of Psalm 50 received God’s rebuke and He judged them for their false worship. Yet in the light of God’s warning, many churches persist in structuring worship, ministry and teaching around what people feel they need.
May all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus answer His wake-up call to know God and thereby live as a reflection of His revealed character. Seek a church that is faithful to God’s will by declaring the truth of His holy character so that by His power you will be enabled to live for His glory.
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).