When we take a look at biblical history, we find a pattern of worship that couldn’t be more distant from what we see in most modern churches today. Ancient Israel, a people set apart by God, given was meticulous laws and guidelines on how to worship the Creator of heaven and earth. It was an awe-stricken approach, deeply rooted in reverence and governed by God’s holy Word. The worship of God was never viewed as optional or negotiable. The intricate details of offerings, the role of the Levites, and the majesty of God displayed in the Ark of the Covenant—all were aimed to point God’s people to His glory. It was the central element of Israelite life and a failure to do so always ended with drastic consequences and judgment.
Fast forward to today, and what we witness is a drastic departure from historic biblical worship. Worship has been grossly misshaped, stripped of its sacredness, and redefined according to the impulses of popular culture. Worship leaders and their music teams have become nothing more than performers on stage broadcasting their talents to whatever agents might happen to run across them rather than humble servants leading the congregation in singing praises to God. While the capriciousness of collective ideology shapes the church’s worship service, the Word of God is often sidelined, reduced to a few-minute devotional tacked onto the end of a high-octane music set.
But let us be clear—true worship has always revolved around God’s Word. Whether it was the Levites reciting the Law, the reading of the Psalms, or the apostles expounding on the teachings of Christ in the early church, the proclamation of the Word of God was central to worship. In fact, it is impossible to genuinely worship God without acknowledging and submitting to His revealed truth. How can one claim to honor God while neglecting the very Word He has provided for our instruction and edification?
Many contemporary Evangelical churches have bifurcated worship, separating the music from the preaching of the Word. In such settings, “worship” typically refers solely to the musical or concert portion of the service, while the preaching is often viewed as a separate, even lesser, component. This is a serious error as the preaching of the Word of God is not a mere add-on. It is the foundation of worship. Our response to the preached Word—repentance, faith, obedience, awe, reverence—is itself an act of worship, honoring God by receiving and applying His truth.
Yet, the current trajectory is a grave one, where emotional experiences have supplanted biblical truths as the primary aim of worship. Take, for example, the many Evangelical and charismatic church movements that revolve primarily around their musical products. These congregations, widely popular and influencing millions globally, have clearly put a premium on creating an environment of emotionalism. The weightiness of God’s glory and the richness of sound doctrine have been sacrificed on the altar of a fleeting ecstatic high. Songs with repetitive lyrics and hypnotic musical arrangements or songs that mirror the pop culture around us are deliberately chosen to foster an emotional surge.
At Hillsong, for example, the grandiose performances, complete with laser light shows and concert-quality music, are awe-inspiring to many, but one may ask, where is the awe for God Himself? Where is the reverence that the Scriptures command when coming into the presence of the Almighty?
Bethel Church, similarly, offers an atmosphere where sensational experiences take command. People flock to their “healing rooms” and engage in so-called “prophetic acts,” most of which are completely disconnected from or even totally contrary to the teachings of Scripture. The emphasis on miraculous signs and wonders and individual emotional experiences runs the risk of overshadowing the importance of the Gospel message.
Then there’s Church by the Glades, an overtly worldly Southern Baptist megachurch, which has taken sensationalism to another level altogether. The church is known to employ elements of pop culture, performing songs from secular, immoral celebrities, and even recreating scenes from popular movies as part of their services. In the quest to be “relevant,” the gravity of the Gospel has been diluted, relegated to merely another act in the show. People come for the spectacle and leave entertained, but do they leave transformed by the renewing of their minds through the Word of God? No.
Services at these churches are often designed to titillate the senses, keep people on the edge of their seats, and ensure they return the next week, not to serve the Lord, but to get another “fix” of religious amusement. The focus has shifted from God-centered worship to man-centered experiences, and in the process, the church is losing its distinctiveness, becoming more like a spiritual amusement park than a house of worship.
In this distressing landscape, many so-called worshippers don’t even realize the idolatry they are participating in. They may leave church feeling uplifted but remain woefully ignorant of the God they claim to have worshipped. In such settings, we have traded the awe of God for a momentary emotional high. We have traded the sacred and eternal for the superficial and temporary. And in doing so, we have not merely redefined worship, we have profaned it.
Modern churches must revisit their roots, recalibrate their priorities, and return to a biblical model of worship—one that exalts God above all, honors His Word, and leads His people into genuine, Spirit-filled adoration. Anything less is not only an injustice to God but a disservice to the very souls we claim to be nurturing.