Many people in the religious world talk about the worship “experience.” What exactly is a worship experience? You will not find this term in the Bible. So what do people mean when they use it?
The worship experience has to do with the worship service in a local church. The experience refers to all the things involved in the service – the message, the music (typically performed by a band), the atmosphere (lighting, décor, etc.). All of these things are part of this “experience.” The things that one sees, hears, and feels make up the worship experience.
The problem with this concept is that the focus is on the worshiper. When one chooses where he will assemble based upon the worship experience, he is making a decision based upon what will please him. Churches that appeal to and invite people by talking about the worship experience are making their appeal based upon what they think the people will want.
If we turn our focus to the will of the worshiper, problems will come. Paul spoke of the futility of “self-made religion” or “will worship” (Colossians 2:23). These people’s religion and worship was based upon their own will. Appealing to the will of the worshiper has led to various wrong practices – instrumental music in worship; serving the Lord’s Supper on Saturday evening; messages that are motivational, self-help lectures, rather than gospel sermons; and so on. These have the “appearance of wisdom” (Colossians 2:23), but are useless.
The focus of our worship must be on pleasing God, not the worshiper. When the apostle John fell down before the angel to worship him, the angel told him, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9). God is the one we worship. The focus must be upon pleasing Him.
When we recognize that our worship is directed toward God, we must remember that our focus should not be on stimulating our senses and emotions but on doing what God wants in the way He wants us to do it.
Jesus said, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be is worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). When Jesus spoke of true worshipers, we know by implication that there are false worshipers. The true worshipers do what God has said in the way that He said to do it (“in spirit and truth”). The false worshipers do not.
The false worshipers are the ones who do what pleases them. They ignore what the word of God says is acceptable to Him and, instead, do what seems good to them. They reason that God will simply accept whatever worship they see fit to offer to Him. It is the height of arrogance for mere humans to presume to know what God will accept (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).
It is not as if God has not already told us what He will accept. We have His word. We know how to please Him. Yet some desire to please themselves and others and then expect God to be happy about it. They make up their own religion and worship according to their own will (Colossians 2:23).
God has no use for such people. He is seeking “true worshipers” (John 4:23). Let us be content with what God has said and worship Him in the way He has instructed.