Are You Willing to Shut It Down?
We have all sat in worship services that felt completely empty, tedious, and boring. We may have even led a few services like that ourselves.
Everything is the same, with a few plug-and-play elements switched out each week.
The band or the choir are good enough, but it seems like they have settled for good enough.
The preacher has some nice things to say, but you seriously doubt that sermon preparation was a priority that week.
And more than anything, it just feels empty. Even without expecting a polished and professional “worship experience,” there isn’t an experience at all, much less one focused on bringing God glory. They’re (or we’re) all here because we have to be or because it’s what we do.
When you sit through a worship service like this, perhaps you think, “Somebody should just shut this down.” If so, you’re not alone.
In the late 500s/early 400s B.C.E., some exiles had returned to Jerusalem, and they had resumed worship in the temple, but it was a shadow of what it had once been. Through Malachi, God charges the priests with groaning about worship and calling it tedious (1:13). It was far from their top priority.
They offered sacrifices, but the quality betrayed their apathy (1:8). They were expected to “guard knowledge” and be a source for instruction, but they were leading people astray (2:7-8). At best, they were going through the motions. At worst, they were knowingly compromising the integrity of worship.
And God’s response in Malachi 1:10 is:
“Oh, that someone among you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not kindle fire on my altar in vain!”
It is important to reiterate that God isn’t speaking to ministry leaders who are authentically putting forth effort. God isn’t making judgments based on worship style, congregation size, ministry budget, or even skill level of the leaders. God is looking for heart and spirit, and they aren’t there.
Over the next couple of Sundays, pay attention to how worship is going. Are people engaged, or has the ritual become a routine? Are people participating, or has the service become a show? Do people utilize their heads and their hearts, or do they have to check one or the other at the door? Does the sermon proclaim the Gospel and call people into a deeper relationship with God, or is it a humorous pep talk that makes people feel better?
The example of and call to gathered worship is found all throughout the Scripture. So, how big of a deal must empty worship be if God wants someone to just shut it down?