Those who love the Lord want what is best for His family. They want it to be as effective as possible in carrying out its God-given work. They also want it to have the very best worship possible.
Examining ourselves is a biblical concept. Self- evaluation, when coupled with an honest and humble spirit, has great potential to help us grow by making adjustments. Sometimes tweaking things means we are attempting to go from good to better. At other times, making changes means we need to remove some faulty approach or mentality.
The Lord charges us to hold fast to what is good and abhor what is evil (Romans 12:9). He tells us to test the spirits that we hear (1 John 4:1). In order to do those things, we have to analyze matters and messages according to God’s standard of good/right. No child of God or local church has the right to run away from the duty to make decisions based on what God has revealed. At the same time, it is not wrong to point out when we or others are not acting or teaching in harmony with the Scriptures (Ephesians 5:11).
As you and I observe what takes places in the work, worship, and communication of the church, it is possible to become a chronic criticizer. Yes, there is such a thing as “constructive criticism,” where a person with the best interest of the people/activities involved offers their viewpoint about how matters can be improved. There also is such a thing as being a person who constantly criticizes everything and everyone with a spirit that is less than uplifting. If we are not careful, we can become negative, cannot- see-anything-good-in anyone, chronic criticizers.
How can we improve our worship experience? If you mean that things seem to be a bit chaotic or do not flow well, we certainly understand the concern to do all things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). If you mean that some song lyrics sound more like Calvinism than they do the Christ, you have a point, because it is just as wrong to teach falsely in a song (Colossians 3:16) as it is to teach falsely in a sermon.
It seems to me, however, when the idea of “improving” our worship is considered, more often than not it involves subjective matters. At times, I and others struggle with the temptation to be a constant criticizer of others, especially those who lead in worship. Does that touch a chord with anyone else?
Consider some criticisms that are made about our collective singing in our worship assemblies. One says, “The singing today was so slow,” while someone else opines, “The singing was way too fast today.” Question: What does the Bible say about the proper tempo of a spiritual song? Nothing.
“Why did he lead that song which has an alto lead in the chorus when we do not have any ‘strong’ alto singers?” Question: What does the New Testament say about singing with four-part harmony? Zilch.
“He is not a bad song leader, but his voice is not very pleasant to listen to.” Question: What do the Scriptures say about a song leader’s voice? Nothing.
“Our song leaders are great people, but they need to smile more.” Question: What does the new covenant say about the facial expressions of brothers who lead us in praising God in song? Not a thing.
“He has a good voice, but a lot of times his hand movements do not match the time of the songs.” Question: What does the Bible say about appropriate hand movements while leading a song? Zero.
What did you notice about all of those criticisms that we just mentioned? Each one involves a personal preference, a subjective approach. Not one of them is based on “Thus says the Lord.”
We could make the same observations about how we critique those brothers who lead prayers or present lessons. “His prayer was so long” versus “Why are his prayers always so short?” What does the Bible say about God’s viewpoint on the best length for a public prayer? Nothing. The Levites prayed “a long one” (Nehemiah 9:5-38), while the early disciples prayed “a short one” (Acts 1:24,25).
“Before he ever gets to the microphone to lead a prayer, I already feel a sense of frustration because I know he basically will say the exact things in his prayer that he prays in each prayer.” What does the Bible say about repetition in prayer? Vain repetition is a no-no (Matthew 6:7), but Jesus prayed the same thing in three consecutive instances (Matthew 26:44). It appears I should be careful when I express my opinion about “too much repetition” in prayer.
Remember, worship is a participation activity. Just sitting or standing in an assembly is not worship. It becomes worship for me when I am paying homage to God. Remember, worship is a personal activity. I personally engage in it. Remember, worship is a pondering activity. I need to focus on the meaning of His Supper and every word offered in prayer, every word sung, and every word spoken from God’s Book.
Let us be careful about expressing ideas that are purely subjective rather than Scripture-based. And, let us be on guard against becoming chronic criticizers. If the main thing I take away from my worship experience is my memory of what I think others did not do well, that sounds a lot like a certain Pharisee (Luke 18:11). If so, something is amiss . . . inside me.
— Roger D. Campbell