Tag Archives: worship

The Church Consumer

I recently had a spat with my pharmacy. When they could not fill my prescription, I went somewhere else. When I upgrade my cell phone, I go to the store dressed for battle. I want to come away with the best possible deal. The church consumer is also looking for a deal. He needs to make sure he’s looking for the right thing.

The church consumer will, likewise, shop for what they perceive to be the best possible deal in churches. They may look for entertainment, friendship, or self-validation. People don’t want to change. They reject repentance. They are not looking for sanctification. Their desire for holiness is missing. Such shallow church consumerism is a colossal waste of time.

The church consumer should immediately jettison his foolish ideas about shopping for a church as he might shop for a new car. There is only one quality that a person should look for in a church. Seek and search for a church committed to the absolute truth of God’s word.

The Truth

Solomon said, “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding” (Proverbs 22:23). In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke two brief parables about the value of finding the most important things. He told of a man who came across treasure and immediately went and bought the field. A second man found a pearl of exquisite beauty and great price. He sold everything he had to buy it (Matthew 13:44, 45).

The only things a church consumer should look for are the things that last an eternity. Entertainment brings joy for a few minutes. Self-validation brings about no change in the life of a sinner. These pursuits are not worthy of your time. Search for that which has true value.

Church leaders and preachers are responsible for doing their best to communicate God’s word to the listeners. The preacher should sharpen his skills of delivery and interpretation to deliver the pure truth in a way that his hearers can understand. Remember, the sermon is not a TED talk or standup comedy. The preacher does not take the stage to entertain but to encourage, evangelize, and inform.

Come for Worship, Not for Entertainment

The last time I attended a musical performance, the people on the stage did not invite me to sing with them. I am the object of the choreography and singing. I am entertained. Not so in the worship of the church. We do not come to worship for entertainment. We come to praise the God of creation and express our thanksgiving to him for all his blessings.

Let our worship be God-focused, not the other way around.

Let’s purge the idea of being a church consumer from our minds. Seek truth.

Respecting the Assembly

(Authors note: I am not opposed to using a digital Bible. Use whatever works for you. But the temptations to cease worshiping and browse social media is real. If you cannot avoid FB for a few minutes then leave the phone in the car. Your time with your Lord and your brethren is too precious! – jbe)

God’s people have been gathering together since Sinai. During the period of the Levitical priesthood, the people would assemble at the Tabernacle and later at the Temple to offer sacrifices and to celebrate holy days. After Judaism ended and Jesus established his church, people continued to come together to worship. Acts 2:46 tells us they were together day by day fellowshipping and engaging in various aspects of worship.

The practice of the earliest Christians, acting under apostolic approval, was to come together on Sunday to break bread (Communion), receive teaching. and to contribute to the works of the church (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). The assembly was important. There were no “Lone Ranger” Christians apart from those who assembled. Brethren worshiped God together and encouraged one another through their fellowship and singing, something that cannot be done if you are not part of the assembly. Coming together like this implies respect for both God, as the object of worship, and the brethren, as co-worshippers of the Lord.

A worshipper would never consider doing anything that would distract from his own devotion to God through worship, nor would he distract others from their worshipping.

I fear we have forgotten that simple lesson.

  • From his perch behind the pulpit, the preacher sees a lot. When he preaches from the floor he often can see the screens of smartphones and immediately knows that some are not paying attention to a word he says.
  • From where he stands he can see the adults making goo-goo eyes at babies, playing with non-infant children and actually laughing at one another.
  • From his perspective, he can see into the darkened training rooms where people of all ages sit to chit chat during worship.
  • From his point of view, he sees the people who leave early even though worship is not completed.

The speaker further knows that it is not about him; he takes no personal offense at such antics but is saddened by those who think little of worship. There is always a better speaker somewhere else. Sadly, the same things occur in his audience too.

Let me suggest the following to help you worship better and to eliminate the distractions to others.

  1. Leave the phone in the car. – I love technology but the distractions of a phone that can access Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, email, and texting is just too much for me to handle. Use a paper Bible as it is easier to take notes and underline.

  2. Sit closer to the front. This puts many of the distractions behind you and allows you to focus on worship.

  3. Teach children; do not play with children in worship.

  4. Go to the bathroom before Wait until the end to go again if possible.

  5. Do not leave early. Make a statement to the people you are meeting that worship is more important to you than they are!

It boils down to one question: Is there anything more important that worship? I didn’t think so.


Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @J_Bryant_Evans.


What Are You Singing?

Sixteenth_note_runThere is nothing sweeter than the pure sounds of Christian voices blending together in worship. God’s wisdom is seen in the inclusion of singing in worship. God created the physics behind sound waves and the lovely harmonies they produce. He created the human ear and its intricacies that absorb those sound waves and transmit them to the brain where they are decoded into the joyous sounds we enjoy.  The lyrics of the song convey meaning while the harmonies touch the heart.

We are blessed by generations of composers and lyricists who have produced marvelous tunes to enable and enhance our worship. Today, a new generation of musicians are producing the songs that will become standards for worship in the future.

Why Do We Sing?

We sing in Christian worship because God has so authorized it. He desires the fruit of lips in our worship before him (Hebrews 13:15). While the Law of Moses authorized mechanical instruments in the Temple worship (never in the Synagogue), it is never mentioned in the worship of Christ’s church today. Thus, Christians desiring to give God only what he wants and authorizes do not presume to include lifeless instruments. The voice alone is the one living instrument we know that he desires. [bctt tweet=”The voice alone is the one living instrument we know that he desires.”]

God is praised through our singing but there is also a human benefit.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart… (Ephesians 5:19)

Notice that we are to teach, admonish and address one another through our singing. At the same time we show our thankfulness to God. It is impossible to teach and admonish, and put differently, to be taught and be admonished, without a knowledge, understanding and contemplation of the words of the songs we sing. Mindless singing is not worship just as mindless repetition is prayer is vain (Matthew 6:7).

Engaging with Song

Is it possible that we are so accustomed to the worship songs that we sing them without considering the words? Perhaps we become so focused on the notes in the book or on the screen that we no longer give thought to the teaching and admonishment that comes through singing. Have you become so focused on getting your part right that you miss the words?

Some of our worship songs are so complex that we miss the meaning while aiming for the right pitch and right melody.

That’s concerning.

Perhaps we would all be better served to listen carefully the words we singing. Let our hearts reach for heaven as our mind engages along with our spirits to commune with one another and with God. Know and understand every word you sing. Some of the older songs use language and words that are unfamiliar. Stop and learn what an “ebon pinion” is or figure out what to do with an ebenezer. You worship will be more meaningful to you and you will be lifted up in a way you never thought possible.

Beautiful harmonies are important, but the words as much or more so. [bctt tweet=”Beautiful harmonies are important, but the words as much or more so.”]


Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.

Women Turned Away from Church Because of Immodest Dress

A church in Kenya is asking some worshipers to dress more modestly. A woman was asked to go home and change because of her clothing. The reported comments suggest the issue of immodest dress is common in that particular church. The woman at the focus of the uproar is identified only as “Julia” and lives in Nairobi.

“Julia, who wrote on her Facebook page, expressed displeasure at the manner in which she was turned away. She claimed some other ladies wear mini skirts and spaghetti tops in big churches in the city.”

How to dress in worship is always an issue. But normally the question I hear is more about whether we should require a man to wear a coat and tie if he is leading in the public worship. Scantily clad women in worship have not yet made it onto the local radar screen. But until they do here are a few thoughts. There could be more but these come to mind this morning.

  1. Modesty is more than necklines and hemlines. Immodest attire is that which draws attention to the person. A man wearing a tuxedo to worship would surely be immodest as would a young man wearing a Budweiser T-shirt on the Lord’s table or a woman with a plunging neckline.
  2. Modesty is a judgment issue. The Bible does warn against immodesty (1 Timothy 2:9) but really gives no particular rules. Thus, culture will sometimes define modesty. If I wore a Sunday suit, complete with dress shirt, coat, pants, tie and shiny shoes to worship in Lethem I would draw attention to myself. Sometimes where we are may define modesty. Common Sunday best for women would be horrendously immodest in some locales.
  3. The outside may not define the inside. While our clothing may flow from our inner values it is also possible that it does not. Matthew 7:15 is clear that what we see on the outside may not define the inside (Mark 12:38-40). God views the inner man and so should we (1 Samuel 16:7).
  4. It does matter what you wear. Plunging, cleavage bearing necklines, short, thigh and  hip revealing hemlines and tight, buttocks accentuating sizes do incite lust. Let’s not play a game here. You know it. Should a true Christian be willing to alter their clothing standards if it helps someone else to avoid lust. Lust is bad (Matthew 5:28) but lust that actually distracts from worship must be even worse.
  5. Worship is not your mother’s funeral. A good brother once suggested that worship attire should be defined by what we would wear to our mother’s funeral. That sounded nice and was an easy line to blurt out in a discussion but it was also devoid of reason. First, contrary to some congregations, worship is not a funeral. It’s a joyous time when we come before the throne of Jehovah with praise and thanksgiving. We celebrate the victory in Christ and the resulting freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1). Any sadness is taken away by the blessings in Christ. If a man chooses to leave is tie at home then who cares?

If we will think of others as we dress, modesty in worship will not be an issue. I promise, I will not make fun of your mid-belly tie if you won’t complain that I didn’t wear a tie at all.

When souls are dying lost, shall we really be concerned about such things as what a man wears at the Lord’s table?

Before you start the mailing campaign, I know that some dress is so egregious that it cannot be allowed in worship. My point here is to remind us to use better judgement and think righteously before making issue bigger than it should be.

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.

Words and Music

450px-Le_duoI love music. I especially love the music of the church, those voices blending in harmony bring me to ecstasy. But it’s the words of the songs that are so important. Singing in worship is not an accidentally thought inserted by men. It is appointed by God and has a divine purpose.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.“ (Ephesians 5:19).

Notice the two-fold purpose of singing. One, we sing to God to praise and worship him. Second, we speak or address one another in order to teach and encourage. Singing reaches the heart of man in a way different from any other means of communication. Since we are communicating with one another and with God, the words of the songs become so important.

Through the centuries music in general, and singing specifically, have become more and more complex. Multi-part harmonies are the rule now in almost every church. Melodies, counter melodies, middle voices, etc. are critical to the beautiful end product we hear and enjoy.

But let us be cautious that the words of praise are not lost in the mechanics of music. To miss the words is to miss the purpose of speaking to one another and encouraging one another. Have you ever gotten to the end of song and realized you don’t recall the words just sung? I have. I think that’s a mistake. We mustn’t emphasize one part of singing over another. Balance is crucial.

The musical mechanics are important because they allow us all to speak at the same time without chaos. The mechanics organize us into a coherent body of believers all speaking together.

Let us never be so enthralled with the harmonies that we miss the message. We can do both!


Book Review: Old Light on New Worship

Old LightSometimes a book comes along that ought to be read by every Christian. Old Light on New Worship is such a volume. Author John Price, a Reformed Baptist minister penned Old Light in 2005. It generated controversy in some quarters but was welcomed in others as very serious study of the role of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the church. I am among the later group and I passionately commend this book to your study.

In 2010 we published Church of Christ Music: What’s the Big Deal About a Piano Anyway? It stated our firm belief that the only instrument permitted in Christian worship is the human voice. Anything else is a human addition and novelty. Price reinforces our judgment and confirms the thesis of our article.

Price began the studies that led to this book because of a recurring question. Why, Price wondered, did some churches in his faith demand only the piano while others used a growing number of mechanical instruments? I do not think Price expected to end up in opposition to the instrument.

His conclusion is simple. Speaking of mechanical instruments Price says,

“To bring them into the church is to transgress the authority of Christ in His worship” (pg. 228).

How does Price reach such a conclusion that is so far afield of what is typically practiced among those in his Reformed Baptist denomination? He approaches the subject in 4 ways. First, Price examines acceptable Biblical worship in the Old Testament. Among the more interesting observation is that the musical instruments utilized in Old Testament worship were uniquely and specifically authorized by God; they were never adopted by the likes and dislikes of the worshipers. Speaking of the restoration of Temple worship Price writes:

“The people of God continued to look back hundreds of years to what God had commanded through David in the Scripture, and they brought only those musical instruments into worship. They understood that God regulated his worship even in regard to the specific musical instruments…They never assumed they had authority to bring any other instruments into God’s worship without clear divine command” (pg. 29)

Price is clear that while the instrument was used in Temple worship, it was tightly regulated by God.

Next, Price examines the New Testament and seeks some justification for the use of instruments in the public worship. He cannot find such authority. After searching the New Testament Price arrives at a three part conclusion:

“When we come to the New Testament, the following three truths become clear: 1) The Old Testament Temple worship in all of its outward ceremonies and rituals has been abolished; 2) We must look to Christ and His apostles alone for the worship of the church; and 3) With no command, or example, or any indication whatsoever from the Lord Jesus that he desires musical instruments to be used in His church, we have no authority for their use” (pg. 54).

Price’s third line of study moves outside inspired Scripture and examines the thinking and attitudes of the so-called Church Fathers. He continues beyond them to include a literal multitude of Biblical scholars from the 2nd century, through the middle ages and into period of the Reformation. For example, there is this quote from  the 15th century Erasmus:

“We have introduced into churches a type of laborious and theatrical music, a confused chattering of diverse voices such as I do not think was ever heard in the theatres of the Greeks or Romans. They perform everything with slide-trumpets, trombones, cornetts, and little flutes, and with these the voices of men contend. Men run to church as to a theatre , to have their ears tickled” (pg. 86).

John Calvin, well-known Reformer of the 16th century wrote:

“We are not,indeed, forbidden to use, in private, musical instruments, but they are banished out of the churches by the plain command of the Holy Spirit” (pg. 94)

In the 1880’s, noted preacher and scholar Charles Spurgeon said of the instrument:

“What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettinesses of a quartette, the refined niceties of a choir or the blowing off of wind from inanimate bellows and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it” ( pg. 133).

Price observes that leaders of almost every protestant faith group has opposed the addition of instrumental  music in the worship of the church.

In the present day, the churches of Christ stand almost alone in demanding a pure worship with simple singing that comports with New Testament teaching. But Price, a Reformed Baptist, never alludes to the churches of Christ nor quotes any of its scholars or authors. His work depends heavily on research from Presbyterian John L. Girardeau in  Instrument Music in the Public Worship and he often quotes religious leaders from throughout the protestant realm. In other words, this is not a “Church of Christ book” promoting some aspect of doctrine, but instead a man outside of any group that opposes the instrument. He reaches his decisions based upon a thorough study of the Bible.

Old Light on New Worship is hardbound with 256 pages of well documented and footnoted material. He includes an extensive Bibliography and index as well. I suspect I would differ with Price on some issues but on the matter of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the church, I fully agree. I encourage you to buy this book for yourself and also buy a copy for your preacher. It is an excellent piece of scholarship.

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter  @jbevans.

The “Attractional” Church

Churches are searching for young adults. Survey’s have repeatedly shown that people in their 20’s are abandoning churches in growing numbers. Some return when they marry, have children and begin to look for additional stability but some never come back.

To plug the slow drain some churches have turned to big bands and big social programs but that hasn’t worked well and certainly has not solved the problem.

But the wow factor—expensive bands, charismatic preachers, elaborate social events—doesn’t come cheap. What’s more, many religious leaders worry that offering that kind of experience only encourages young people to think about “the attractional church,” the kind of place you go for entertainment but not for any long-term commitment.

So writes Naomi Schaefer Riley at the Wall Street Journal. Riley is examining  a new para-church movement which seeks to draw the young adults into services which promote a sense of unity among believers in Christ. One survey has 98% of respondents saying the CityOne movement  has brought them closer to a personal relationship with Christ. 42% say they have been helped to connect with local churches.

We want people to be attracted to Jesus. We want people to be drawn to the salvation that is in Christ alone (John 14:6). But it is essential that people be drawn to the true Christ which includes what he paid for with his blood, his church, and the entirety of his teaching (Acts 20:27-28). It is good to see people thinking more about Jesus. It is good to see people giving serious thought to their souls and their eternal home. The church must supply them properly with truth.

What is disappointing, however,  is that it takes a non church to do the work that should belong to the church itself.

Religious leaders ought be asking some very basic questions about our own decline. At the heart is a question about the heart. What do we believe and what do we teach? When any church moves away from the Bible as its single source of doctrine it always fails. When a church changes Biblical teaching in order to attract those outside, it fails. Evangelism is critical. Outreach is vital. Jesus said to go teach and baptize (Matthew 28:18-20). We teach and baptize while God adds them to the church (Acts 2:41, 47).

The church must be pure yet it seems the religious community has morphed into something that doesn’t look too  much like the original Christians. We have gone from worship services, a God centered service, to worship experiences which put the person at the center. We come to get something out of worship instead of putting something into worship.

It might be a good idea to examine what we are doing when the church assembles. There is only good in standing on the words of the Lord. Let us come back to the Bible alone as the source of our teaching. Let us refocus our worship toward God and not the creature (Romans 1:25).

Worship: Spectator or Participant?

Should our presence in worship be that of a spectator or a participant? It’s a good question and one that is discussed at the Sharefaith blog. I am uncertain as to the religious background of the author but he makes some fine points. He is right on target in suggesting problems with worship in both the liberal and the more conservative faiths.

I commend this article for your consideration and prayerful meditation.

5 Church Lessons from the Gym

I’m in the gym again. It’s another shot at better health and an improved quality of life. It’s also about being a good steward of my health which is one of the greatest gifts God has given me. But while there I have noticed a few lessons that help me understand the worship better. I hope these will help you too.

1.       The people in the gym need to be in  the gym; the same goes for the worship. I’m one of those people who desperately needs to be in the gym everyday of possible. My health is such that I really can’t afford a day away. There are many people just like me. We are weak, struggling and just trying to keep our head above water. People in the church are the same. They grow when they are in worship. Their spiritual lives improve because of the presence in worship. It’s like working out. When you miss one workout session you lose ground. In the same way, missing worship causes you to take a step backwards in your walk with Jesus.

2. Everyone in the gym is different; people in the church are different too and that’s ok. This was a hard lesson for me. I was melting into a pool of sweat on the treadmill while two guys in their 70’s were on the elliptical machine (a demonic device) going fast and carrying on a conversation. A young woman without an ounce of fat on her body was doing rapid sit-ups with her feet up in the air! Of course, I suspect they were once exactly where I am now. In the church, we are all at different stages. Some are scholars and wise sages while others are new and green. Differences are to be expected and speak loudly to the growth of the local congregation.

3. Monster muscles prove that persistence pays big dividends; persistence builds a bigger faith too. There are a couple of guys in the gym that have such large chest muscles I’m not sure they could clap their hands together. Others have massive biceps – guns they call them – that struggle to fit inside a shirt sleeve. But these people didn’t get to where they are by laying out. They came to the gym day after day and worked to build their muscles. Church folk need persistence as much as anyone. Have you ever seen a devout faithful Christian handle a personal catastrophe with grace? Have you ever noticed that the storms of life do not blow the wizened sages off course? It’s because they have worked to build their faith. They have strengthened their core to withstand trouble. How? They never quit and they never gave up. They worshipped when they didn’t feel like worshipping. They rejoiced when there was no joy inside. The fellowshipped even when they were saddened or embarrassed.  They didn’t quit!

4. People are in the gym because they wanted to be in the gym; church folk are in worship services because they want to be there. For me, the hardest piece of equipment in the gym is actually not in the gym at all. It’s the sidewalk outside that leads from the parking lot to the front door of the gym. That’s right. It’s the two dozen or so steps from the car to the door that must be conquered every day. But I have noticed that once I get through the door I am suddenly glad to be there. No one forced me to go but I am sure glad I went. People who are strong in their faith know that community worship, fellowship, communion and Bible study are all essential to their lives. Sure, there are times you don’t want to go. But we go because we want to grow.

5. Some people are in the gym just for show; some people come to worship just for show. I just don’t understand the young woman who comes to the gym to workout and sweat with perfectly applied makeup and tight fitting tights. Likewise, the middle aged man who keeps fixing his comb-over after every routine. These people are there to be seen (ok, I am judging motives but don’t you agree?). I am afraid there are some in the church who show up to be seen and praised. We all need encouragement but some people do seem to come and make great demands on the church while growing and giving precious little back to the body of Christ.

Now here’s the point: It doesn’t matter! You see, I still need to be present. I still need to grow. I still need to develop. Their actions only affect me if I let them.

You will never fully grow and develop as a Christian if you stay away from worship. Every single service you miss hurts. The reasons or excuses are irrelevant. You miss – you lose. So blame it on the weather, blame on the preacher, blame it on whatever. But just like exercise unless you do it you will not grow.