Why Worship is NOT Necessary

Why Worship is NOT Necessary December 26, 2023

Why Worship is NOT Necessary

Why Worship is NOT Necessary
Photo by Shelagh Murphy: pexels.com

Worship was important to me in fundamentalist, evangelicalism. My congregations considered the worship service primary. As you know, it included public prayer, recitation, music, and then a sermon. This was what we considered corporate worship, although we acknowledged that a person could worship anywhere. Worship was one of the big five purposes of the church. We were hoping to praise and acknowledge God for who He is. Sometimes public worship was very moving for me, and I am not sure exactly why. I know it got past the watchful dragons that kept me from getting emotional. Often, it would help me forget about everything else much like meditation does now. Even the small churches we pastored were able to wrangle up a respectable praise team and provide a good little mini-concert every Sunday that helped attract people and make them feel comfortable. We sometimes had the hymns and choruses battle, but mostly I headed that one off at the pass.

To be honest, modern worship bothers me. It tends to be very theatrical, even when it is in a traditional format. It is a well-rehearsed performance, like the sermon, which delivers hopes of engagement by the congregation. The energy, focus, and function of most churches revolve around the worship service.

It may have other names in varying denominations, and it may include many other things like communion, prayer, confession, and other traditional ceremonies. But primarily, its main hope is to honor God and serve the people who come because it is the way the church presents itself.

Since we have stopped going to church, we spend this worship time just being together, and doing various things like meditation, writing, having discussions on podcasts, and being with nature. My prayer life is mostly in a process called centering prayer which I might mention later, but we do not have many set practices as we are always discovering diverse ways to flourish and find God within ourselves and in our world.

History of Worship

Throughout history, as humans have sought to understand God, they have assumed that there are things they need to do to appease, please, or satisfy their notion of who God is. In most cases, God is an anthropomorphized version of us, usually more powerful, and most often with a score to settle. We assume that we are inferior to this deity and that creates an anger that must be satisfied with some type of service, tribute, or praise.

As you may know, I am not an intellectual and I only have limited information about other religions besides my own (Christianity). But the more I study, the more I see the similarities and realize that religion developed more because of culture than any kind of mandate from the Divine. In other words, tribal people, around the time of Abraham, worshiped more based on their suppositions about God and their cultural norms (like sacrifice) than they did from God saying, “Do it this way.”

I would not condemn people for doing this because it makes sense. They were using the knowledge and understanding they had to hope for the best possible outcomes in their lives. They imagined God to be more powerful than them, and they hoped he would bless them in some way, so they projected human qualities onto their Deity and invented ways to invoke his favor. Their culture influenced the many different things they tried (offering, praise, ritual, dance, sacrifice, devotion, etc.).

I am sure worship is where we produce the idea of submission. If the deity is higher, better, and more powerful, then it would behoove us to get on the team. If we submit, then maybe the power of the deity will somehow benefit our lives. Unfortunately, we created hierarchies from this and required differing levels of subjugation and deemed this also necessary for the favor of the Divine.

I do not necessarily have a fundamental problem with seeking to align with God. If that is what worship is at its heart, then I would not have an issue. Of course, modern worship is not just meditating on the Divine, and aligning with holy intentions. It is a performance where we spend billions of dollars to put on various productions to invoke the Spirit in one way or another. Usually, it is moving and emotional, but so is the circus and there is not necessarily anything spiritual happening there.

The big roadblock I run into with all religious worship is the question, “Does God need my worship?”  Just think about this simply. To my kids, I had more power than them until a certain point. I had access to goods and services that they wanted (primarily money). I could fix problems for them, heal their wounds (to an extent), and I could get them out of trouble (also to an extent). In many ways, for a time, I was God to them. As you know, it does not last long.

But I never really needed them to praise me for helping them. If I needed them to worship me it would make me lesser, not better. I would be an immature father if I said, “I will only help you (bless you) if you make me feel better about myself or if I taught them that I would only do for them if they devoted themselves to me. All these things make it sound like an inferior version of what a father/child relationship should be. As a good father, I devoted myself to them anyway.

It would be more appropriate to think of this relationship as a union where we know each other well enough to sense when we can help. And it might be even more helpful to think of it as a connection where energy flows between us than to think about it as a transactional relationship.

Others say, “It is us that need to worship.”  But this seems flawed to me as well. My father might have been stronger and more capable at times in my life, but if I must praise and worship him to get his attention, then we do not have a connection or a relationship. And it would not make me feel better or more complete to continually remind him of how great he is, how worthless I am, and how much I need him. Being connected, he would know that, and our actions and affections would flow more naturally.

God does not need our worship and we do not need to worship. I am not against practices that connect us to our true inner self and the Divine, but I am confused about why we need to worship.

New Testament & Jesus

As best I understand it, Jesus was about dismantling various aspects of religion. I do agree that he observed some aspects of cultural and religious practices. I would agree that if those practices are serving us, and they are helpful for our thriving, then who am I to tell someone not to go to Temple or Church or whatever they have culturally adopted as what they do? Jesus taught in the synagogue and went to feasts and to the temple at times. He was very Jewish!

But Jesus was attempting to dismantle the worship aspect of his religion. He completely denounced the sacrificial system and advised a woman that the mystical spirit and truth worshippers replaced worshiping in a place. He did say that the Father is seeking worshippers, but they would not worship in a place, but in spirit and truth, whatever that means.

If we believe at all in divinity, there should be some respect and reverence for it. But, worth-ship was never meant to be the cultural ceremonies and practices that we have developed. It is something simpler and more voluntary than we have often imagined.

 How does “I am OF God” change our thoughts about worship?

If I were to simply imagine my thoughts about God to be “I am OF God,” then to me, it would simplify the idea of worship. In fact, it might make the idea of worship not even necessary in a practical sense. I would not need to appease, please, or placate the Divine in any way. Because I proceeded from God and am eternally connected to divine love, an act of worship might even be extraneous. If my whole being and existence flow from God, why would I need to gain his approval or coax him or myself in any way to be closer?

In other words, how can we be closer than connected? If I plug in the lamp and it connects to a source of electricity, I do not know how it can be any more connected than it already is. If God is in me and I am in God (things the Bible says), then why would I need to coax something deeper to happen?

It is more like I need to realize (become aware or conscious of) what already is.

When I meditate and do centering prayer, that is what I feel happens. I do not usually say anything, and I am not usually even expecting anything. I am not trying to petition, or praise—I am simply being present with what is and becoming more aware of the Presence that connects to all things. Some people call it “being present with Presence.”


If we want to use a religious word from the past, I prefer communion over worship. Communion is more like being with than doing something to invoke the Deity to do what I want them to. Communion, in the traditional sense, does have images of embodiment and other connotations. But, with a little focus, I can imagine it as simply being where I am. This is usually more than enough to replace all forms of worship I previously experienced.

There is no doubt that modern worship is exciting and addicting. We may feel like we need it, but since I have stopped attending church, I have not missed it much at all. The addiction has gone and the sunrise I watched this morning may have been much more holy! We should never confuse dopamine with the spirit.

I do not think God misses me being in church and I do not think he is begging me to come back. That is the organizational church that wants my tithe to keep the organization running.

 One final note

Overwhelmingly, in 20 years of ministry, people told me they had the most direct, spiritual encounters in their cars and nature, usually when they were by themselves. It is because they did what more people are discovering. They ignored all the “should” of their culture and traditions and simply connected with the Divine that was already there.

It is connection—it is communion—it is enough!

Be where you are, be who you are, be at peace!

Karl Forehand

What’s Wrong with God’s Plan and Purpose?

Leaning Forward – What’s Wrong with Prayer?

Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward,  Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity.  He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community.  He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston.  His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply! You can read more about the author here.

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