When it comes to praising the Lord in worship, American Christians are perhaps the most boring country in the world! Trust me. I’ve seen it, and we are pitiful in comparison.
If you’ve ever been to a church service in a third world country, the Middle East, or almost any other region of the world, you will feel ashamed with your church’s (and your) lack of excitement, especially for new converts, in U.S. churches.
In the Middle East, worshipers are rarely silent with their “Amens” and “Praise the Lords.” But the most spine-tingling and goose-bump-producing part of Arabic-language services is baptism, after which each new believer’s immersion is followed by clapping and whooping. Keyboards, drums, and guitars play music, and everyone joins in – still clapping – to the same joyous song. All the while, cameras are clicking and videos are being recorded. The music never really stops between baptisms, just becomes quieter as testimonies are given.
Try not to smile at that image of pure emotion and abandon!
Their enthusiasm and excitement is all the more noteworthy since Arabic Christians must be careful not to be arrested for “proselytizing” or sharing their faith. Instead, Middle Easterners must wait until the music of their lives causes a Muslim to ask for the words to the song, so to speak. In other words, it’s OK to be a Christian in a Muslim country as long as you don’t share your faith . . . unless you’re asked to do so.
Western Christians don’t have that fear, so why are we boring worshipers? Or at the very least, complacent ones? Perhaps we are too comfortable in our comfortable churches where there is no real fear of persecution. There are no laws or restrictions that prohibit church attendance and evangelism.
The Psalms have a lot to say about worship, especially the beautiful poetry written by David, whose suffering gave him every reason to give up worshiping God. Instead he expressed both his life-long anguish and heartache and his love and dependence on God:
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!”
“Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.”
“Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.”
“Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God?”
God designed mankind to worship. In fact, we are what we worship. Our lives are characterized by what or who we worship, so why do we show such a lack of enthusiasm for the salvation of lost people? Again . . . complacency, which is a heart problem.
Arabic Christians have the same heart problems we do, of course. There’s not much difference between us in that area. But they don’t just watch the baptisms of their peers, they truly experience them in a way that American Christians do not.
What sacrifices do we really have to make to love and serve others? Almost none. Arabic Christians could be arrested for having un-initiated gospel conversations, so those conversions mean way more than they do in the U.S.
Next time you see a baptism, instead of saying a quiet “Amen” and clapping softly, think about your Middle East brothers and sisters in Christ and their true sacrifice of praise. Then ask God to burden you for being the reason someone comes to know Jesus, the conduit for a lost person to know the grace and truth of the gospel. Isn’t that a celebration worth shouting for, singing about, and sharing with others?