by Tad Lindley
I saw the Grateful Dead at Pine Knob in Detroit Michigan in 1988. We had floor seats, and I stood on my chair and danced through both sets, as did the thousands of other souls packed into that arena. Historical footage of Beatles concerts show teenagers screaming with tears streaming down their faces as George, Ringo, John, and Paul began to strike up a tune. If professional sports are still the way they were when I quit watching, then it is not uncommon for people to go way beyond their comfort zone and celebrate when a three pointer clinches the victory as the buzzer sounds. In fact even in city league and high school sports one can see normally mild mannered folks jump from their seats and turn their voice box up to 90 decibels.
But on Sunday it’s a different story
Let’s shift the scene from Monday night football to Sunday morning church. The same folks, who were throwing empty aluminum cans at the TV when the referee made a bad call, are now checking their watch while Goliath strides out into the valley defying the armies of the God of Israel. The same folks who were jumping up and down in their living rooms and dancing a little jig when Brett Farve dropped a game clinching touchdown pass into the end zone, are now balancing their checkbook or catching up on sleep while David winds up in the name of the Lord of hosts and drops the giant flat onto the floor of the Valley of Elah.
The modern church
Just from looking at it, it would seem that people are a whole lot more interested in John Lennon than they are in John the Revelator. Why is it that most Americans would not hesitate to spontaneously celebrate an athletic triumph, but when it comes to victory in Jesus, many are content practicing to be a professional mannequin? It has gone on so long, that if we could transport King David out of II Samuel 6 and drop him right into a modern church service, as soon as he took off his tie and sport coat and started jumping up and down and dancing before God, he would be promptly ushered out for disrupting the order of the service. If we could bring the throngs of believers that were lined up along the road as Jesus entered Jerusalem, shouting and praising Him, and let them visit our churches today, would they stick out as oddballs, or would they fit right in?
Worship in the Bible
When Jesus was entering Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowds were laying down their garments and palm fronds on the roadway. Spontaneous shouts, “Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord,” were going forth from the lips of believers. The religious leaders of the day hated Jesus, and couldn’t stand this worship. They asked Jesus to make the people be quiet, “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
If we could transport you back into Luke 19, which one would you be? Would you be the one worshipping Jesus with all his heart, or the one asking Jesus to knock off the worship, because it’s too uncomfortable?
What about quiet worship?
In defense of truth, there are times when worship can be quiet. Habakkuk 2:20 But the Lord is in His Holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him. In fact in heaven there will be about 30 minutes of silence when we get to Revelation chapter 8. I don’t think during those times people will be balancing their checkbooks or watching the clock.
The Biblical norm is for worship to be outward and expressive, a sign to God that he is the object and desire of the worshipper. I count seventeen different Hebrew words that are translated as praise. Not a one of them means to sit quietly and reverently. They describe people doing things like this:
•Worshipping with extended hands as in Psalm 7:17, …I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness.
•Making a show and celebrating as in Psalm 35:18, I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.
•Glorying with a loud tone as in Psalm 117:1, O praise the Lord all ye nations: praise him all ye people.
In addition, the New Testament says, I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands without anger or disputing (I Timothy 2:8). When the lame man at the Beautiful Gate was healed in Acts 3, the Bible doesn’t say he went into the temple balancing his checkbook, checking his watch, and praising God, it says he went into the temple leaping and praising God. The Jewish people to this day can be seen swaying as they pray and worship at the Wailing Wall. In a recent Feast of Tabernacles celebration over 5,000 people were dancing and praising the Mighty God.
What do you worship?
If a person had no command of the languages you speak were to study you over the course of a month, and then they were to ask you in your language, what did you get most passionate about? What do you devote your energy to? What did you worship?
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.