Worship Is Not About Me

Our culture’s narcissistic view of worship

As I approached the doors of the church I was visiting one particular Sunday, I heard the melody of a well-known worship song. My eyes met my wife’s eyes, and we both said almost in unison, “Another me song.”

We tried to respond in grace. After all, each of us longs to know that our life matters. And “me songs,” as we call them, emphasize that. Yet God’s story of redemption—while it speaks of His immense love for us—is not primarily all about us.

Today’s Christian culture invites such introspection, however, and it first does so by emphasizing the individual’s journey toward God—“my personal relationship with Christ.” This can elevate expectations that “a good worship experience” prioritizes an emotional response over transformation of our heart, mind and actions.

As such, our language in worship has shifted from exalting God’s greatness to exalting how we feel about God’s greatness. This language now permeates our songs, our prayers and our sermons. Instead of voicing, “You are worthy of all honor, glory, praise and power, King of the nations” or “from life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny,” we find ourselves emphasizing how Jesus “thought of me above all” or how “I am a friend of God” or that “Satan is under my feet.”

After singing a few of these lyrics, we might well assume that the Christian walk is about us as individuals—what God was and is willing to do for me, and what I can accomplish—rather than about who we should become for Him in light of who He is. Our liturgy seems to have gone from what we do together to exalt His name to how this worship thing works for me.

As Robert Webber wrote in The Divine Embrace, “Worship is not measured by the depth of my feelings but the deep wonder of the God whose story is so marvelous that it does in fact create feelings of love and gratitude.”

The greatest thing that can happen to us through worship, then, is a change of mind and heart, a rediscovery and celebration of God and His eternal purpose. We should sing and preach of Him whose incarnation, death and resurrection redeemed His people from our sins.

May we look less for the story of our own salvation than for the story of the One who saved us. And as a church, may we emphasize not only how God decided to enter our world, but also how God is making us part of His.

For consideration:
• Worship leaders, how do you wrestle with this?
• Pastors and church leaders, do you agree? Disagree? In what other ways do you counter unhealthy introspection?

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