Coldness in Worship
COLDNESS AND DEADNESS IN WORSHIP -
that's a criticism which Charismatic churches often
[label] against conservative churches. Are they right? They often
are. We may not agree with many of their novel views about
worship, and the excesses which mark their gathering for worship,
but how undeniably right they often are in this particular criticism.
This writer has been to some evangelical and conservative churches where
the worship has the air of the morgue in coldness and darkness. It
would be dishonest and counter-productive to just brush aside the
Charismatic criticism. The way to face this issue is to humbly
examine ourselves before God, and to prayerfully look for the
There are, I suggest, three very common reasons why churches
find their worship cold and lifeless, and suggests the approriate
AN OVERREACTION TO ABUSES AND EXCESSES
One common reason for coldness is an over-reaction to
excesses and abuses regarding the place of emotion in worship.
In Charismatic circles, worship leaders play upon the emotions of
the people. Some christians overreact to this because of a native fear of
any display of emotion in worship. To shed a tear of joy or of sorrow,
to sing loudly out of the fullness of the heart, to raise a hand in praise
and worship are immediately branded as emotionalism. But this is an
unbiblical reaction. Even a cursory reading of the Scriptures shows the
proper place for the emotion and its appropriate expressions in worship.
James writes: "Is anyone among you suffering? Let
him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises." (Jas. 5:13). Also the Apostle
Paul writes: "And do not be drunk with wine, for this is dissipation,
but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in Psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart
to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things." (Eph. 5:18-20).
It is unthinkable to exclude the engagement of the emotions, with its
appropriate facial and body expressions based upon these passages.
Moreover, when we look at the worship of that goes on in heaven,
the picture is that of creatures pouring out their hearts and souls in
the worship of God. "And I looked and I heard the voices of many
angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and
the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands and thousands,
saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive
power and riches and wisdom and might and glory and blessing.' And
every created thing which is in the heaven and on the earth and under
the earth and on the sea, and all things in them I heard saying, 'To Him
who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and
glory and dominion forever and ever.' And the four living creatures
kept saying, 'Amen.' And the elders fell down and worshipped"
It is sad that generally there is more enthusiasm in the grand
stands of the sport arena than in the pews of church buildings. You
see the outpouring of emotions in the heat of competition, but rarely
is it displayed in the gathered worship. This ought not to be. We are,
after all, dealing with the infinitely glorious, awe-inspiring, and
ever adorable Being God! He deserves worship filled with
enthusiasm and the outpouring of gratitude, joy, love, praise, and
You might ask, "Should not our worship be marked with reverence?"
Yes! A million times - yes. For in worship, we are not going to a
party. Reverence ought to mark our drawing near to the special presence
of God (Exo. 3:4, 5; Lev. 10:3). But reverence in worship does not cancel
out enthusiasm and the outpouring of emotions. Scriptures themselves
give us the proper balance: "Therefore since we receive a kingdom
which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer
to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a
consuming fire." (Heb. 12:28, 29).
"But what about the danger of emotionalism common in so many
churches?" No doubt the problem is real and it must be avoided. But
we only become guilty of emotionalism when our emotions are stirred
by some other means than the contemplation or meditation of God's
Word, it cannot be labeled as emotionalism. In fact, if the emotion
is never affected by the contemplation of God's Word, it betrays
a heart of stone and not a heart of flesh.
A GRIEVED HOLY SPIRIT
Another common reason for coldness and deadness in worship
is a grieved Holy Spirit.
The people of God under the New Covenant are those "who
worship in the Spirit of God" (Phil 3:3). Worship is energized by
the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit of truth (Jn. 16:13), He illumines
our minds to understand Scriptures. As a Comforter (Jn. 16:7),
He gives us joy, peace and hope. As the Spirit of adoption
(Rom 8:15), He enables us to cry from the depths of our hearts
and with true conviction of soul, 'Abba, Father; enabling
us to approach our Heavenly Father with filial boldness and
confidence. And as the Holy Spirit, He gives us true sense of
reverence as we approach God.
However, we must not forget that the Holy Spirit can be
grieved. Thus, we are commanded in Scriptures, "Do not
grieved the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for
the day of redemption." (Eph. 4:30). What happens when
the Holy Spirit is grieved? He diminishes or withdraws His
gracious influences in our worship; and the result is cold
and lifeless worship.
Knowing this is so important because many churches
are trying to remedy coldness in worship by bringing in the
drums, the electric guitars, the choir, bigger amplifiers to
blast the worshippers' ear drums, the dancers, the clowns
and various other things just to put life back into the worship.
Only the Holy Spirit of God can. If life and spiritual warmth
is to mark our worship, then we must avoid grieving the Holy Spirit.
How are we to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit? The
surrounding context of the exhortation in Ephesians 4:25-32
provides the answer. That is to maintain and cultivate a
healthy relationship with the people of God. If our relationship
with God's people is not healthy, then we will grieved the Holy
Greg Nichols enumerates the elements of a
healthy relationship with the people of God:
1. Transparency - no duplicity (v. 25)
2. No harboring of grudges (v.26)
3. The avoidance of slander (v.27)
4. Considerateness (v.28)
5. Profitable speech (v.29)
Let us pursue these things that are essential to a healthy
relationship with the people of God or we will grieve the Holy
Spirit. Without Him, our worship will become cold, dry, lifeless,
and mechanical. And whatever the questionable remedies we might
introduce to our program in order to "enliven" it will only make it
less spiritual and more carnal. It is the gracious influence of the
Holy Spirit that gives life and warmth in worship.
NO PRIOR PREPARATION
Failure to make due preparation before coming to God in worship
is a very common cause in the coldness of our worship. When we draw
near to the special presence of God in worship, we come in order to
give something to God and to received something from Him. And this requires
What are we to offer to God in worship? As the royal priesthood,
we are to "offer due spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus
Christ" (1 Pet 2:5). We come no longer to bring a sacrifice for sin,
because Jesus Christ made that once and for all in the atonement of Calvary
(Heb 9:11-14, 23-28; 10:1-18). But we are to bring the spiritual sacrifice
of praise (Heb. 13:15), the sacrifice of giving (Heb. 13:16), the sacrifice
of a broken and contrite heart (Psa. 51:17), and the sacrifice of a consecrated
life (Rom. 12:1). These are the sacrifices we offer as priests (1Pet. 2:4-10; Rev.1:6).
Moreover, we are also to receive something from God in worship. The
ministry of His word both in the public reading of Scriptures and in the preaching
of His Word (Rev. 1:3; 1Tim.4;13; 2Tim.41-4).
Now if we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God and to receive the
ministry of His Word without due preparation. Failure to prepare is not only
presumptous, but will be a cause for coldness in worship.
But what sort of preparations must we make before worship? It involves
the preparation of both body and soul.
The body must be prepared because, unlike angels, we are not disembodied
spirits. Gos created us as body and soul beings, and there is a mysterious
interaction and interpenetration between body and soul. The condition of the
soul will affect the body (Prov. 3:7, 8). And the condition of the body will
influence the condition of the soul. Thus Jesus said to His disciples who
have been overcome with sleep when they should have been praying and watching
- "the spirit is willing but the flesh (or body) is weak"
Therefore, the body must be given sufficient rest on Saturday night.
If you fail in this, that will greatly affect your worship on the Lord's Day.
many wonder about their coldness in worship when the answer is a simple discipline
of their Saurday night. As priest of God, it is your duty to make bodily
preparation for the worship of God.
But preparation for worship must include the soul or the heart. What
does this involve? Let me mention the most important (ones):
A clear conscience before God (Acts 24:16). Without this, it is impossible
to approach God with sincerity of heart. This requires humble confession of our
sins to Him, and come again to the fountain for the washing of our sins to
Him - the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:14).
Seeking peace with an offended brother or sister. Our Lord declared: "If
therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your
brother has something against you, leave your offering at the altar, and go your way:
first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering"
(Matt. 5:23, 24). This text clearly teaches that seeking to right a wrong with a
brother/sister must take place prior to worship.
Meditating upon God's greatness, goodness and mercy. This is what David did in
Psalm 103: " Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy
Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not His benefits . . ." And then
David goes to specifics of remembering the sparkling jewels of God's mercies towards
him: " who pardons all your iniquities; who heal all your diseases; who redeems
your life from the pit; who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies
your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle."
And David even goes beyond just the blessings God showers him with God's dealings
with all men. Even christians experience frustrations, pains, and sorrow while
still in this world. But that should not blind us to the richness of God's blessings
upon us. Prior to worship, we must be remembering these mercies, counting our
blessings one by one.
Praying for the fresh supplies of the Spirit. We are not only to avoid grieving
the Holy Spirit, but we must also plead for the fresh supplies of the Spirit to
enliven our worship. The Lord Jesus assures us that such a prayer is answered
Without these prior preparations, we will must likely be cold and lifeless
It pains me to see people so enthusiatic in the sports arena, but cold
and lifeless in the worship services. For is not God such a great King?