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In this series we’re looking at Five Epic Worship Fails from scripture,  what we can learn from them, and how we can apply their lessons in our lives and ministry. Make sure you read the Introduction first! https://www.robstill.com/five-epic-worship-fails-and-what-we-can-learn-from-them/

Epic Fail Number One: The Story of Cain & Able (Genesis 4)

Background of the story. We are at the beginning of the story of God. He’s created the world in Genesis 1 and 2. He’s created Adam and Eve,  they’ve already sinned and been kicked out of the garden of Eden. Now they have their first children, Cain and Abel.

Genesis 4:2-4

Abel was a herdsman and Cain a farmer. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm.

Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, “choice cuts of meat”.

Cain brought fruits and vegetables whereas Able offered steak and hamburgers.

The scripture then says that “God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval.” Genesis 4:5


Why would God except one offering and reject the other? What’s up with that?

Does God like barbecue more than salads?

Now let’s look at the rest of the story. 

Genesis 4:5-6

Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at Abel his brother and killed him.

Oh my gosh, the first worship war ends in murder!

What insights can we gain from this story? 

Well there’s a couple of relevant scriptures which might give us some insight.

The first is Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.”

So there is some factor where Abel was able to demonstrate a higher level of faith than Cain. How that was manifest I’m not really sure, I’m not sure that the text explicitly shows that.

But one thing we do know, as expressed in Romans 10:17,  is that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

What’s the lesson?

Well, God discerned the difference of motivations. There was some kind of difference between the internal motivations of Cain compared to Abel.

This idea of “by faith” has huge implications by the way.

The point is that in this story, God was not pleased with just any ‘ol thing, nor just what was right from Cain’s perspective.

A challenging thought

Now I have a challenging thought for you. First, put yourself in Cain’s shoes, you may be thinking “Hey man that’s the best I have, and you don’t like it? What’s up with that?”

So consider this illustration. There is someone very close to you and you want to give them a very special gift to reflect the depth of the love you have for them. Imagine it’s your spouse or fiancé, or a parent or child. Now imagine something you love or one of your favorite things in the world to do, for the sake of this illustration, let’s choose something random like motorcycle racing.

Now imagine something she loves or one of her favorite things in the world to do, and for the sake of this illustration, let’s choose something random like ballroom dancing or fishing.

Now you want to give her a really special gift. So you say “Oh beloved person I love so much, I worship you, I adore you, I have a special offering for you, – here is a beautiful motorcycle that I sacrificed to get just for you. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Now how do you think she feels? Sure, the gift is expensive and super nice to you, but does it mean anything to her?

I don’t think so.

So my challenging question for you is, “is my offering of worship more about me than the one I am giving the gift to?”

Now, I see this mentality a lot, and I see it all over the world in a worship ministry context. One way it goes is like this:

“Man, I just don’t enjoy worship if I’m not on the team playing my instrument or singing or sharing my gift.”

This attitude should be challenged. Singing and playing upfront may be important to you, but is that really what God is asking from you all the time? Sometimes he may want you to be a leader of worship and set an example by participating out in the congregation every once in a while.

The idea here is that our offering is to be more about Him, than what we “get” out of serving. Because there are a lot of benefits we get when we serve on the worship team, or even other areas. We get some affirmation. We get some attention. We get to use our gifts, which is very important to many of us who are musicians.

David Peterson describes the type of perspective we should have regarding worship:

“Worship of the true and living God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible” David Peterson,  Engaging With God, A Biblical Theology of Worship (20, 283)


So here are some takeaways from the Cain and Abel story.

1. Worship is more about what God desires to receive from me, than what I desire to give to him. Think about that. There is a difference between what I want to give and what He wants to receive.

2. Worship is, broadly speaking, demonstrating faith through obedience and adoration.

Now as we pursue the Epic Worship Fails series, you don’t have to get overly concerned about “oh my gosh, is my worship right or wrong”. Jesus takes care of all that. He has done the heavy lifting.

3. Jesus Christ is our worship leader. His life, death, resurrection, ascension and on-going intercession makes our offering of worship pleasing to God.

Now reflect on how you can apply this to your life and ministry context.

[Note: This is a 6 part blog series based on a recent webinar workshop I taught for WorshipTeamCoach.com entitled “Five Epic Worship Fails and we can learn from them.” It is intended to be used as a biblical training resource for your worship team. These are offered as a series of short videos (5 to 10 minutes each) with a study guide and questions you can use to facilitate conversations for growth. You can find that a replay of the original webinar and a link the resource here: Five Epic Worship Fails Replay. ]