Does God Like My Worship?

Our audience profoundly shapes what we do and say. When junior accidentally smashes the lamp with his baseball bat, we react one way when its just the family at the house and another when the nice lady from church is visiting. Similarly, texts sent to our spouse often contain content that does not belong in our company’s email chain. When we confuse the two audiences, Joe in the cubical next door feels a touch awkward. He’s happy that you like him, but he never thought of you in that way. Audience shapes our expectations and our actions.

Our audience also shapes our spiritual lives. The object of our religiosity will shape how we go about praying, giving, and fasting. According to Jesus, our religious actions should have an audience of one. We are to worship with God and God alone in mind. If we have another audience in view, our worship will explode at take-off and plumet into the waters of uselessness. Jesus bluntly says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 6:1).” In other words if we perform religious deeds for someone other than God, we will miss God completely and tumble into the fiery rivers of hell. When we give, pray, and fast, God alone should be our audience.

What About the City on a Hill?

Despite appearances, Jesus’s statement in Matthew 6:1 which advocates for a private faith does not contradict the sentiment of Matthew 5:16 where Jesus says, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works.” The sentiments of the two passages support each other. As the believer follows Christ, he loves his enemies with such intentionality that his coworkers cannot help but ask him his secret. But instead of praising his three-point, personal growth strategy, the believer points to Jesus. He testifies of God’s saving grace, hoping to lead the guy working next to him to Jesus. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16, the goal of our good works is to inspire others to “give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” In other words, we live for the glory of God. As we privately make much of Jesus, others will notice our humility, joy, love, kindness, and justice. Our actions should prompt others to ask questions about the hope within us. At that point, we happily tell them about our God, but we do not practice the fruits of the spirit for this moment. We obey because we love God with all our heart soul mind and strength irrespective of what those around us think. This obedience should shape our giving, prayers, and fasting.

Sincere vs. Insincere Giving

To give with an audience of one in view, we must give in secret. When we give loudly so that everyone will notice our generosity, we have the wrong audience in mind. Jesus equates the practitioners of people-centered worship with the trumpeters of old. Those who worship to earn the admiration of their neighbors loudly put out press releases, nail up plaques, and drop hints about how they are the anonymous donor who bought the church its new bus. They give so “that they may be seen by others (Matt 6:2).”

Though people love such loud gifts, Jesus takes no notice of them. Rather he delights in private gifts because “your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matt 6:3-4).” Sincere giving does not require a press release or a plaque. The left hand shouldn’t know what the right had is doing. The knowledge of God’s pleasure is enough for the believer. She gives because she loves God. She is content with the knowledge of his recognition.

Sincere vs. Insincere Prayer

Jesus tells us to pray in private for God is our audience. People who pray with other people in mind love public prayer. They pray loudly in church and “at the street corners, that they may be seen by others (Mt 6:5).” Hypocrites compose passionate and well-written prayers so that those in the pew next to them or sitting across the table from them will be in awe of their words.

Though people are impressed with public displays of elegance and passion, Jesus prefers us to pray in secret for “your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matt 6:6).” When we pray, we should long to be alone with God. This is not to say that Jesus is not opposed to public prayer. He encourages the church to pray together in Matthew 18:19-20. Rather Jesus opposes public prayer that is done so that the guy standing, “may be seen by others (Matt 6:5).” A prayer that ends with people admiring the one who prays instead of the one prayed to is severely misguided prayer. Rather, public prayer should flow out of private, secret prayer.

Sincere vs. Insincere Fasting

Lastly, Jesus calls us to fast in private for God is our audience. When fasting, a believer will abstain from food for the purpose of securing deliverance. For example, Queen Esther calls for a fast after learning of a plot to annihilate her Jewish people. She asks her relative Modecai and his community to stop eating for three days as she prepares to enter the king’s throne room to petition him for help (Est 5:12-17). God grants Easter her requests. When done well, fasting is a good and proper exercise for the believer.

But as with giving and praying, hypocrites can turn fasting into a people-centered charade. When hypocrites fast, they refuse to wash their faces and look all sad and forlorn as their tummies grumbled. When the fasting hypocrite walked by, their neighbors would remark on the faster’s piety and devotion. All would assume that the hypocrites loved God dearly. After all, their religiosity had extended well beyond the bounds of typical westerner’s religiosity.

But as giving and prayer, fasting done with God in mind occurs in secret. The sincere believer fasts privately. Her coworkers have no clue that her stomach is churning on empty. She never mentions her hunger pains. She takes a shower. She avoids letting little comments slip out on social media about what she is doing. She appeals privately to God for deliverance from her trials for she knows that her “Father who sees in secret will reward” her (Matt 6:18).

The Essence of True Religion

Like many people today, Jesus takes issue with religious hypocrites. But in contrast to those who leave the church because of its flawed members, Jesus says the proper response to hypocritical worship is pure worship. Jesus does not call us to abandon giving, praying, and fasting because the bimbos at the local church do all those things insincerely. He calls us to do them sincerely. He calls us to worship with an audience of one in mind.

Who is your audience?

When Kids Don’t Like Kids’ Ministry

kidsWords can be painful. The words that solidify the rejection of your ministry can be particularly piercing. I do not enjoying hearing kids, parents, and grandparents condemning my ministry as irrelevant, dull or worst of all…. boring. My heart does not rejoice when a kid walks in our church doors and then spins around to walk out a moment later declaring that, “I don’t like your church”

But as painful as those words and sentiments can be, they are necessary consequence of the gospel. When children walk into our churches, most of them have a worship problem. I am do not mean that the like the wrong type of worship music. I am not against baby rappers or baby washboard players. They do not have a Sunday morning worship problem or a Wednesday not issue. They have a heart worship problem. The little souls that come to our churches arrive fully in love with themselves and the world. They come wanting us, our programs, and our whole church structure to make much of them.

I John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

This is the condition of our kids. They are unregenerate little people who worship things other than God.

Consequently, they do not want to be reminded of their sin, of their need for a savior, and of their insignificance. They want fun children’s church programs that continue on until they are finished with college. They want to be entertained with great music and pool noodles. They want to leave having been made much of. If we give them a program centered around their desires, they will thank us and praise us.

But we will have not done our kids a favor. We will have harmed them. Instead of using Sunday to help our kids grasp the majesty and wonder of God and their insignificance, we have used Sunday to feed their fleshly desires. We have used Sunday to hide them from the truth that life is all about obeying and following God.

The point of worship on Sunday is not to make much of us. We gather together to make much of God. We should not pick songs and compose messages that reflect our kids. We need to pick songs that reflect who God is and what God has said. As one theologian said,

Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves against the majesty of God.”

Our goal should be to get kids to God through talking about who Jesus is. When we do so, we will not always be loved. Once a child rated our Sunday school program with the following remark, “I hate it here.” His one star review is not alone. We lost another child because a ministry across town had better snacks. And, another child will not even darken our doors because we encourage kids to attend boring big church.

At the end of the day, these kids do not have problem with our church. They have a worship problem. When they realize that the church will not funnel kindling onto their fire of their self-centered alter, they stay away. Those who worship themselves and the world cannot worship God at the same time.

How Should We Respond?

We keep preaching the gospel. We keep pointing kids to Christ. If Christ changes their hearts, those little souls will love those who make of God. They will love the things of God. And the best and only way to facilitate heart change in little sinners is to preach the gospel.

Second, we need to listen. We need to hear their story. In the story above, the little man hated Sunday school because he did not like listening to Bible stories. He disliked the very gospel that we are commanded to preach. His rejection was confirmation that his teacher was preaching truth.

Others may dislike our programs because another kid is picking on them when no one is looking. They may find our church boring because our teachers our unprepared. If these things are happening, we need to address them. We need to be certain that we have not offended them.

But if the gospel offends them, there is little we can do. Our allegiance is not to the kids that come to our church nor to their families. Our allegiance is to Christ. Our savior is a stumbling block and an unlikable conundrum to those who are perishing. Unregenerate kids our no different than unregenerate adults. They do not like the gospel.

While we should not welcome such opposition, we must realize it will come. And we must be willing to offend the sensibilities of these little souls for their eternity hangs in the balance. We must preach Jesus both in season and out of season. Are you ready?

Why Do Families Skip Church?


Why do families skip church on Sunday? Why is our Sunday school attendance going down? Why do kids stop coming to our Wednesday night programs? There are all kinds of answers to these questions. We can blame our kids’ sports league, Netflix, social media, the low price of gas, and a the weather.

But what about us? What about our churches, our programs, and our kids’ activities? Is it possible that the problem is not out there but in here?  Is it possible that people no longer view church as a priority because we, the church, are longer offering anything compelling? It’s possible.

People Centered?

Now before I go further, I want to hedge off one concern.  I am not advocating for Christian consumerism. I am not advocating for hanging lights, creating crazy worship sets, and installing bouncy houses so that our churches will begin to resemble Disney World. We do not need to appeal to sinners via their sinful flesh. As James McDonald said in his book, Vertical Church:

If you build your church on celebrity guests and circus chicanery of all sorts, you will attract the kind of people who want shallow service and grow them into snotty-nosed, high-demand, never-satisfied “disciples.”

What About The Glory?

We need to offer something much, much greater. We need to point people to God. Specifically, we need to call people to worship the one true God. What is true worship?   “Worship is the magnification of God and the minimization of self.” Christ came so that he might be glorified through us. As John 1:14 reports:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The church exists to glorify the savior of the world. We exist to help people (even kids) to escape their selfish hearts by making much of God. As Paul David Tripp writes,

Children’s Ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God.

And when adults, youth, and kids interact with the glory of God, hearts change, lives become altered, and the kingdom grows. Our goal as leaders, teachers, and ambassadors in the church should be to introduce our families to the majesty and the glory of God. We exist to promote the awe of God through worship.

What About Us?

Is this happening in our church? Do people regularly walk into our buildings and experience the glory and the majesty of God? Or is the height of their church experience a few cool crafts, a warm handshake, and a casual conversation about the latest football game?  If our church is nothing more than a religious, social event, our people can easily skip it. But if our church is a venue through which people corporately experience the wonder of the one true God, our people will come. God’s glory and majesty is infinitely more compelling than any program we can think of. Every ministry in our church should be exist to connect people to God through worship. Are we doing this? Are we connecting people to God?