From the Archives: Should Worship be Fun?

laughing people 2_FotorMore 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]

10 Responses to From the Archives: Should Worship be Fun?

  1. Jim Pemberton October 3, 2013 at 2:36 PM #

    Anyone who would propose that fun is at the heart of worship has never worshiped with those whose life is in danger for worshiping our Lord. We worship out of necessity in the fulfillment of a desire for God that can only be quenched by his presence and provision. If a famished person is driven to eat to sustain a fleeting life, then the eternal life we have been given demands to be satiated by the One who is the Bread of Life. We are driven by such as fear, suffering, and loneliness that can only be relieved by the One who makes us aware of our need for such as hope, resurrection and reconciliation.

    It is joy rather than fun that we find in worship. And joy carries with it all the pangs of a fallen world. Fun seems so hollow in light of that.

    • Bob Kauflin October 3, 2013 at 3:50 PM #

      Great thoughts, Jim, especially, “Joy carries with it all the pangs of a fallen world.” Thanks.

  2. Scott Vanderwarf October 4, 2013 at 12:36 AM #

    Thanks Bob! This is a gem of post. Very profound point in shifting our focus toward making sure our fun is worship. Love what you do for the body of Christ!

  3. Daniel Lyle October 4, 2013 at 7:32 AM #

    Singing “Come Praise and Glorify” thee times in a row (because there were issues with the recording system) at WorshipGod11 was definitely fun!

  4. Joel Payne October 5, 2013 at 7:02 AM #

    Thanks for this Bob. It got me thinking about the role of _singing_ in christian life, and whether that should or could be fun.

    We easily and commonly say ‘not all worship should be singing’. But in a certain sense (that’s deliberately taking a narrow definition of worship) perhaps not all singing should be worship.

    We don’t see a lot of singing amongst the New Testament believers, but we do know from Paul’s letters that it certainly has a strong community angle in its use.

    In practice and experience, singing expresses community, encourages unity and diversity, affirms creedal identity, is useful for learning and memory, etc. Various activities that whilst they fit under the broader umbrella of worship are not necessarily built around the idea of an encounter with God as their primary mode. But they fit very much into the kind of community life we might see modeled in the New Testament.

    Should or could those activities be fun? It seems to me that ‘fun’ is a much more acceptable, and even helpful idea in those areas. Not exclusively, but as a colour in the palette of our activities. And then we find a lot of that is going on when we gather together for worship and sing together so there is a certain blurring of the lines.

    I’m currently working on a song about being the church, about being built together not by human hands, with the central line ‘We belong together.’ And I have been intentionally trying to make it melodically and rhythmically ‘fun’ to sing, because in celebrating our together-identity I want us to enjoy the very act of doing so. I think we should. Of course, I may have a more reserved British definition of ‘fun’ than my transatlantic cousins – you might find it very tame…

    Now of course I must bear some of this in mind while I’m working on it. As always, you’ve got me thinking!

  5. John W October 5, 2013 at 2:57 PM #

    Good thoughts. Worship shouldn’t be entertainment but it may and should at times produce joy in our hearts.

  6. barry joslin October 8, 2013 at 9:19 AM #

    Bob,
    Thanks for the post. Words like “fun” have meaning and there is a responsibility to be clear. For the saint of God, there is nothing more enjoyable and delightful than the presence of God with the saints of God in worship. At least that has been true in my own life–nothing has come close to the utter Gospel-driven, worshipful delight (“fun”) known when God manifests His (omni)presence in worship. It never gets old, and it is so so very “fun,” as you’ve described here. Thanks for helping us clarify an oft-used expression. When we sing of and celebrate who God is and what He has done, then there is nothing that can compare. Worship, reverence, delight, and joy! Amen!

    Barry

  7. Charles October 8, 2013 at 1:09 PM #

    I believe David made a “joyful” noise unto the Lord, and danced like a fool. I think that if the spirit of worship is to love, appreciate, and adore the Lord then it is true worship is it not?

  8. Ernie October 30, 2013 at 3:35 PM #

    It is good that these questions are asked, if only to address the trivialization of the faith in our day. But try to imagine asking that same question to believers throughout the history of the church and in all different life circumstances. For most, I daresay the question itself would have no meaning whatsoever. Jim Pemberton generally gets it right by pointing to “joy” as the Biblical concept (and term) rather than fun. (A similar distinction can be made between joy and happiness, the latter representing a much more shallow human emotion.) But Scripture uses certain words and not others for a reason, and “fun” is such a trivial concept that it can’t ever serve as an suitable synonym for joy, as Bob attempts to do in his answer. That just serves to diminish the actual content of a word like joy, and we lose part of the truth in the process.

    Jim’s answer is on target, but I would go even further. While worship can be joyful and genuine joy ought to evoke our worship of the source of all good gifts, even joy is not an automatic nor necessary part of worship. We’ve lost the real meaning of the word “worship.” Genuine (Biblical) worship is so much deeper than the frivolous stuff we typically call worship. Again, I like Jim’s comment in that regard. Job 1:13-20 records that Job’s response to all of his losses (including his children) is to worship God. I find nothing in that passage nor in human experience that suggests he experienced any joy in the process. When examples like this begin to reveal the seriousness of worship, the concept of “fun,” no matter how it is (re)defined, simply has no place in the conversation.

  9. Philip V Ariel November 30, 2013 at 12:51 AM #

    Hi Bob,
    You brought out a serious issue and dealt with it very well, Yes, Our Worship to God is not Fun but a serious one, how can we have fun with God the Almighty, but sad to say in Christaindem today many are following after such sad trends. O Lord Forgive them they do not know what they do, let us pray with Jesus the same prayer even today.
    Keep inform
    Keep going
    Best regards
    Philip Ariel

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