More than once I’ve heard Christians claim that worship should be fun, or act like they had a responsibility to prove that Christians knew how to “party” in church. I’ve always been uncomfortable with that connection, so I started thinking about the place of “fun” in worship, if one even exists. I’d like to address this question by answering it as I posed it, and then considering two other ways it might be phrased.
Should worship be fun? If we take the exhaustive testimony of Scripture, the answer would have to be a resounding NO. “Fun” doesn’t seem to characterize many of the scenes where people encounter God in the Bible. We’re told to worship God with reverence and awe, for he is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28-29). To have “fun” should never be our primary motive as we gather. Our goal is to remember God’s greatness, present our petitions before him, and thank him for his abundant mercies in Jesus Christ. Celebration should certainly be included in that, but there are also times when worshipping God can produce awe, tears of repentance, or a profound silence.
But let me rephrase the question. Can worship be fun? It depends on how we define “fun.” I know some of you are incredulous I’m even entertaining this thought. And it’s possible I’ll get some comments to that effect. But believe me, I’m not trying to be flippant. In fact, I’m currently at John Piper’s pastors conference and heard a message last night by R.C. Sproul on the holiness of God from Isaiah 6. It was powerful, convicting, and sobering. We worship a holy God.
If “fun” is defined as a lighthearted activity with no purpose or meaning, strictly meant to amuse, then the answer to “can worship be fun?” must surely be no. When we worship God together, we are not looking to be merely entertained or momentarily distracted from the cares of this world. Diversion is not the same as worship. Our joy and gladness are always grounded in and informed by God’s character, nature, and acts.
However, when I looked up “fun” on my desktop dictionary, the first meaning was “enjoyable.” If we’re asking, “Can worshipping God be enjoyable?” then surely the answer must be yes. Isaiah 6 isn’t the only chapter in Scripture that describes how we are to relate to God. There have been countless times that I’ve been leading worship or singing as part of the congregation and thought, “I love doing this!” Joy floods my soul, and I could legitimately say I’m having “fun!”
It maybe similar to what the Israelites experienced in 2 Chronicles 30. They so enjoyed celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days that Hezekiah and the people spontaneously decided to keep the feast for another seven days (2 Chron. 30:22-23)! That must have been some celebration! On another occasion, Ezra and the priests told the people not to mourn or weep because that day was “holy to the Lord” and that the joy of the Lord was their strength (Neh. 8:9-10). Holiness and joy aren’t necessarily exclusive.
When my children were growing up, I wanted them to look forward to singing worship songs, and not see a relationship with God as something that was only serious, sober, and solemn. After all, singing to God is meant to be pleasant (Ps. 135:3; Ps. 147:1). David danced before the Lord with all his might as he brought the ark back to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:12-15). The Psalmist was glad when they said to him, “Let us go up to the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1). So yes, when defined as enjoyment and not seen as the only aspect of worship, worshipping God can be very “fun.” People shouldn’t find our meetings dull or dour. Smiles and even laughter should abound as we consider how kind, merciful, and gracious God has been to us (Ps. 126:2)!
But let me rephrase the question one more time, to broaden the application. “Should our fun be worship?” Well now the answer must surely be “yes.” We’re told in 1 Cor. 10:31 that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we’re to do it all for the glory of God. Rather than focusing on making our corporate worship fun, maybe we should spend more time making sure our “fun” is worship.
Here are some questions that can lead us in that direction.
Do I choose a fun activity because there’s nothing else to do, or because I believe it will in some way cause me to grow in my love for God?
When I play games, participate in sports, or pursue a hobby, does my attitude demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit?
When I go out with a group of friends, am I seeking just to have fun, or to glorify God through encouraging them, challenging sin, and serving them?
Do the activities I consider “fun” increase my affections for God or dilute them?
Do I view my free time as belonging to me or to God?
The fun this world offers is unsatisfying, deceptive, and temporary. Let’s not idolize or fall for it. As Christians, we can enjoy fun activities without believing they’re the root of our joy. The fun, joy, pleasure, and celebration we experience when we worship God is greater than the world will ever know, because the root is knowing we are completely forgiven through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Our joy is in God himself. We’d be fools to look for it anywhere else.
For more on this topic, download the following messages from the Sovereign Grace site:
Worshiping God as the Source of All Secondary Joys by Randy Alcorn
A Biblical Understanding of Leisure by Jeff Purswell
Bob – I like reading your blog, and usually find it insightful. However, I have to disagree with your assertion that scripture doesn’t support the idea of worship being “fun.” For sure, I doubt in even the most liberal translations the word “fun” would be found. But there are numerous places in the Old Testament that worship includes shouting, joyful singing, tambourines and even dancing (see Jeremiah 31 for one such example). Surely that sounds like “fun” even to the most fuddy-duddy amongst us.
So, I would just say, that, not only *can* worship be fun, but the scriptures clearly support the idea that worship *should be* and even *is* fun. We come to God with our whole hearts…
Great reflections, Bob. Thank you.
When I started reading your post all I could think of was the ‘Happy Song’. We haven’t done this song in a long time but every time we do we are shouting, jumping, clapping, laughing, crying, you name it. We are very silly dancing around. It’s neat to see old men dance for joy like in their youth. I guess that’s the only time I see us having “fun” in the literal sense but still worshipping because “I can sing unending songs of how [God] saved my soul!” I love it!
Thanks for the reflection though Bob. I will evaluate my “fun” activities to see if they are to the glory of God. I have been convicted about one TV show I like to watch on Monday nights and have asked my husband to keep me accountable. This post is just another reminder for me and God’s kindness to me. Thanks! -Trillia
p.s. I didn’t watch it last night! Praise God!
One of your best posts ever. Thank you so much. It seems once again it is all about our hearts, isn’t it? If my GOAL in worship is fun I am serving and pursuing something other than God. If my GOAL in fun is worship I am serving God in everything. If my GOAL in Worship is…Worship how can I not be impacted in every part of my being from tears of deep brokeness to the highest gaity. So I have experienced it in my own church, often in the same service. No wonder it is the dearest place on earth!
Bob, I appreciate your thoughts on this. Too often in America, where we have such a pampered church experience (compared to other parts of the world), Christians have the tendency to assume that God always wants us to be happy, carefree, and comfortable. This is one reason so many churches, even in our conservative circles, want to de-emphasis negative topics like sin, wrath, judgment, etc., in favor of feel-good topics like God’s love. Of course we want to emphasize the love of God, but it is meaningless without the doctrines of man’s sinfulness and God’s justice.
I think we could fairly ask a few questions to diagnose what lies at the root of this desire for “fun” worship services: Does spending time in our services considering and meditating upon objective truth about God bore us? If so, is that because we (in leadership) are not presenting that truth in a clear and compelling way? Are we afraid of being impacted by that truth as a congregation in ways other than being excited, entertained, or inspired?
Thank you for this carefully nuanced discussion of the terms. This was not only helpful for this discussion, but your example of thoughtfulness serves us well.
Did you get to the bottom of Bob’s article? It seems he addresses your points quite comprehensively. He wrote: “So yes, when defined as enjoyment and not seen as the only aspect of worship, worshipping God can be very ‘fun.'”
Bob, thanks for tackling the tough topic of fun (read “finding enjoyment in”) the worship of God. If we view worship as something that can’t be fun, then in what should we find enjoyment? Thanks for helping answer that question.
Brian, I would like to humbly suggest that you have missed the distinction that Bob is highlighting in his post. The distinction comes in the definition of fun being used. If, as Bob begins with, we view fun as an “activity with no purpose or meaning, strictly meant to amuse,” then worship should not be viewed that way. But if we view fun as “enjoyable,” then worship can definitely be enjoyable. This is the very point that Bob makes. But, the fact is, worship is not always enjoyable (nor should it be). For instance, I don’t think Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6 was “enjoyable” or “fun,” but it was certainly good and brought God glory. I don’t always find the exposure of my sinfulness “fun,” but it is always good. And it will always cause me to rejoice more deeply in God–but probably not immediately. Perhaps it would be helpful to say that worship can bring godly joy or godly sorrow, but both are for the good of our souls.
At the risk of rambling, I have one last thought. I think it is C. S. Lewis that draws attention to the fact (though I don’t have access to any books right now) which Piper emphasizes in “Desiring God.” That truth is that we are called to desire God, to “enjoy Him.” Enjoying God is inherently enjoyable, but to center on that enjoyment spoils the entire experience because we lose sight of the (infinitely worthy) object of enjoyment by focusing on the feeling of enjoyment instead. We are called to delight in God, not delight in delighting in God. The former is righteous and proper, the second is idolatry. And I think that is a helpful word to keep in mind when discussing this topic.
Should every worship service be fun? No, but there should be appropriate responses to appropriate situations and it should run the gamut of our emotions, since God created them. “Appropriate”, to me, is the key. Some try to artificially lighten a mood, others try to control spontaneity. They seem to worry about things getting out of control. We can and should have “fun” in the sense of enjoyment, encouragement, and awe in our worship–at the church, home, business, commute, etc.!
“You can be my brother without being my twin.”
Dig the blog!
For me as a worship leader, and even as a member of the congregation, I don’t think of worship in terms of fun, but in terms of Joy. When I serve with a team of people, and am an integral part of ushering in the Holy Spirit, it brings me GREAT joy. Even when I’m convicted, or experiencing struggles or hardship, I experience joy on some level, because I know the Spirit is working in me.
It was a unique joy to sit immediately behind you and CJ throughout the DG Conf. for Pastors and notice you delighting in God with 1200 others…oftentimes through the lyrics of songs you’ve written. I couldn’t help but notice you bury your hands in your face the first time we erupted in a song you composed, and another time when CJ happily shoulder-slapped you when another one was keyed up (so as to say, “That’s my boy”). Later, I happened to be talking to C. Steddom when you passed by and thanked he and Carol for their “great job” in the sessions. Thank you for serving us through writing/composing God-honoring songs. Thank you especially for living what you lead.
Amazed that we’re loved by the thrice Holy God,
Thank you for your kind and meaningful encouragement. I was surprised and blessed that Chuck Steddom, who led the singing at the conference, did a number of Sovereign Grace songs. I had my face in my hands numerous times, but not because we were singing one of my songs! I was deeply affected by R.C. Sproul’s preaching on God’s holiness and his ability to communicate God’s Word so powerfully. I became freshly aware of my sinfulness and freshly grateful for the substitutionary sacrifice of my Savior.
As for the interaction with CJ, I think that was as we started the song “Receive the Glory.” He thanked me for writing the song, and I told him again that I wouldn’t have written it if it weren’t for his effect on my life. I wrote it for the weekend he handed the leadership of Covenant Life Church over to Joshua Harris. In the song, I tried to express some of the main things that CJ had built into the church while he was the senior pastor. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name alone be the glory…all that we’ve accomplished You have done for us…so we’ll glory in the cross of Christ.”
Thanks again for your kind words.
Dear Mr. Kauflin,
Praise God for this topic He has laid upon your heart. I am a college student, and just last night at Crosswalk (our christian fellowship), the songs we sang were played so loud I couldn’t even hear the voices of God’s saints around me. The lyrics were great, and my heart longed to express them in song, but after a while, I opened my eyes and saw more of an adrenaline rush than a heartfelt response of worship to God, after a serious and challenging message.
Why do christian concerts feel the need to look like rock concerts? There is great power in music – it can stir a great emotion within people. And this is a beautiful thing, but also something to be wary of.
We’ve started singing more hymns at my church, and I’ve come to stop sounding and start singing the solid truths of our most Holy Lord Jesus that come to life through the lyrics. I highly recommend “Be Thou My Vision,” “Fairest Lord Jesus,” “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand,” “Jesus Paid it All”, “Oh Worship the King,” and “How Firm a Foundation.” It’s not about us – it’s about Jesus.
Thank you for sharing this post, my Koinonia leader sent it to us, and it couldn’t have been a more opportune time.
Interesting post. However, I must say that I think we should be careful in how we use the OT to support our actions in worship.
To say that David danced before the Lord, does not necessarily mean that it is something God delights in us doing now.
Am indeed grateful that such a topic came up, that many dread to venture into…
Gathering up the further insights on the topic brought up by Wes Crawford, Bill Bell and Sarah, in their replies, I am apprehended by the thought of caution that we may all have to adopt – that while we already can see the general consensus among the brethren who have been in this discussion, is of the view that the ‘fun’ in worship should always be regarded as a purposeful glorification of God and not to subscribe man’s preference for selfish enjoyment.
Along this path, however, it is also prudent that the brethren be alert to those among us who may harbour continual selfish, individualistic, man-centred motives of generating an environment of fun, yet in public consideration of the endorsed view of worship, play upon the expectations of that crowd, with the natural soulish mindset of wanting to be liked by others.
All this will require a depth of relationship with the Spirit so real, that there can be a clear discernment of the spirits at play among others, especially those who lead the congregation in singing as well as the musicians themselves.
Do I detect that you may not be comfortable with dancing? I think it’s very important for us to examine our relationship with the Lord and our approach to ministry by taking into account how much our culture influences our opinions about things. Oftentimes we become skeptical about a particular concept (i.e. dancing or meditation) because we have seen the abuse of it by the ungodly.
There is also the role that our church traditions play in our attitudes. Is the church tradition that tells us to throw out everything that is an example to us in the Old Testament (because we are now under a new covenant) valid?
When doing a theological study of worship, our number one resource is the Psalms, is it not? How many songs do we sing today that come directly from the Psalms? We are clearly instructed to dance in many places in the Psalter. I think it is folly, therefore to be selective as to what we should include and exclude from the Psalms, or any scripture for that matter, based upon our personal feelings or biases. Also, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament, not abolish it.
That said, I’m not one who encourages a lot of dancing when I lead worship. But if someone is moved to dance with joy before the Lord, let them dance. Let them express their heart in a very physical manner. If they are moved to kneel, let them kneel.
Now – I will draw the line when it comes to any form of worship that cannot be substantiated by scripture. Period.
Finally, I think that it is high time that we really examine traditions that we have been taught in light of scripture. Some of them are simply wrong.
I would like to say that this is a very interesting topic. Being in youth ministry I often hear the word fun used to describe a worship service. I always want to ask the question “Why was worship fun?” Maybe, because that during worship we enter into the act of celebration or that we are in the presence of God, that makes it fun. I had a college professor once say that,”worship, in fact will never be about us. It will always be about God.” I appreciate your concluding comments about making our “fun” worshipful. It’s something that I think we all really need to think about.
I really like your view on how worship should not always be a solemn experience. I do think that there is a time and place to reflect on the power and awe that is God. However, when we worship, we should enjoy the fact that we are able to come into God’s presence. After all, how can we not enjoy ourselves knowing that we are singing in the presence of the Almighty?
I really appreciate your outlook on this subject. Finding enjoyment in worship is something I think God enjoys himself. When we enjoy his creation and hike the mountains, I would like to think that smiles down on us for enjoying what he made! Worship is much the same, he sent his son for us to die for our sins, and on that note, it is sad, but beause of his resurrection we have been reconciled! That is awesome and because of that he gets our all. (most of the time)
Very balanced perspective on worship Bob. I enjoy reading this blog and while I understand that it is not the be all and end all of worship education, it is a valued resource. Thanks for staying grounded in scripture!
I was struck the wrong way when I first began to read the essay, but after more explanation, I too, agree. When I think of fun worship, I think of David but he was still very exalting in the times of “fun” worship. He just truly enjoyed being in the presence of God and he is the first person in the Bible I think of when I think of a worshiping heart.
Ryan puts it very well, you provide a “balanced” perspective, and that is much appreciated! If worship is just a means to a desired end (that end being “fu”), we are in the wrong place. If the Lord fills our hearts with joy as we are praising him, and we have “fun,” that’s all the more reason to praise the Lord! I have listened to one of your sermons, “Healthy Tensions in Corporate Worship,” and I so I appreciate your continued “balanced” perspective. I also appreciate the way people on this blog are so respectful. It’s refreshing!
I appreciate you discussing this topic. When I read the question, ‘Should worship be fun?’ it got me reeling on my own worship life. I think that being a Christian and experiencing life in the presence of God, presents so many different emotions. Sometimes I’m up and sometimes I’m humbled, and other times I’m face down crying my soul out to Him. So I definitely agree that worship can be fun. Because we as humans experience so many different emotions in our life, and I think it is important to experience different emotions in our walk with Christ.
Also, if the life of a Christian is always the same thing and ho-hum and sort of depressing, what non-Christian will want to come in and experience the same thing we are!
Thank you for the insight and I do like the way you rephrased the question!
I totally agree with your statements regarding fun towards worship and worship in general. For me I know at least at times I forget that whatever I do, in word and deed is worship. Being on a worship team i’ve kind of trained myself to think that this event and holy time only happens on stage, during a service to a congregation,etc. This shouldn’t be so at all. I don’t think God intended worship to be excluded at all to just the church. If we’re out running, doing work, enjoying ourselves with friends, whatever, it should all be in a worshipful mindset for God. This article has in a way brought me back and let me know that God wants to be a part of EVERYTHING in my life, everything I do from the time I wake until I rest at night should reflect His light. WORSHIP INDEED CAN BE FUN
If fun is the focus then we’re definitely off track. But if by worshiping God (in any way or form)we “have fun” then I say, more power to you.
I agree that there is definitely a difference between whether something is fun or whether it should be. But like Brian said in the first post, many times through out the OT (the whole Bible for that matter), God is worshipped not by bowed heads, but by lifted hands and loud voices. Hillsong United is one of my favorite bands because they know when to jump (Salvation is Here) and they know when to think (There Is Nothing Like). The beautiful thing about jumping is that it moves us, musically. I can experience God with one beautiful chord on the guitar…it is music. The beauty about thinking is that it gives us time away from jumping and lets us dwell on the lyrics…thinking.
All in all, I agree with Brian…”So, I would just say, that, not only *can* worship be fun, but the scriptures clearly support the idea that worship *should be* and even *is* fun. We come to God with our whole hearts…”
When I think of this aspect of fun in worship I think of fun as a byproduct. I think “joy” is a more adequate word to be found in worship. I appreciated how the questions were rephrased. With any given question there are always questions about the specifics of the question. The balance is necessary in most any given part of worship. We must realize that worship will not always be fun and also that fun is not excluded from worship. God will not spite us for finding enjoyment from worship, neither will He if we display sadness and reverence in our worship. Since God is so diverse in His being we may need to worship God in different attitudes to fully worship him.
I think worship should and can be fun. We were created to worship Him, and when you’re doing what you were created to do, that is SO much fun. Sure there are convicting times and times of reverence, awe, and even sadness when worshipping God, but most of the time my heart reflects joy and happiness and FUN whenever I celebrate who Christ is in my life. God knows my heart, and I know He loves it when I bask in His glory while singing abundant praises that glorify His name and what He has done for me. To me, that’s a lot of fun.
This is an interesting topic, and I especially like the distinction between what worship should and could be. I agree with the fact that biblically, worship is both celebratory and also reverent. One more factor to this idea that might be a tangent: Should worship in a teaching aspect, such as youth ministry, be fun or engaging? How about what could be called “evangelistic worship”?
For those who believe that worship should always be fun. I would direct you to two areas to consider.
The first would be the Psalms of lament. After my marrage ended because my wife committed adultery and refused to repent. I didn’t need anyone to tell me to read these psalms of lament, because my heart was drawn to worship “The Lord who weeps”. Have we forgotten John 11:35!
The second is the acount of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Truly Stephen wasn’t having “fun”, but who would say that Stephen wasn’t worshipping his Lord in this, “congeration of hate and malice.” We can only speculate on how his dying word of forgiveness, were used to soften hard hearts to the gospel and lead others to Worship The King. Remember Saul was one of the witnesses of this murder!
worship and fun is a rather interesting juxtaposition. I would say that fun is a rather difficult concept concerning worship. I would say that worship CAN be fun because if you have been to a Chris Tomlin or a David Crowder* Band concert, there is an element of fun to it with such driving songs of praise. But the air of the whole experience is reverent and holy and thus, I guess for lack of a better phrase, serious.
Wow this is so awesome! I have always gone through a myriad of emotions during worship time at my church. I absolutely agree we can have fun but remember that our “fun” comes worshipping a holy God that loves us more than we could ever know or comprehend. That alone can bring so much joy and yes, FUN to our times of worship.
A wonderful post, Bob.
I am mainly writing this in response to Brian (who was the first to post). My intent is not to spark a debate, but to clarify some things.
First of all, if we are going by the definition as ‘something amusing’ then no. Amusing comes from the word “muse”-to think-with the add-on of “a” which negates the other word. Literally to “not think” [like AMUSEment parks. ;)]
Anyway, as far as I know or have heard, the closest word we can find in the Bible for “fun” is “foolishness”.
As a last point (counter-point really), you mentioned times in the OT when there were joyful singing and dancing. Joy is not fun. You can have joy while suffering (Christ did). Joy is an attitude (one given by God) not a feeling. As to what the Israelites had, I believe that they were happy which stemmed from their joy.
Conclusion [;)]: Anytime I have seen the word “fun” it is always in the context of some inward feeling of satisfaction about current circumstances. The key word there is “inward”. Is worship to be inward? Not at all. Worship is to be directed towards God, we are to worship Him no matter what our current circumstances or feelings.
Worship is not about us, it’s about Him.
Okay, I’m done now. *Grin*
I’ve not read all of the comments. So, I may be asking an already-answered question. Anyway, I have been playing in church (guitar) for about 20 years. About a year or two ago, we had a change of the guard in terms of worship leader. There has gradually been an increased pressure to “play and sound like the recording.” The creativity that I have been able to use in the past has been my worship. I’m not a jumper or run the aisles, I’m very reserved. However, when I play a song the way I interpret it, I feel connected to God. It has been explained to me that any deviation from the way the song is recorded might be a distraction to others in the congregation, since they have heard many of the songs on the radio and have an “expectation” of how it should “go.” I get that my creative license might be distracting, and I am find with taking direction, and I have done so in the past with no hard feeling. I get it. I always have, wherever I have played. However, the problem that I run into is that many of the songs we do might have 2 or 3 guitar parts. On top of that, they are hard to hear completely, and I don’t know which one to play/focus on. I feel that I fail every weekend, because my equipment is not top-of-the-line professional equipment. Plus, I have much difficulty getting a tone like the recording. I get close, but I don’t know if that is enough. I work, have a family, and am involved in other things, and I find myself getting angry and fearful to play on a weekend. I feel like I am supposed to treat my prep time as a full-time job. I don’t know if this is an example of “worshiping in the difficult times,” or if this is a people problem. I hate feeling the way I do when I play. It’s not me and it’s not how I want to relate to the Lord. Any input will be helpful. I’m at a loss. I want to quit, but I don’t want the devil to win either.
Rich, thanks for your comment/question. I”m so sorry that playing for the church has become more of a burden than a joy. It seems you have two choices. First, you could simply do the best you can, continue to grow, and trust that God will show his strength in your weakness. Second, it may be time to take a break from the music team, and just enjoy letting others lead you for a season. In any case, if you haven’t already done it, it would be good to sit down with the new leadership to hear what they’re thinking, share your thoughts, and have a conversation about it. Who knows what the Lord might do?
Whatever you do in worship must always follow the rule: be joyful, never irreverent, There is a line drawn in the sand that we must never cross. As a believer I am called to glorify God. If you want to see what is crossing the line, look at the Israelites before Moses brought down the tablets. They fractured the commandments an praised the golden calf. “Here is your God who will take you to the promised land.” We must never exalt any man, object or animal above God, He alone is worthy of our praise. No innuendos, or unwholesome references are acceptable. Only worship directed to the One who has redeemed us. Worship God, it can be enjoyable.