More than once I’ve heard Christians insist 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’m going 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” wouldn’t characterize any of the scenes in the Bible where people encounter God together, at least not the zany, slap-happy, crazy, mindless kind of fun. We’re told to worship God with reverence and awe, for he is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28-29). To have “fun” one of our primary motives as we gather. Among other things our goals include remembering, rehearsing, and reveling in the gospel, magnifying God’s glory in Christ, spurring one another on to love and good deeds, presenting our petitions before God, and being strengthened by his Word and the communion of the saints. Celebration will certainly be included in that, but there are also times when worshipping God will 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.”
If “fun” is defined as a lighthearted activity with no purpose or meaning, strictly meant to amuse, then the answer to the question, “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. We’re not seeking to promote a Christian alternative to Saturday Night Live (Sunday Morning Live?). Diversion is not the same as worship. Our joy and gladness are meant to be grounded in and informed by God’s character, nature, and acts.
But 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. That doesn’t mean Isaiah 6 has no relevance to our meeting together to engage with God. But 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 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 may be 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 our time together on Sunday morning, 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 it or imagine it’s God offers nothing better. As Christians, we can enjoy fun activities without believing they’re the root of our happiness. The joy we experience when in worshiping God together is greater than the world will ever know, because the root is knowing our sins have been paid for through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ and we worship a risen and reigning Savior.
Our joy is ultimately 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 Ministries website:
Worshiping God as the Source of All Secondary Joys by Randy Alcorn
A Biblical Understanding of Leisure by Jeff Purswell
[This is a slightly edited version of a post from Feb. 6, 2007]