Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
John 4:23-24 (NIV)
John Calvin wrote, "Wherever the Word of God is purely preached and received and the sacraments administered according to Christ's institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists." The place of worship is irrelevant but true worship must be in keeping with God's nature, which is spirit. In John's Gospel, truth is associated with Christ, a fact that has great importance for the proper understanding of Christian worship.
Churches, no matter how homogenous they may appear, are made up of multiple cultures. Generational differences lend to this reality. The most obvious differences in worship culture regard the arts and, in particular, music. With the introduction of a new hymn, some may resist the unfamiliar text and tune as not relevant to their worship "experience." When greeting the pastor at the end of the service, some may remark that they still prefer that "old time religion" and have no use for contemporary hymns or "praise music."
We must remember that trying to satisfy everybody's "wants" in worship will result in us losing sight of the main thing. Worship becomes about us, not about God.
Driving to church last Sunday, I was listening to The Lutheran Hour, a popular Sunday morning radio ministry. A portion of the sermon went like this ... "The other day a parish pastor sent me a list of suggestions on what a church might do if they wanted to hold Sunday worship services which would appeal to [all].
"His first idea was to have part of the parking lot be set aside for a driving range so folks could practice their golf swing before worship. He thought reclining chairs should replace the last six rows of pews so those who need Sunday for a day of rest might be comfortable. Clickers would be handed out at the door for those who like to keep track of the number of hypocrites who come to church, and a stopwatch could be provided for those who time the sermon. Relatives would be imported to satisfy those who believe Sunday is for family, and eye drops would be available from any usher for those who had stayed up too late watching TV on Saturday.
"The pastor did draw the line at providing steel helmets for those who said, 'The church will cave in if I ever came to worship,' but the pastor did not think it excessive to offer blankets for those who said the church was too cold, or fans for those who consider it too hot. The preacher said they already had hearing aids for those who think he speaks too softly, but they were now going to be offering cotton balls for those who think he's too loud.
"Shrubs and small trees were being set up near the altar for those who want to find the Lord in nature, and his congregation now had a standing order at the local hot house to make sure the church would be decorated with Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies to make the facility seem more familiar for those souls who had never been to church without those plants being in place.
"His final offering was to provide apps which will, at the appropriate time in the service, broadcast hymns to their smart phones in different music styles. He felt most would be pleased to know their hymns were being broadcast in jazz, blues, classical, country, folk, electronic, hip-hop, funk, Latin, reggae, new age, R&B, and heavy metal. 'It is,' he said facetiously, 'a small price to pay for those folks who are committed to keeping their worship commitment small.'"
As absurd as these suggestions may seem, you can see that offering worship services based on personal preference has little, if anything, to do with authentic worship. The true, inner fulfillment is realized only in believers who worship God with genuine spiritual worship and who glory in Christ as their Savior. True worship "in spirit" is worship in the Holy Spirit and originates in the heart of the believer.