Worship in the American Church Culture

Featuring Branon Dempsey Posted on May 12, 2008

Worship and the Gospel is found in our everyday activities, relationships and conversations beyond the Sunday service. It’s great to have services that function as a place to worship and a place to communicate the Gospel.  Recently, I was approached by a few concerning issues within the church-worship culture of America. These questions challenged me to think more critically about our worship services, in view of the Bible. I am interested in how, if at all, they challenge you as well.

  1. Is the local church merely putting on a “show,” to our congregations?
  2. Are we truly showing up to worship?
  3. Who is the service for?

We are surrounded by a popular individualistic world-view that has an anything-goes mentality – even in other worship movements and local churches. Biblical foundations places worship in a more Christ-centered context (1Cn 16:29; Ps. 98:5; Ex. 24:7; Lk. 4:15-21; Ac. 4:31; Lk. 22:14:20; Mt. 26:30). In America, there is no doubt that both traditional and contemporary churches face their set of challenges of maintaining biblical and cultural relevancy for today’s people. The toughest point I see: how do we develop and/or preserve an accurate biblical model of church worship, while relating and reaching authentically to our neighbors as Jesus? This concern is also shared in how we as American Christians present the Gospel, worship and the Character of Christ to the rest of the world.

To often, we dress our services in many different styles in order to appeal or to “show” to the masses. There also seems to be rivalries among local churches to affirm their efforts over another. Making services relevant to our communities is needed; like anything else, we can get caught in the motions and our purpose loses vitality. Unfortunately, this has been the case for decades in battles over preference issues: music styles, our appearance, culture as well as old arguments of carpet color, bible study programs and what the pastor ate last night. These minor subjects seem to override the spiritual priorities of the Church.


It is true that a church must have a defined DNA of style of worship, but biblical worship, reading of the Word and the preaching of the Gospel, should not be compromised at the expense of relevancy. Praise be to God, that he is not concerned over style preferences in our attempts to worship Him. He does not only hear traditional hymns, contemporary choruses or responsive readings, neither is he concerned about the caliber of our bands, video-eye-candy or catchy sermons. What He is concerned with is the condition of our hearts and the attitude of our souls in worship. Our concern does need to be in how we present ourselves to the world by our heart and biblical posture.



God is honored by a contrite spirit of worship. The worship service is for God and He alone.  The Gospel belongs to the work of God in missions. The balance is found in how we rightly anchor worship services on the Bible while relating to the world via the Gospel. Through ardent praise and response from the community of worship, the unchurched and de-churched can experience the Gospel and God’s unconditional love through authentic relationships.



John Piper put it clearly in, “Let The Nations Be Glad,” that evangelism (missions) comes out of worship. This means that worship comes first.  For worship services to be ardent, authentic and of relevant substance, the Word of God needs to be the foundation for conducting services and not by our style preferences to govern our praise. Neither should the Gospel be governed by how the church presents a “style” in order to show relevancy, otherwise we appear to America (and the rest of the world) as just a show.  What are your thoughts?