The Elephant in the Sanctuary: Spiritual Disciplines that Enhance Worship – Part I


Worship is not about us?

The notion of worship has become as contentious today as it has ever been throughout the course of Christian history.  Today, church leaders, look around to frequently see spiritual disengagement in congregational worship.  People are choosing to engage in their worship based on the personal preferences for certain types of platform visuals, style and superficial production elements.  Humans have always endured an internal conflict between the spiritual and the physical. St. Augustine in his book, City of God describes the inner turmoil found within ourselves as humans,

“Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” [Ps. iii. 3.] In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” [Ps. xviii. 1.][1]

While many people choose the former rather than the latter to guide their thoughts on worship, their level of spiritual maturity is governed by the thoughts of self rather than the abundance of love for their God.  Because of the lack of spiritual development among worshipers, it has become increasingly more difficult for congregants to worship God without settling into mental laziness  or a surface-level spirituality.  Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline,  explains that, “The classical disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world.” [2] Immaturity has led Christians down a path that consistently allures them to please their own desires, rather than to look to God as the focus of their desires. Donald Whitney, from his writing, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life encourages us that, “God has given us the Spiritual Disciplines as a means of receiving His grace and growing in Godliness. By them we place ourselves before God for Him to work in us.”[3] Do we spend enough time using the Spiritual Disciplines? Is it important enough to place of the top of our list in our busy lives? If we can make time for other things, why not the spiritual?  I invite you to journey with me as we attempt to answer these questions together.

Psalm 29:2 proclaims, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”  God created human worship to rise out of a love for God flourishing through a personal relationship with Him.  When this relationship is usurped, it becomes difficult for the spiritual life to be consistently fruitful.  To find value in their lives, people have chosen to forsake the church and their spiritual formation.  The church no longer transforms lives but has encouraged worldly likeness by equating worship with the traits of the world.   Writing on the importance of spiritual health in his book, Peter Scazzero in his book,  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality says,

“Researchers have been charting the departing dust of those known as “church leavers”—an increasingly large group that has been gathering numbers in recent years. Some of these leavers are believers who no longer attend church. These men and women made a genuine commitment to Christ but came to realize, slowly and painfully, that the spirituality available in church had not really delivered any deep, Christ-transforming life change—either in themselves or others.”[4]

The church must encourage transformation of lives from the point of spiritual birth.  This must begin with the leaders that lead the people in worship and spread down into the ranks of our congregations and communities.  Does spirituality play an important role in the life of a believer? If not, how do we encourage such spirituality?

The average Christian following spiritual birth, seeks spiritual food; unfortunately, many do not receive this life-giving sustenance from the church assembly – or taught to seek it. When spiritual growth is stunted, it becomes difficult for us to see the need for worshiping an audience of One purely for the sake of pleasing God. Furthermore, when our worship is shallow, the emphasis redirects itself to songs that lack depth, the promotion of talent, and self-preservation in worship leaders and congregations.  Rory Noland, in his book, The Worshiping Artist, states that, “the first step in becoming a …lead worshiper, is to become a vibrant private worshiper. You can’t lead others in an experience that you yourself aren’t having regularly.”[5] While this is true for worship leaders, we must encourage the worshiper in the pew that private worship within the Spiritual Disciplines provide benefits as well.  The lack of these spiritual disciplines can manifest itself into a “What about me?” mentality that permeates worship and divides congregations. We must experience worship with the Creator through personal relationship. Only then, will we become thirsty for a worship that is pleasing to God.  God invites us to know Him, to have a relationship with Him, and to guide us on our journey.  When a close bond with God is missing, life becomes about us and we are tempted to make worship about our own desires; perhaps we first need to say, “Lord, teach me how to worship in a way that is pleasing to You.”

To be continued….


[1] St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. The City of God. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), 365.

[2] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (New York: Harper Collins, 1992), 1.

[3] Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991.18.

[4] Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 10.

[5] Rory Noland, The Worshiping Artist: Equipping you and your ministry team to lead others in worship, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 22.

One response to “The Elephant in the Sanctuary: Spiritual Disciplines that Enhance Worship – Part I”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: