'Whoever offers praise glorifies me!' says the Lord (Psalm 50:23). Worship and praise are the ceaseless, joyous occupation of heaven. The angels, seraphs and cherubim cry, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts... You are worthy O Lord to receive glory and honour and power.' In worship we are not asking God to give himself to us so much as giving ourselves to him. And the wonder of it all is that the Almighty, Immortal, Invisible God will accept our adoration and praise and thanksgiving. The God who needs nothing delights to receive our adoration. What incredible grace!
The Christians at Antioch were 'serving the Lord' and fasting when the Holy Spirit spoke to them (Acts 13:2). 'Serving the Lord' is worship; worship is serving the Lord - it is nothing else. So phrases like 'Worship Service' or 'Service of Worship' are tautologies. To worship God is to serve him. () (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: a Theological ABC, London: Collins, 1973, p.97).
Worship, for a Christian, is everything we do for the glory of God (Romans 12:1,2; 1 Corinthians 10:31), waking or sleeping (or, for that matter, dreaming), in work and leis- ure, in the gathered community of the Lord's people and scattered in the world. When we gather in local churches for worship, we bring into focus in God's presence all we do; it's something like an aircraft getting a 'fine-tune'. We do not 'come to worship' to 'withdraw from the world'; rather we bring all we do in the world into the presence of the Lord as an offering to him.
The focus is on the Lord, so let's get the attention off ourselves. We worship him because it is our duty to do so, and in response to all he has done for us. And worship - serving the Lord - is much more than 'going to preaching'. (The most common question asked by someone who 'missed church' in Western countries: 'what did he say?'). Would you describe your church's worship as service of the Lord? Is that its main orientation?
Wesley described the essence of worship in one of his hymns as being 'lost in wonder, love and praise'. It's interesting that when I ask Christians how often they are lost in wonder love and praise in their worship they look bemused or sad: it's a rare experience for most of them (less rare, interestingly, for those at the liturgical or the charismatic ends of the worship-spectrum: these two groups, broadly speaking, have captured the grandeur of Christian tradition on the one hand and the beauty of freedom in worship on the other).'
It is very important that the worship leader should be worshipping too. Sometimes worship-leaders think that by scolding ('C'mon, get with it! You can sing better than that!') they are facilitating worship: the reverse is most probably true. The leader ought not to shuffle papers, or peer over the hymnbook to see who's present or absent while the people of God are singing a serious hymn of praise! As I travel from church to church, I find the more filled up with God the people are, the less prompting is needed from 'up front'. 'The demeanour of the worship leader and the congregation should transmit the message that here is a meeting of extraordinary importance. When it comes to leading worship the unforgivable sin is to be flippant or sloppy.' (Stan Stewart, 'Q: When is Worship Good for Children? A: When it's Good for Everyone,' On Being, March 1984, p.22). J.S.Whale warned, 'Instead of putting off our shoes because the place whereon we stand is holy ground, we like to take nice photographs of the burning bush from suitable angles.' ()(Quoted in many places, including Ken Manley, 'Worship - changes or not?', The Australian Baptist, date unknown).
This reminds me of something I heard Lyle Schaller say: 'Always remember, when adults are worshipping, there are children taking notes. The most critical formative factor in children's coming to faith is their perception that what the Big People are doing in their worship and learning experiences is vital, alive, enjoyable, and very, very important.'
So for the pastor and or worship-leader, the key question is not 'what can I do before these people that will be judged by them as excellent?' It is 'How can I enable them to do high business with God?' These are utterly different agendas. It's the difference in being a coach and being the star player. 'If you go to worship and all you leave with are certain evaluations of how the worship leaders have performed, you have missed the main point of that enterprise.' () (John Claypool, 'The challenge of ministry today', unpublished transcript of an address given to a pastor's conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, June 25, 1974)
Discuss one or more of the following: (1) Read Isaiah 6:1-9 and Psalm 8:3-9. Describe how the worshipper feels in each instance. What prompted, and what was significant about his response? (2) Read through Psalm 96. Notice how worship is recognizing the greatness and power of God (v8); worship expressed in different ways - singing (v1), preaching: telling others about God (v2), giving (v8), and prayer: the whole posalm is a prayer. Notice the reverence, 'honour' we give to God (v4), but we are not afraid of him, because he will treat us with justice and mercy (v13). (3) Look at Isaiah 1:10-17 and Micah 6:6-8. What do these Scriptures indicate about God's displeasure with worship divorced from justice? (4) How should the psalms be used in Christian worship - particularly the ones that extol war and retribution? (5) Compare and contrast these two hymns: 'And now, O Father mindful of the love' and 'I come to the garden alone'.
Further Reading: Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1978, chapter 11 'Worship'; William Willimon & Robert L. Wilson, Preaching and Worship in the Small Church, Nashville: Abingdon, 1980; James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship, Nashville: Abingdon, 1980; John Gunstone, A People for his Praise, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978.
by John Chisum
What's a lifestyle of worship all about? It starts with loving God on the inside - then reaching others on the outside.
I internalize things much too often. As a sensitive person with a somewhat artistic temperament, I tend to be the kind of guy who gets up in the morning and the first person I see I say "Good morning! How am I doing today?" Instead of making sure that my identity is fully anchored in who and what God says I am, all too often I can fall into the trap of letting everyone and everything else around me begin to define my feelings about who and how I am. Not good. Not good at all.
Now, I know that I might be a psychoanalyst's dream client. Someone of that goodly profession may readily enjoy picking apart my childhood, the good, the bad, and the awful. But I'm not so sure that I want to spend my time and money there just yet, especially since my congregation already analyzes me every Sunday. I mean, these people know when I'm having a bad day. They can tell when I'm tired, hungry, angry, lonely or bored. They sense when I've lost my connection with God and when I'm up there dropping my guitar picks and fumbling around searching for something to say between songs. They have built-in radar for when I've started a song in the wrong key or when I've forgotten how many times we've sung the chorus and I'm just sure they know when I've had a fight with my wife right before church. Oh, they can tell all right. Congregations just know these things.
Worship leading is a challenging proposition, to say the least. It requires the delicate balance of gifts and abilities, of strengths and sensitivities. It requires that we know how to perform well, but choose not to have a "performance spirit." It asks us to pick songs that everyone can enter into yet not have a "man-pleasing spirit." We have to submit to the stylistic desires of our Senior Pastors but attempt to be an innovative leader with our music and worship. We have to have the kind of personality that's able to gain control and win people's confidence yet turn all the control over to the Holy Spirit and take no credit for anything. If the service goes well, it was God's doing. If it doesn't, then it was our fault. In other words, worship leadership can seem kind of like juggling teacups with your hands, spinning hoops with your knees, balancing a poodle on your head and gargling - all at the same time.
While we claim that we "just want the Holy Spirit to use us," the fact is that He is using us. He doesn't miraculously transform us into Michael W. Smith or Matt Redman or Ron Kenoly. He doesn't usually materialize as a cloud in the center of the Sanctuary, though He certainly did that for the Israelites. He uses us, warts and all! If you're like me, you've probably heard some of the greatest testimonies on some of your worst Sundays.
Take this past Sunday at my church, for instance. I wasn't in the greatest of moods to begin with. We're in a temporary facility, so I'm at church by 7 a.m. every Sunday to roll out sound systems and keyboards from storage into our generic meeting place. That's enough to make me feel like complaining, even if I've arrived that day in a half-decent state of mind. After nearly two hours of set-up and checking cables and mics, my accompanist and almost all of the praise team arrived nearly thirty minutes late. Church begins at 10:15 and it was now past 9:30. By the time everyone was settled in and ready to play, we had barely rehearsed the first song. How was I feeling, you might ask? Oh, just peachy!
Needless to say, I didn't begin that service with great confidence. As we began to sing, I looked out in the congregation and my eyes seemed to focus on the people who were not visibly engaged in worship. One lady looked like she had just walked out of a wind tunnel. A group of teens were laughing and pointing at my tie, I think, and one man looked liked he had just been baptized in pickle juice! Others just seemed totally disinterested in what we were doing, dreaming perhaps of the day's lunch still to come.
By the time I looked through the congregation, I was ready to storm angrily down the center aisle and out the door and never come back! Thankfully, God gave me great grace and I just stood my ground, lifted my song to the Lord and prayed in faith that He would do what He does so well by touching all of our hearts once again with His love.
After the service, several people came up to me and spoke sincerely of how deeply God had ministered to their needs during the worship time. Amazing. Throughout this week no less than a half dozen people have called or spoken to me at the church office and have expressed the same thing. I felt lousy, but God showed up and met these people in their deepest hearts through their own sacrifice of praise. Okay, Lord. I get the message - it's not about me at all, is it?
I seem to need to learn that lesson again and again. It's not about me. It's all about Jesus and making sure that He's exalted in our hearts through our sincere praise. That's no excuse for laziness in preparation or prayer on my part, but the focus of true worship isn't on my worship plan - it's on Jesus Himself. Whether or not we execute a flawless musical rendition of every song on the list is immaterial to the ultimate outcome: an encounter with God.
The anxiousness I tend to feel on Sundays is a direct result of my heart's desires being out of focus. That internal drive that compels me to get all the ducks in a row, all the details set just right so that I can feel good about the job I've done doesn't glorify God, but glorifies me. Don't misunderstand - we need to be excellent about the details of worship. What I'm describing here is the bane of every worship leader's existence, that subtle difference between faith and works, between self-service and self-sacrifice, and between true worship and dead religion. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference on the outside, but we always know what's happening on the inside. We know when our hearts are pure before the Lord and when we're going through the motions for other reasons.
In Ezekiel 44, the Lord outlines His specifications for priestly service in His temple. In verses 17-18 it reads, "When they enter the gates of the inner court, they are to wear linen clothes; they must not wear any woolen garment while ministering at the gates of the inner court or inside the temple. They are to wear linen turbans and linen undergarments around their waists. They must not wear anything that makes them perspire." If you study the context of these verses you see that there were two kinds of priests God allowed to serve in His temple. The first group of priests served the people outwardly in the outer court, but did not serve God inwardly with their hearts.
The second group, to which the above verses were directed, served God first from their hearts and the people secondly from the overflow of God's presence. The two ministries coexist. Only you and God know the difference. Linen underwear is invisible to the crowd, but God sees. God knows. Ultimately, that's what worship leading and a lifestyle of worship are all about - loving the Lord first and ministering to others out of the abundance of His presence in our lives. So, show me your Hanes!
John Chisum is a pastor and worship leader in Mobile, Alabama. Information on his workshop, concert, and worship leading ministry is available on the web at www.johnchisum.net
Author : Tim Hughes
Link : http://www.heartofworship.com
Recently, I’ve been thinking again about the importance of our heart attitudes. When involved in leading worship it can be so easy to lose focus and concentrate on the less important things. There can be a temptation to get so carried away with trying to create the best sounds and songs that we forget about our own attitudes and motives. Although it’s essential that we give our best shot to being as musical and creative as we can, we must never forget the simple meaning of worship. When thinking about the attitudes of a worshipper, King David provides an excellent example. I have been challenged by the way he lived his life and want to briefly look at a few of his characteristics.
This quote is from the laptop of author N. T. Wright who is the Canon Theologian at Westminster Cathedral. Even though what follows is based on a very familiar biblical passage, it is presented not as Scripture or even as a paraphrase of Scripture, but as instruction in the nature of true Christian worship. I hope you find it helpful.
Though we sing with the tongues of men and angels, if we are not truly worshipping the living God, we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. Though we organize the liturgy most beautifully, if it does not enable us to worship the living God, we are mere ballet-dancers. Though we repave the floor and reface the stonework, though we balance our budgets and attract all the tourists, if we are not worshipping God, we are nothing.
Worship is humble and glad, worship forgets itself in remembering God; worship celebrates the truth as God’s truth, not its own. True worship doesn’t put on a show or make a fuss; true worship isn’t forced, isn’t half-hearted, doesn’t keep looking at its watch, doesn’t worry what the person in the next pew may be doing. True worship is open to God, adoring God, waiting for God, trusting God even in the dark.
Worship will never end; whether there be buildings, they will crumble; whether there be committees, they will fall asleep; whether there be budgets, they will add up to nothing. For we build for the present age, we discuss for the present age, and we pay for the present age; but when the age to come is here, the present age will be done away. For now we see the beauty of God through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now we appreciate only part, but then we shall affirm and appreciate God, even as the living God has affirmed and appreciated us. So now our tasks are worship, mission and management, these three; but the greatest of these is worship.
— N. T. Wright, FOR ALL GOD’S WORTH: TRUE WORSHIP AND THE CALLING OF THE CHURCH. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997, p. 8-9. ISBN 0-8028-4319-0
By Brian Onken
It happens. You spent time with a "haven't-seen-you-in-a-long-time" friend and ... well ... nothing happened. In spite of your best intentions, you didn't communicate, you didn't connect. It's not uncommon. People talk to each other every day, often without ever connecting meaningfully.
Then, sometimes, at some deeper level, you and another person touch. As hard as it is to put such a connection into words, you know it happened. You communicated with another soul.
Similarly, if believers are going to worship genuinely, we need to "connect" with God. Since worship is the communication between two lovers, we must make this connection. We don't need any particular emotional charge, but we do need to connect with another person - a divine Person - in worship.
Many Christians have had this experience in worship with God, but they have had it accidentally. They know they connected - enjoying a personal "touch" from God - but they have little idea how it happened. Thus, they are frustrated as they try to regain that feeling of "connectedness."
The Woman Who Connected
We can learn something about making this worship connection from a woman who had a short, personal visit with Jesus - a woman who apparently connected. The account is found in Luke 7:36-50.
Did this woman "connect" with Jesus? Certainly! She was forgiven and she knew it; she was at peace and she knew it (see 7:48-50). What went in to the woman's approach to Jesus that resulted in her making the connection we long for? We can't reduce it to some automatic steps; but there are some key ingredients to be discovered.
An Intentional Connection
First, her meeting with Jesus is planned, not accidental. The woman was intentional. She learned that Jesus was at Simon's house and set out, in deliberate fashion, to meet with Him.
We often act as if "connection" in worship happens by accident. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't; and we have no idea why.
At times Jesus does surprise us with the gracious gift of His touch - the Gospels contain accounts where people had intimate meetings with Him they had not planned. Every saint has times when he or she has a meaningful encounter with God that they did not plan. But, if we long for regular, intimate time with God in worship, we need to plan to meet with Him.
All too often I have come into a "worship service" with no real intention to meet with the Lord. I came because of habit, or peer pressure, or because I had a part in the service. Going through the motions of worship, I wondered, "Why is God not here?"
The problem was that I had not really intended to meet with Him! I may have been intentional about being at the service, but I was not intentional about meeting with God.
God has said, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your heart" (Jer. 29:13; NASV).
We can find Him in worship. He is still the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). But worship that connects with God is planned, not accidental.
This may mean that I will have to prepare my heart (and not just my clothes) in getting ready for worship. I will have to come to times of worship as if I really intended to meet with My Lord and Savior.
An Individual Connection
The second notable thing about this woman's approach in reaching Jesus is that it was personal, not generic. She did not approach Him in the way others might have. Her approach was appropriate for her. She used her hair, her tears, her body, to express her love (see 7:38). It would not have been fitting for Simon; but for her it was worship.
We tend to think that those deep and personal times of worship will happen if we just do what everyone else is doing. We wrongly figure "if it worked for them, it will work for me."
In the novel Cyrano de Bergerac, Christian seeks the love of Roxanne. A handsome man, Christian is feeble in speech. He enlists the aid of Cyrano, an unattractive comrade-in-arms who has a wonderful way with words, to write letters for him to Roxanne. Cyrano, being deeply in love with Roxanne himself, writes eloquently. Roxanne ultimately falls in love with the writer of the letters, not with Christian.
Christian had a problem; he tried to woo Roxanne with another man's words. This is what many saints do in worship. We take the expressions of another - in prayer, in song, in message - and try to use these to express our love to God. But, it doesn't work. If I am going to connect with God, then I will have to make the worship service a personal expression of my heart. On occasion, I have gone through a worship service mouthing the words to the songs, affirming with weak "Amens" the message, and bowing no more than my head at prayer, only to leave feeling no closeness with God. But the problem wasn't with the songs, the message, or the prayers - the problem was that they had not become my expression of worship.
This does not mean we must abandon familiar songs or prayers in worship. But we must take to heart what we are doing and make it a genuine expression of our own love for God. I can use the words of others as long as these expressions come from my heart. To connect with God, the worship must be personal, not generic.
I may need to take those quiet moments that occur in any worship service and express to God, in my own words, what is on my heart. I may have to pray the words of a song, rather than just being carried along by the melody. I will have to make the expressions of worship my own.
A Passionate Connection
Note also that this woman's approach to Jesus is passionate, not restrained. This is no half-hearted overture; she holds nothing back as she expresses her feelings for the Lord. Look at the uninhibited way she communicates her love (7:44-47).
We are often more concerned with what others will think of us than whether we are adequately expressing our love for God. We lose sight of Jesus, looking at one another. We express ourselves tentatively, worshiping without passion.
We cannot yield to an "everyone for themselves" individualism in corporate worship; we must refrain from doing anything in a worship service that would put a stumbling block before another. But there is a difference between expressing oneself to draw attention to oneself, and expressing oneself in passionate, sincere worship before God.
All too often I have found myself "coming up short" in a worship service. I hold back from being moved passionately. I may start to feel a little teary-eyed, and so I "pull myself together." What might others think if I was to begin to cry during worship?
But what would Jesus want? He said: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30; NASV)
Could we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and express this love without passion? No! This woman knew this. She was expressing her love for Jesus with all that was in her. If my worship is to help me connect with God, it will have to be worship that is passionate, not restrained.
This may mean that I will have to take my eyes off others and focus on rightly expressing my heart to the Lover of my soul. To express myself in worship with passion, I will have to make Him the priority.
A Priceless Connection
The last observation to be made about this woman and her approach to Jesus is that it is precious, not cheap. Taking this approach to Jesus was not easy; it cost her something.
There was the material cost of the perfume. There was cost in time as she arranged to meet with Him. There must also have been an emotional cost - a risk - for her. She was known; Simon knew who, and what, she was. By doing what she did, she opened herself up for ridicule and rebuke. Her worship was costly.
Sadly, there is an attitude that worship is something that happens to us, rather than something we enter into - sometimes through a costly expenditure of time or effort. The thinking seems to be "I gave my (obligatory) offering when the plate came by, isn't that enough to cover the cost of worship?"
It used to trouble me that God, at times, refused to accept worship from His people. He told them to stop bringing offerings. In Malachi 1:10, we read: "Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindly fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you," says the Lord of hosts, "nor will I accept an offering from you." Why does God refuse what He first initially required? Malachi 1:6-8 tells us: The worshipers were bringing "just any old thing" in worship. They brought the lame, the worthless, the leftovers. God was being dishonored by the attitude reflected in their offering, so He told them to stop. Perhaps, if we want to connect with God in worship, our worship will end up costing us something. It might require rearranging a schedule to get to a regular worship service. It might even entail some emotional cost, as we risk what others might think in order to draw close to God.
Can we meet God in worship and know we have "connected"? I truly believe so. But, I think that for each of us it will be a little different. Our worship should be planned, but our plans may vary. Our worship will need to be personal, tailored to our own heart, and passionate, growing out of a loving heart. And it must be precious, extracting differing costs for each who draws near.
Let's follow the example of this un-named woman who had what every saint longs for - she had time with Jesus and was forever different because of it!
Brian Onken is the Director of Research for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. He and his family reside in Charlotte, North Carolina.
More Articles …
- All for One, One for All
- Worship 101 - Recovering the Priority of God
- Ten Ways To Worship Without Music
- Teaching Worship
- Loving the Lord with All Your Heart
- A Call for Mentors
- Worship Leadership
- Defining Worship
- How To Lead A Worship Team
- Expressions of Worship
- Learning to Wait
- Definition of a Worship Leader
- Thoughts on Worship Leading
- A Biblical Philosophy of Worship
- Steps To Equip Leaders To Equip A Team - (which reproduces itself)
- 24 x 7 Worship
- Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs
- Foundations for Worship Ministry - Choosing The Right Tools
- Prayer - The Foundation Of Worship Ministry
- Evaluating Songs for Corporate Worship
- Questions for Evaluating Corporate Worship
- Other Worship Articles
Page 2 of 7