Have you ever noticed how many times God breaks things in the Bible? In the Old Testament, He brings a flood to wipe everything off the face of the planet. Later, He destroys the Tower of Babel and separates man into different languages. In Genesis 19, God reigns down fire and sulfur on a rebellious Sodom and Gomorrah. For forty years in the desert, God allows his children to be crushed for their disobedience.
When Jesus, the Prince of Peace, arrives in Matthew, He explains that His main objective is to bring a sword, not peace (Matthew 10:34). Confused yet? St. John Chrysostom helps us understand what Jesus means. Chrysostom explains that the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel would create a better peace than the peace existing before it. So, the sword Jesus refers to will ultimately produce a better peace for you and me. God’s purpose was always different at the beginning of these stories. When we choose outside of his purpose, in order to save us, He must break things.
The call to ‘break the worship mould’ can be understood best when we read scripture. The Bible is God’s plan revealed to man who chose to break God’s law, resulting in brokenness. The only solution was accomplished by breaking his Son for us. Jeremiah 23:29 says God’s word is “like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces”. John 1:1 says Jesus is the Word. So, Jesus is the hammer that breaks us into pieces, for his use, for his glory. God breaks stuff, and He’s really good at it.
The Current Worship Mould
For more than 15 years, I’ve made the mistake of thinking I have figured out worship. At times, I believe I understand it and can fit it into methods and practices. When I believe this lie, I repeat history, and will continue to until my current mould is broken.
We mimic the Children of Israel when Moses was away to meet God on Mt. Sinai. While he’s on the mountain, God gives Moses His law on tablets of stone. Down below, the Israelites get restless. They start complaining. Aaron wants them to be comfortable and happy, so he builds a golden calf for everyone to worship. It takes forty days for this to happen. God and Moses are forgotten. The plagues, the Passover, and the Parting of the Red Sea are all forgotten or attributed to the god-calf. When Moses returns and sees what’s happening, he’s infuriated. For good or bad, Moses throws the tablets down, breaking them into pieces.
Checklists and structure are good. I love organization. I can be a people pleaser. But the goal isn’t structure. The goal isn’t pleasing people. The goal is the glorifying God.
God isn’t overwhelmed by our structural organization or our set list. He doesn’t do chest bumps with the angels when we transition from song to song flawlessly. He loves us, chases us, and speaks to us all with the final goal of daily brokenness and a surrendered heart (Psalm 51:17).
Like Aaron, we can be tempted to cater to opinion and seek peace above all. We try to make everyone happy. We create the best guest “experience”. We respond to complaints and try to form the ultimate win-win combination of familiar, modern, hymns, lights, and polished awesomeness. Without knowing it, we melt everything down to form golden calves of personal preference and consumerism. Before we know it, Jesus is hardly visible.
Like the Israelites, I forget about God and worship the golden calf of comfort. I want it my way. It better not be too loud, they better not sing too many new songs, and I better hear my favorite song in their set list or I’m out of here. I become the end user. When I don’t get my way, I threaten to go back to Egypt or the last church I came from.
Styles and formats become eschatology. Preference and accessibility turn into missional stratagem. Like modern day Pharisees, subjective opinion is moulded into reproducible, compact templates; mass-produced and sold as marketed theology. Its time to recognize this way doesn’t work, break it, and start over.
Break Me First
We evaluate worship as if it’s a product or a widget. Worship is not a widget. The best practices in the world won’t help a prideful, rigid worship leader.
Before you play the blame game, look in the mirror. Forget the formulas. Are you limiting your congregation by your blueprints? Are you living to serve a formula that has been handed down to you? Break them.
Jesus can’t be constrained to a pattern, form, label, format, model, style, or preference. The minute we try to conform him into our image, we’ve missed the point.
The only thing we shouldn’t break is being broken—broken before a holy God. My prayer for you is that we will be formed and shaped by Jesus Christ. That is the only formula worth following. The Bible says a lot about worship.
What’s more intriguing is what the Bible doesn’t say about worship. Like Peter said to the early church leaders in Acts 15:10, let’s not put a yoke on other believers that doesn’t come from Christ. Let Jesus break the yokes. Let Jesus break the chains. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). He is the only one we worship.
Let Him break you, break the mould with Him, and worship in freedom.