I’ve known individuals whose sole purpose in the assemblies has seemed to be to critique those who lead the worship or show up to engage in it, from their appearance to their aptitude. While we certainly need to avoid having someone blatantly engaging in sin and error (that’s an article for a different occasion), if that is one extreme then hypercriticism of the worship and worshipper can be another. If you or someone you love is tempted to play this deflating part, consider the following.
- It’s unwarranted. Who earns the right to be the official analyst of the worship? How does one properly and fruitfully engage himself and herself in John 4:24 worship while assuming this presumptuous activity? The Bible nowhere portrays such a one in a positive light. One critic of another’s worship we do read about is unflatteringly presented and unfavorably analyzed by God in Luke 18:9-14. We should ask why we feel it necessary that we grade and rate others present with us before the Great I Am.
- It’s unscriptural. This can be the case in many possible ways. First, if we gossip or speak about someone rather than addressing it with them, that’s wrong (1 Pet. 2:1; Mat. 18:15). Second, if our tone is biting, sarcastic, and unloving, that’s wrong (2 Tim. 2:24; Eph. 4:15). Third, if in being critical we ourselves are not properly engaged in worship, that’s wrong (John 4:24).
- It’s unwise. It is so easy to undermine and squander one’s own influence who reduces himself or herself to nitpicking others in the assemblies. It can cause others to lose respect for us and even seek to avoid us. This is especially important to remember if, in a close and final analysis, what we criticize does not rise to the level of meriting such criticism.
- It’s untenable. The critic is exposed as doing what he or she is condemning others for—i.e., not offering acceptable worship. It’s somewhat like the child who sees a sibling with eyes open during the prayer and who tattles to mom and dad, who promptly ask, “How do you know?”
- It’s unwelcome. The chronic complainer, sooner or later, develops a reputation for such. It causes others to avoid them for fear of the carnage it could create. The Corinthians were urged to be edifiers in their assemblies (cf. 1 Cor. 14:12,26). The worship critic works against that ever-present need.
- It’s unbelievable. How incredible that one would misuse the assemblies to nitpick minutia when the Creator, the Savior, and the Revealer are present and expecting worship from all present! What a gross misunderstanding of our role as Christians to abuse the time in such a way. In fact, it is utter audacity.
There may be a bit of the critic in all of us. Certainly, we should be striving to make worship better in every practical way we can. That involves teaching and training. It involves singing songs with words we actually use and understand. It involves probably 1,000 other things, but let’s not get so lost in the pursuit of “improving” that we forget to do what we assembled to do: worship God!