As a teenager, when I had strayed from the Lord, I remember seeing an old school bus cruising around my home town that had been repainted purple and white. Up on the top, above the windshield, were printed the words “JOY BUS.”
I remember chuckling to myself, envisioning the bus filled with people waving their hands out the windows and singing.
I had been brought up in a Christian denomination where I can never remember using the word “joy” to refer to our relationship with God, even though the Bible uses the word over 200 times. To be fair, it may have been mentioned in my up-bringing, but we certainly never would have painted that word on a bus.
No, the focus when I was raised was on what awful sinners we all were—or at least that’s the way it seemed. I’m sure the joy of the Gospel was in there somewhere…
Later in life, as I grew closer to the Lord, I seemed drawn to churches outside my denomination. The first time I was in a church where people were raising their hands and singing, I had a feeling that is hard to put into words. It was like I was happy for them and embarrassed for them all at the same time. I sure wasn’t going to raise MY hands, no-siree– but I sang right along with “How Great is Our God.”
Then, during the sermon, people were shouting “AMEN!” while the pastor was talking!
This was very different—very different indeed. People were emotional about God.
Then, I began reading things about how churches “like that” were all about entertainment and there was no depth to them.
I was conflicted. The happy church sure felt good. But, things that feel good are something I was taught to associate with guilt.
So, I checked the Bible:
John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Those words are in red. Jesus wants us to have not just joy, but complete joy. Hmmm.
But, then there is this:
1 Peter 4:7 —The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.
That “sober” word pops up quite a few times. Paul even writes about seeing to it that we have orderly worship.
Psalm 33:3 —Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
Oh, but let us not forget:
Luke 18: 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
I went back and forth on all this in my mind for quite a while.
Then, I remembered the first words in Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose-Driven Life”:
“It’s not about you.”
Or to put it another way, Kinship Christian Radio Executive Director Matt Dorfner recently shared a Max Lucado quote:
“It’s not about me. It’s not about here. And, it’s not about now.”
John 4:24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
So, after all that, I am left to wonder if all of the differences in the way different denominations worship are part of the devil’s plan to divide and conquer, or are they examples of God’s glory in that there as many different ways to worship Him as there are people? Is all worship acceptable as long as it’s done in truth and in the Spirit? Or, is it not about us at all, but about God? Author: Dan Jones
In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.