Reflections on McWorship

By Rev. Bryn MacPhail


            I can't seem to get out of my mind an experience I had visiting a nearby church. As we moved from the announcements into the singing portion of the service, I was interested to watch a young man sing with his right arm raised to the ceiling while his left arm bent periodically to take a sip from his Tim Horton's coffee.


I was not particularly bothered by what I saw that Sunday, but I do wonder if what I saw was symptomatic of a "McWorship" mentality that many people are bringing to Sunday services these days. Whether I am visiting another church or ministering in my own, I can't help but wonder if the people present  understand the magnitude of what they are doing when they gather for corporate worship.


 Should we be alarmed by the ease of their entry? Should we be bothered by my Tim Horton's-sipping friend?


            I must admit, when I first heard the term "seeker-sensitive service", I thought it was brilliant. I had thought the Church had woken up to the fact that not everyone who comes to church on Sunday believes in the Gospel. I imagined that seeker-sensitive services would mean a recovery of preaching about repentance, and Christ crucified for sinners, explained in terms the average person could understand. O, how naive I was! What we got instead, for the most part, was sermons that were shorter, and music that was louder.


I am alarmed by what I am seeing, hearing, and reading about Christian worship these days. Driven by a society where the "chief end of man" is comfort and  convenience, I fear that many churches are falling from their high calling "to glorify God".


            To be fair, I quite enjoy much of the convenience we are afforded in this day and age. It is hard for me to imagine life without instant banking machines, e-mail, and drive-thru Tim Horton's. Convenience and comfort, no question, is a good thing.


            My fear, however, is that when we make comfort and convenience the goal of our life and our worship, we open ourselves up to the judgment of God. As I look to the Scriptures, there is no shortage of God's judgment for those who would take Him lightly and worship Him flippantly.


            I recently felt the rebuke of Leviticus 10, where Aaron's sons, "took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord"(Lev. 10:1,2).


            The reason I felt rebuked by this text came from an self-examination of how we go about this great business we call "worship". As a young pastor, I too easily forget what the Word ordains, and am too often seduced by what the people want, and by what every church growth book recommends. When this happens, however, what I have done is offered "strange fire" to the Lord. Pastors, how many sermons have we delivered that could be characterized as "strange fire"? How many new, untested (by Scripture), means of worship have we employed? Only by the grace of God have we avoided the same demise as Aaron's sons.


            How then, shall we continue to worship? Shall we persevere in elevating human cleverness and methodology above what God has ordained in His Word? "May it never be!"(Romans 6:1,2). The author of Hebrews tells us that "the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit"(Hebrews 4:12, emphasis mine).


            Until the day when a church growth methodology can deliver that kind of effectiveness, I implore church leaders everywhere to rely on the sufficiency of God's Word as they stand up each Sunday to say, "Let us worship God".