The Difference Between Worshiping God and Worshiping Worship

Zac HicksWorship Theology & Thought2 Comments

(a reworked post from 2011)

“Idolatry happens when we take good things and make them ultimate things.”  ~Tim Keller 

The following comparisons are meant to be provocative and evocative. Even if stark statements like these generalize and absolutize a bit too much, one thing I have learned from reading the reformers is that the discipline of “dialectic,” as they called it (roughly, the practice of pitting ideas and statements against each other for the sake of disputation and dialogue), yields a lot of helpful clarifications. So, I encourage you to take these in that light.

These observations have overflowed from the boiling pot of my own wayward heart and ministry. Read one way, these are my personal confessions on public display. At one time or another, I have been guilty of crossing the line into all of these.  Truth be told, for followers of Jesus, “worshiping God” versus “worshiping worship” is less an issue of either/or and more an issue of both/and–part of our lifelong journey of being simul justus et peccator.  Christians who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them and yet still fight the sin in our members know that even our best praise is mixed with some idolatry.  As Coral Ridge’s weekly doxology sings, “My best good works are powerless to satisfy Your righteousness.” May the Spirit continue to root out our idolatry and beat back the flesh.  Lord, have mercy.

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Worshipers of God care less about their personal preferences in worship.
Worshipers of worship care intensely about their personal preferences in worship.

Worshipers of God are more easily blessed in worship.
Worshipers of worship are more easily bothered in worship.

Worshipers of God approach worship as receivers and vessels.
Worshipers of worship approach worship as appraisers and evaluators.

Worshipers of God tend to approach their pastors and worship leaders more often with words of encouragement and thankfulness.
Worshipers of worship tend to approach their pastors and worship leaders more often with words of criticism and admonishment.

Worshipers of God more instinctively flex when elements are out of their comfort zone.
Worshipers of worship more instinctively bristle when elements are out of their comfort zone.

Worshipers of God are inspired by beautiful art to love God more.
Worshipers of worship are inspired by beautiful art to love beautiful art more.

Worshipers of God easily overlook and forget glitches and “errors” that happen in worship.
Worshipers of worship fixate on and can’t get past glitches and “errors” that happen in worship.

Worshipers of God tend to leave a “good” worship service loving God more.
Worshipers of worship tend to leave a “good” worship service loving worship services more.

Worshipers of God tend to leave a “bad” worship service loving God more.
Worshipers of worship tend to leave a “bad” worship service bothered.

Worshipers of God tend to leave worship with a renewed sense of awe and thanksgiving.
Worshipers of worship tend to leave worship ready to dialogue about what worked and what didn’t.

2 Comments on “The Difference Between Worshiping God and Worshiping Worship”

  1. Hum I tend to disagree with some of his thoughts. In reference tho his first comment, some songs just dont take you there. It's no different then people being attracted to a different type of church or choosing pizza over Chinese. God created all of us differently. I do feel it is important to keep your focus on God and be aware of the people you are leading. Just my opinion

  2. I think I understand what the author is saying. I've attended services that were geared towards followers far younger than myself, and the music may or may not be a style I consider worshipful. Sometimes the reverse has been found to be true, and the worship seems to be rooted primarily in tradition and conservatism. It's then that I pray asking the Lord to help draw me into His presence for His names sake–and He's always been faithful to that prayer. Worship is ultimately all about God and not about ourselves.

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