One thing that is strikingly absent in the worship services of Baptist churches is an atmosphere of reverence. For too many churches, the service is all about having “a good time in Jesus,” whatever that means. The pre-service music has the building rocking like a sporting event, and the congregational music tends to be man-centered in its appeal, whether the service is deemed “traditional” or a more happy-clappy “contemporary.”
When it’s time for the sermon, the pastor can be confused for a religious comedian, interlacing his message with jokes to keep the congregation attentive and in a good mood. Indeed, the entire service is “happy hour,” until, at least, the “altar call” is given, during which the congregants are encouraged to get right with God so all’s happy again.
Frankly, I find little appealing in such services. They may be carried out with the best of intentions, and I don’t seek to be mean-spirited or demean anyone’s motives. I am, however, grieved over what too often takes place in our Baptist churches. We’ve lost the sense of worship; we’ve lost the sense of reverence; we’ve lost the sense of God.
I’m not saying that a song should never use a first-person pronoun, though I suggest “we” is more appropriate for congregational singing that “I.” Neither am I saying that humor is forbidden in a sermon. With all due respect to John Piper’s wonderful book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, I am saying, “Brothers, we are not comedians.”
When we come to worship, we as a congregation of professing followers of Jesus Christ are standing before God. We should do so with fear and trembling because he is the thrice-holy God. We should do so with great joy because our loving Savior took upon himself the wrath of God on Calvary’s cross so that we would be accepted by God as forgiven and counted righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). We should do so with a deep sense of reverence.