As I mentioned a few days ago, I began this new year with a sermon series entitled The Makeup of an Unfashionable Church. This week I am going to be preaching on what unfashionable worship looks like. As I have been thinking about this and praying through it, I’ve decided to preach from Isaiah 6.
Isaiah 6 teaches us something foundational about public worship. If you read the first few verses you’ll notice the first thing Isaiah encounters in the house of God is the glory of God. It doesn’t first say he encountered friendly faces or hot coffee, or soft bagels or a booming sound system. It says he encountered the glory of God. In the Bible, the glory of God is God’s “heaviness”, his powerful presence. It is God’s prevailing excellence on display. In God’s house, Isaiah meets a God who is majestically in command.
What does this mean for our worship services? It means we ought to come, first and foremost, expecting to encounter the glory of God–his powerful presence. We should come ready to sing of who he is and hear of what he’s done. We come to feel the grief of our sin so that we can feel the glory of his salvation. We come, in other words, to see God on display, not preachers or musicians. A worship service is not the place to showcase human talent. It’s the place for God to showcase his Divine treasure. A worship service that contains the power to change you is a worship service that leaves you with grand impressions of Divine personality, not grand impressions of human personality.
Isaiah did not leave the temple thinking, “What great music, what a great building, what a great preacher.” He left thinking, “What a great God.” This is why songs and sermons need to be about God first. Everything done in worship ought to communicate God because it is God and God alone who can transform your life and mine. Seeing me will not help you. Seeing God is the only thing truly capable of moving you from one place to another. This is why John Piper rightly asks, “How shall entertaining worship services – with the aim of feeling light hearted and friendly – help a person prepare to suffer, let alone prepare to die?”