When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.
-- 1 Kings 8:54
Whether it involves a product, a company or a person, the public tends to gravitate to what's believable, what's trustworthy and what satisfies. Fads come and go. But authenticity--The Real Thing--often leads to longevity.
Maybe that seems like a no-brainer. But it happens to be a principle that one Fortune 500 company ignored with disastrous results. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company introduced New Coke with much hype and fanfare. Unfortunately, this product replaced the tried-and-true fizzy beverage that had quenched the world's thirst since the late 1800's. Consumers complained that the new drink tasted suspiciously like rival Pepsi. The black market began selling $30 cases of the old cola to those still thirsty for the beloved original recipe. And worse yet, sales of New Coke soon fell flat (pun intended). The result was a public relations fiasco for Coca-Cola. So within weeks, the company pulled New Coke from the market and returned to the The Real Thing.
Coca-Cola's folly is a textbook example of how companies can seriously damage themselves by replacing their reliable products with inferior, second-rate imitations. Consumers might be fooled for a while. But eventually, they see through the slick promotion and hype.
Of course, this truism extends beyond the realms of marketing and advertising. Authenticity also means a lot in our relationships...and in our worship. Whether you prefer Traditional worship (stained glass, steeples, choirs, etc.) or the more free-form Contemporary expression of faith, a critical common denominator is that every Christ-follower must avoid the trap of worshiping God with their lips rather than through their daily actions, attitudes and lifestyles. Yes, an awe-inspiring church sanctuary (or even a movie theater) can be a place of worship and prayer. But so are the workplace, gym and supermarket. Wherever we worship, we can't just phone it in.
Just as consumers can usually spot a fad product, God can also spot phony followers. Here's what He once told the people of Jerusalem through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah:
"When you extend your hands, I'll hide my eyes from you. Even when you pray for a long time, I won't listen," God declared. "Your hands are stained with blood. Wash! Be clean! Remove your ugly deeds from my sight. Put an end to such evil; learn to do good."
That's a sobering message, to say the least! So what type of prayer and worship does God honor? The Sunday morning variety for most Christ-followers consists of singing praise songs, teaching God's lessons and sincerely thanking Him for how He blesses our lives through the revelation of His Son, Jesus Christ. But every day and in every way, the Church also must worship God authentically by being Jesus' hands, feet and eyes at home, in the workplace and in our community. Perhaps the Apostle Paul best sums it up through his famous words from the twelfth chapter of Romans:
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."
Our God seeks authenticity from His followers. It's up to the Church to respond with The Real Thing.