A couple days ago I posted something from Brevard Childs and others on the third commandment. Today I have a bit more. Last fall Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. preached this SBTS chapel message on “The Third Commandment.” He criticized the typical contemporary evangelical understanding that applies this commandment merely to a prohibition on a dozen or so words; this was far too reductionistic, he explained. Part of its application, he said, extended to our worship. I transcribed some of how he says we violate the third commandment in our worship and have supplied it below:

Among evangelicals worship has been turned into a laboratory of frivolities and a circus of creativities. A. W. Tozer a half-century ago spoke of worship as the “missing jewel among evangelicals.” And he spoke of those he described as “the joy-bell boys who pop out on the stage to be seen.” And now, of course, on television as well. The joy-bell boys are among us.

Worship must be happy. Worship must be fun! Worship is creative. And all idolatrous worship is. Fun and creative. Not necessarily fun in terms of frivolity—just ask the prophets of Ba’al in 1 Kings 18, but nonetheless narcissistic and self-focused. The horizon of our worship is of course simply too low. We welcome God to our services as if He is a guest. We take the Lord’s name in vain in our superficial worship because our worship betrays us. Our worship demonstrates what we genuinely believe time and time again. We are reminded of this fact, that when we worship we declare what we genuinely believe—our prayers, our sermons, our songs—reveal what we genuinely believe. I am not here to offer a broadside against contemporary worship. Frankly, much of it is better than what it replaced. Some of it’s worse.

I am generationally chastised and warned against making broadside attacks. I think John Piper’s right when he says a generation raised on “Do, Lord, Oh Do, Lord, Oh, Do remember me,” is not well-placed to criticize the young. However I do have a contest for the worst of the new music. You know the definition of a praise chorus: “one word, two notes,* three hours.” I was in a church just a couple weeks ago where I have found a new low. It was not difficult to memorize this atrocity; the words are few. My family and I were standing as this “song” in the church we were visiting was being sung. And the only pleasure I had in it was seeing my teenage children look at me with the recognition of how awful it was. Here’s the song (I had to look it up on the internet to believe that it actually existed):

I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best, Jesus.
I’ll do my best for you.
Oooo, oooo, oooo

I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best for you, Jesus
I’ll, I’ll, I’ll do my best for you.

Capped off by the worship-leader at the end saying, “That’s just the way it is, isn’t it? God just wants us to do our best.” Where was Samson to bring down the pillars of the temple? “Just do your best.” Just sing your best. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll . . . Oooo oooo oooo.

Our superficial worship betrays us in the worst ways. God takes his name seriously. We do not, if we think this is merely a matter of style. There is no revealed musical taste, but there is a revealed Name. And what is revealed about that Name is the necessary reverence that is attached to that name and the dignity that is attached to that Name and let us speak honesty the danger that is attached to that Name.


*I think he may have gotten the joke wrong. “Two chords” seems much more typical than “two notes.”