WORSHIP: “Service” or “Experience”

I’ve noticed a shift in the terminology some churches are using to refer to their weekly, corporate, Lord’s Day gathering.  Whereas many churches have long referred to the corporate gathering as the “Worship Service” or “Sunday Service”, some are abandoning the term “service” for the term “experience”.

Note the following church’s invitation, posted on their website, under the heading “THE SUNDAY EXPERIENCE”:

“You are invited to experience one of our relevant gathering environments where people of all ages can learn what it means to follow Jesus.”

“Our highest priority is to build relevant gathering environments where you can safely investigate and develop a friendship with Jesus.  It is our desire to remain relevant to the culture in which we live.  When you arrive at [Church Name] you will find a progressive environment filled with people like you.  The environment is casual, the friendships are real, and the truth is relevant.”

Jonathan Leeman, in his book, Reverberation: How God’s Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People, offers some excellent insight in this regard.  Noting several strategies churches employ in place of an utter reliance upon the Spirit of God working through the Word of God to create life and growth, he writes:

“One last strategy that risks undermining the gospel is the strategy of appealing to non-Christians by drawing them into the experience of worship.  The goal here is to let outsiders feel what worshiping God is like.  The problem, however, is that worship is not a feeling or an experience.  You cannot create true worship in people’s hearts by placing them in the right surroundings.  You might as well take them to the temple, have them sacrifice a lamb, and see if that doesn’t provoke contrition in their hearts.  A good percentage of the Old Testament is devoted to demonstrating that placing people in the right environment—in the land, under a king, with the law in hand—does not produce worshipers.

Worship, very simply, is born of repentance.  It’s the result of a Word- and Spirit-induced change of nature.  The unrepentant, by definition, neither worship nor experience worship.  The irony of so many hip and progressive churches is that they are relying on an old covenant mentality.”[1] (emphasis mine)

I’ll likely be pressing into this issue a bit deeper in the days ahead…  In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the shift from SERVICE to EXPERIENCE?

[1] Jonathan Leeman, Reverberation: How God’s Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011), 79-80.


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