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.