When Is Worship Not Genuine?

Alicia Purdy

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Published Oct 26, 2023
When Is Worship Not Genuine?

It is hard to think that the praise and worship of the Lord would be anything other than genuine, heartfelt, and holy—but the reality is that plenty of people in worship services aren’t genuinely worshipping God.

It is hard to think that the praise and worship of the Lord would be anything other than genuine, heartfelt, and holy—but the reality is that plenty of people in worship services aren’t genuinely worshipping God. It is hard to accept that there are people who call themselves Christians, who attend church, and who do things in God’s name, but don’t have a genuine relationship with the Lord—but the reality is that plenty of people who say they know Christ don’t genuinely know Him at all.

This is not a matter of judgment but rather of direct information and observation. According to a study conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, only one-third of professing Christians believe salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. Another study found that nearly 70% of Christians who say they’re born again believe that there are many ways to heaven, such as through Buddha or Mohammad. 

Studies abound that show a great drift occurring in the body of Christ that is causing people to remain trapped in religion and preventing them from walking in the freedom of a relationship with God that Jesus Christ paid for. Yet, many churches still have auditoriums filled with people singing songs and even lifting their hands or dancing during praise and worship.

Who Is Really Being Worshipped?

“Worship” means different things to different people, but it has only one definition to the Lord: Ministry to Him.

When God established the priesthood through Aaron (see Exodus 28), He set the foundation of all worship by repeatedly saying that the purpose of a priesthood of worshippers was to, “…minister unto Me…”

All true believers are now “kings and priests” to the Lord under the New Covenant (Revelation 1:6), meaning that the first calling that all true believers have is to minister to the Lord in praise and worship. In fact, it is a common misconception that worship is about the worshipper at all.

When is worship not genuine? When it is not directed to the Lord. But, then, who is being worshipped when people are singing popular songs at church or clapping or lifting their hands at church?

Satan’s Strategy for Worship

The Adversary understands the true power of worship and praise better than people do because he once existed in God’s manifest presence. When he rebelled, he said, “I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:14 ESV) The enemy of the Lord desires to be worshipped.

Satan knows and has seen for himself that there is true, supernatural power in praise because the Lord, “dwells within the praises of His people.” (Psalm 22:3 KJV) Throughout the Bible, when God’s people praised and worshipped Him, battles are won, walls fall down, chains are loosened, the enemy flees, and God’s people walk in victory!

But if Satan cannot lure away God’s people into the darkness, the next best thing is to distort the light, to twist the worship of the Lord into something else entirely. The corruption of worship has been part of Satan’s strategy from the beginning, and it continues today.

  • Isaiah 29:13 (ESV) says, “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…”
  • In Matthew 15:7-9 (ESV) Jesus reiterated this saying, “ You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
  • Romans 1:25 says, “…They turned the truth of God into a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”

Of course, most Christians don’t intentionally fake their worship, and certainly God knows the truth in every heart, but many don’t understand the purpose of worship and praise—to minister to the Lord—and they’re left with a hollow, pale, and powerless “experience” that eventually leads to disconnect and doubt in their hearts.

However, there are plenty who claim to be in Christ, but live in hypocrisy going through the motions like the Pharisees did, with an outward appearance of godliness and rotten to the core. 

“Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me…” (Psalm 50:23 MEV)

When is worship not genuine? When gratitude directed to the Lord is not the point of origin for praise.

All people were created to worship—whether they acknowledge that or not—so if worship and praise are not intentionally given to the Lord, they will be unintentionally given to someone or something else.

Praise and worship

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Jantanee Rungpranomkorn 

Worshipping the Unknown God

Knowing God is a lifelong journey of sanctification and transformation that can only come with time spend in His presence through praise, prayer, and the Word. There is no other way to grow in faith, knowledge, strength, and experience in spiritual battles otherwise. 


  • How does someone genuinely worship a God they do not know? 
  • Why would someone pretend to worship a God they do not love nor serve? 
  • When does worship itself become a form of idolatry?

In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul was in Athens, where he observed the many gods the Athenians worshipped, and he said to them: 

“…I perceive that in all things you are very religious, for as I passed by and looked up at your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD - Whom you therefore unknowingly worship, Him I proclaim to you. God who made the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by hands, nor is He served by men’s hands, as though He needed anything…” (Acts 17:22-28 MEV)

How does someone genuinely worship a God they do not know? They can’t. You must know God and desire to know Him more to truly worship Him because He desires relationship with His people. Without growing in intimacy with the Lord, the vital relationship connection suffers, then faith suffers, then apathy comes, then the enemy comes. 

Why would someone pretend to worship a God they do not love nor serve? God made the hearts of humankind “so He understands everything they do”. (Psalm 33:15 NLT) 

God isn’t fooled by phonies, but some do people “worship” out of routine. 

Others “worship” to fit in. Still others “worship” God for the status it brings them, or the increase of their own ministries or reputations or for the money, or even because of social pressures.

Worshipping worship, worshipping other worshippers, and worshipping the “feelings” of worship are all forms of idolatry that are alive and well in the church—and always have been. 

Worship isn’t a feeling. It’s a sacrifice (Romans 12:1, Psalm 50:13-14).

When is worship not genuine? When the desire for a deeper relationship with God isn’t reason enough to draw near and offer up the sacrifice of thanksgiving.

What Makes Worship Genuine?

Throughout the Bible, it is made clear that the point of origin for all praise and worship is gratitude. Just like love without expression is empty, so gratitude without direction is meaningless. Gratitude directed to the Lord is the starting point, the focal point, and the entire point of what it means to truly minister to the Lord.

Remember, God doesn’t “need” worship. He desires it because it is a dynamic and powerful way to connect with people. 

The genuine and grateful worship of God is under heavy assault by the enemy in a church culture increasingly focused on self, weak in the Scriptures, and oversaturated with self-centered messaging from the world and its systems.

“Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice a thank offering to God…” (Psalm 50:13-14 MEV)

God doesn’t need anything any person can offer. He doesn’t need money. He doesn’t need great instruments and flashing lights. He doesn’t care about beautiful buildings or skinny jeans or instruments perfectly in tune. He sees past banners and flags, shofars and tambourines, statues, beads, and candles. God sees hearts, and that’s what He really desires. He desires the heart of the worshipper—and the way praise and worship are expressed flows from there.

Psalm 50:23 says, “Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and makes a way; I will show him the salvation of God.” (MEV)

What makes worship genuine is offering a sacrifice of praise. God understands what it means to truly offer a sacrifice because He did that with His own Son. No sacrifice wants to die! That is why genuine worship is so hard for many—to lift up the hands, to dance and sing, to clap or play instruments, or shout to the Lord. These are all Biblical expressions of genuine worship and the ministry of gratitude to the Lord that are a sacrifice, that cost something to give.

But remember, no one can ever give God more than He has already given. That’s why He is worthy.

Genuine worship removes your mind from yourself and focuses on your Savior. Worship deepens your relationship with God through intimacy. Genuine worship strengthens your faith by putting God’s Word into your mouth, and genuine worship creates an atmosphere of invitation for the Lord within you, and that’s what He genuinely desires—you.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/middelveld 

alicia purdy headshot bio authorAlicia Purdy holds an M.A. in Journalism from Regent University. She is a worship leader at her local church and the author of “The Way of the Worshipper: Connecting with Spirit of God Through Restoring Intimacy, Purpose, and Understanding in Worship”. Alicia publishes www.TheWayoftheWorshipper.com, a devotional Bible study blog focused on the power of praise and worship that offers free printables, study materials, teachings, books, and other resources for individuals, groups, and churches to gain revelation, insight, and understanding from God’s Word about praise and worship.