Awful Worship


awfulawful [awfuh’l]–
1. solemnly impressive; exceedingly great; inspiring awe. 2. full of awe; reverential.

Awe and wonder is the act of worship in response to the mystery of God. It causes us to respond with, “Woe is me…I am ruined” (Isaiah 6:5); It causes us to take off our sandals and hide our faces (Exodus 3:5-6); And it causes us to leap and dance before the Lord with all our might (2 Samuel 6:14-16).

Our need to control, predict and therefore script, however, has transformed awe and mystery into a scheduled event that is explainable and rational.  And yet, we continue to lament the fact that our worship seems lifeless.  A. W. Tozer wrote, “We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper ‘mystery.’”[1]

Mystery is not just our limited capacity to fully understand and explain the entirety of God’s story; it is also the incomprehensible awe and wonder that He included me in that story. Can that ever be scripted? If the awe and wonder of God can be completely contained in and explained through our limited understanding, then he is a god who does not deserve our worship.

Michael Yaconelli wrote, “The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment.”[2] He continues by stating, “The greatest enemy of Christianity may be people who say they believe in Jesus but who are no longer astonished and amazed. Jesus Christ came to rescue us from listlessness as well as lostness; He came to save us from flat souls as well as corrupted souls.”[3]

Taking the surprise out of faith leaves us with dead religion.  Removing the mystery from the gospel leaves us with frozen and petrified dogma.  Losing the awe of God leaves us with an impotent deity and meaningless piety.[4]

The proclamation of the mystery of our faith is this…Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again (I Tim 3:16; Rom 16:25-26; Eph 3:4-6). If that doesn’t continually inspire awe and wonder then no songs we select ever will.


[1] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper Collins, 1961), 18.

[2] Michael Yaconelli, Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), 23.

[3] Ibid., 24.

[4] Ibid., 28.


6 Responses to “Awful Worship”

  • David Manner Says:


    Great thoughts. I think you are right on target. Sounds like an article you need to write!

  • Charles McClelland Says:

    I think you also touched on another aspect. When our “worship” service seeks to “wow” the audience, we will constantly have to move the bar. Movies do this–if you watch a “violent” movie from your childhood, it looks rather tame next to the blood splatter of the latest hit.

    Maybe we need to recover the idea–He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Ps 46:10

    However, silence does not need a professional leader.

  • Charles McClelland Says:

    I could’t find “awe-ful” in my dictionary.
    1. extremely bad; unpleasant; ugly: awful paintings; an awful job.
    2. inspiring fear; dreadful; terrible: an awful noise.
    3. solemnly impressive; inspiring awe: the awful majesty of alpine peaks.
    4. full of awe; reverential.
    5. extremely dangerous, risky, injurious, etc.: That was an awful fall she had. He took an awful chance by driving here so fast.

    Nice play on words–it caught my ear.

  • Jack Arnold Says:

    Your spelling caught my eye to read on. I like the commentary. I think it could have been, ‘awe-ful’.

  • Mike Murray Says:

    I would add to Michael Yaconelli’s list that Jesus has brought us from death to life. Great thoughts.

  • cathy vitek Says:

    Thank you for your powerful, life giving words!

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