Designer Deity Syndrome

Read: John 4

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24, NLT)

This Samaritan woman Jesus encountered at the well of Sychar was suffering from what I call “designer deity syndrome”. This was a fairly common syndrome among worshipers not only in Jesus’ day, but in ours as well. It occurs when we attempt to come to God on our terms rather than his; when we make worship more about us, and what we like, than about God, and what he likes; when, in effect, we recreate God in our image rather than approaching him as beings created in his image.

That was the problem with the worship of the Samaritans. They had corrupted worship to fit their own needs to the point Jesus said, “You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship.” (John 4:22, NLT) They had become Burger King worshipers. Do you remember the old Burger King advertisement? “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us. Have it your way.”

That little jingle is fitting for what we modern day “Samaritans” are doing with our experience of worship. We love a customized church experience. We expect worship services to be tailor-made just for us. We expect the praise, programs and preaching to satisfy our preferences. We want church designed to meet our needs, music tuned to our exact tastes, preachers crafted to our specifications, messages that mesmerize, and a made to order God—a “Burger King God” who says, “Have it your way”.

Some time ago, Los Angeles Magazine ran an article called “God For Sale”. The author said, “It is no surprise that when today’s affluent young professionals return to church they want to do it only on their own terms. But what is amazing is how far the churches are going to oblige them.” Newsweek Magazine added, “They’ve developed a pick and choose Christianity in which individuals take what they want and pass over what does not fit their spiritual goals…” That’s “designer god syndrome”.

Nothing can be further from the “spirit and truth” worshiper of verse 24 that Jesus said God the Father is seeking. When it comes to God, and the way you worship him, You need to start saying, “Have it your way”. Me too!

If you will learn what it means to do that, you will drink water from an altogether different kind of well—and you will never thirst again!


“Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped” ~Jack Hayford

What If God Took Over?

Honestly evaluate your worship expectations.  Do you approach worship asking God how he prefers your worship? Or do you tell God, albeit in not so many words, “this is how I want it”? If it is the latter, a little repentance is in order.

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