Analysis of a Modern Worship Service

Christian bandAnd they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers… praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. –Acts 2:42, 46-47

The Modern movements within Christianity, which began to take shape shortly after the Revolutionary War in America, have in the last 40 years dramatically increased in both volume and substance. Today, a Modern Christian – one that excludes themselves from much of the historic formats of Christianity for modern formats – may never question their Christian format simply due to the fact that they are completely unfamiliar with the historic. Below, is my experience with a class assignment in seminary that required the students to participate in a modern worship service as opposed to the classical service we were attending and learning about at the school.


When I first arrived, a fellow with shorts and sandals greeted me with a smile and a genuine tone. I walked into the church and very first thing I observed were many electronic gadgets, including a soundboard, huge speakers, drums, amps, and a video screen.

The people were dressed in a beach-type of attire and were all carrying Bibles. They appeared to be middle class and most of them were Anglo. There seemed to be a strong leadership from the women, as they were the most proactive before and during the service.


The precession of the service included some CDs of a Christian rock band and at 10:05 sharp, the choir (I think they call it a praise band) set up and the leader made some jokes. Everyone laughed. This was the beginning of the extemporaneous nature of the service.

The Service

I do know that these types of people believe that if the liturgy is extemporaneous than they are being led by the Spirit. But I did not see anything extraordinary. I did not see anything that traditional liturgy could not accomplish, except, of course, the constant jokes that were being pitched from the stage, which I could hardly find to be spiritual.  

After each song the people clapped. Most of the people did not sing, though. I think they may have been clapping at the performance of the band. A couple songs passed and then a woman got up and began to state how the church is giving supplies to a local public school. Then, the pastor got up with his shorts and sandals and for about 10 minutes went on about all the fun activities available for the people during the week.

The band played a couple more songs and then the pastor began his sermon sitting down on a stool, pointed toward the video screen. The video screen publicized his Scriptures that he was expounding on but it also, during the songs, flashed the crucifix along with other ancient symbols. This I thought to be very strange. From a psychological perspective it seemed like they were getting some sort of appeasement, some sort of legalism to prove to themselves that they do not hate the ancient, like a quick insert to say “look we too are symbolic.” But they were not symbolic in the ancient and biblical sense. Their symbol was the cool pastor, the modern music, scantily dress, and the plain walls.

The sermon was actually very good. The pastor preached on Psalm 23 and tied in the sovereignty of God and how we should not worry about our circumstances. I was quite impressed.

The Sacraments

Uh…yeah, there were none. You know where Jesus and St. Paul say in the Bible to take and eat of His flesh and drink of His blood? Well, there was none of this and no reference to it. We know from historical records that the Church practiced communion every service (see the Didache, ch.14) but they obviously are unaware of this scriptural command.

The sermon lasted about 30 minutes and then after a couple more songs the service was over. That was it: a couple jokes, some announcements, some songs and a sermon. They did pass some silver paint cans around at the end of the service. People were putting money in them, so I guess it was some sort of offering. I just can’t remember them making any sort of pronouncement or declaration to God beforehand. The service was very entertaining and I did enjoy both the songs and the sermon. But there were times that I felt almost sick to my stomach.

What’s Wrong?

What made me so disturbed was that Christ was not glorified in this service nearly as much as man was! I’m sure the people believe they were glorifying Christ; I know – I used to serve in a very similar church. But the fact of the matter is that they were pleasing man. The argument is that they are evangelizing the lost, but what is really happening is that they are appeasing the lost. I question as to whether the lost get found at churches like this. I know that may sound harsh, but what if it is true? Are we entitled to draw a line and finally say this is enough? I think we can and I don’t think we have to be bishops to make such a judgment. Our families count on our good judgment so we therefore cannot afford to be ignorant.

The Ancient Way

The ancient, Apostolic, way of worshiping God is entirely different from the modern. The ancient way is sacrificial. God says that we, as His people, are to be ‘living sacrifices’ for Him (Romans 12:1). This means – as the early church has taught us – that when we worship God on Sunday we are primarily there to be giving in a sacrificial way. This means that there will be reverent and majestic overtones that are not filled with adrenaline boosting technology and jokes. This means that there will be liturgy that has come directly from the Apostles, and a Eucharistic meal that was commanded by Christ! To have a service of living sacrifice means that there will be gestures of humility such as kneeling, like Christ did in the garden, and what Revelation says we will do in the future. Being sacrificial means giving up the things that we are typically entertained with during the week. It means giving our money for the sake of the Kingdom, and giving our voices – as God calls ‘the fruit of our lips’ (Hebrews 13:15). It means responding with heart-felt motives to the Word that is read over the lectern by a layperson.

What would happen if the movie screen and the electronic noises were halted? Would there be any fruit of the lips? What would happen if there were no jokes? Would there be any joy? What would happen if the people had to humble themselves to the point of believing in a piece of bread and a cup of wine; that it would be a spiritual blessing to the soul (1 Corinthians 10:16)? What would happen if people had to recite their responses to what the pastor said? Would their hearts still be in it? Or would they need to psychologically be convinced that the Spirit is moving spontaneously by responding to the extemporaneous sounds of all of the modern devices and tactics?

The more Classical way of worshiping involves the ancient liturgies, the Eucharistic meal, the singing and chanting with little instrumental accompany, the ancient vestments, the natural elements of candles and even incense, and the voices of the entire people singing and responding to the reading of the Scriptures. This is all where creation meets covenant! This is where man sacrificially gives his reverence and humility to the Almighty God, where he is not as entertained as he is focused and humiliated.

Many will say that this Classical type of service is dry and gloomy. But what they do not account for is that through many tears man is made truly joyful (Psalm 126:6). The ancient worship is designed by God to begin the Christians life for battle. This means that they must enter into the gates of splendor with humility and awe, so that they may leave with joy and strength, not adrenaline and happiness. Happiness is circumstantial. Joy is spiritual. One must be humbled to receive this joy, and I believe it is difficult, if not impossible, to find this at these modern types of services.