Search This Blog

Friday, July 08, 2011

Worship's Basics

There's a song that's been popular among contemporary worship leaders for several years now.  It's called "Heart of Worship."  (  It was written by a guy called Matt Redman.  (  You might not recognize that name, but if you like contemporary Christian praise and worship music, I bet you're a fan of his work. 

Anyway, in this song, "Heart of Worship", the lyrics make a profound statement regarding worship: "I'm sorry for the thing I've made it ..."  It's a popular song and I've seen it sung in many different churches many, many times.  But this statement has always seemed a bit odd to me.  I mean, what is 'the thing I've made it?'  Did we do something wrong with worship?  And if we did, how did that happen?  Would it have been purely out of ignorance?  Or are other sinful motives involved --- like maybe selfishness, laziness, or even pride?

Maybe I'm a bit of a fanatic, but like other things in my spiritual life, I've wanted to understand worship as much as anything else.  I mean, let's face it, worship can take on almost magical qualities at times --- as it seems to transform us and carry us away to a sort of Utopian existence.  As I've sought to understand this phenomenon, quite honestly, I've had some serious learning to do.  I love worship music, but I find that the more I grow spiritually, the easier it is to see that I have made it (worship) into something I'm sorry for. 

You see, I have often thought it was about me.  The worship wasn't so much in praise and adoration of God as it was ministry to myself.  Worship made me feel better. You may wonder what's wrong with that.  And there may indeed be nothing wrong with that.  But you and I were made to worship (lyrics from a Chris Tomlin song).  Seriously, that's why God made us!  You and I exist to please Him.  So any time I start to get selfish about worship and use it to strictly feed myself, I've started to make it something to be sorry for.

Now if we don't want to end up singing about how sorry we are for worship that we got wrong, it would seem that we need to learn how not to make those mistakes.  But it seems there are several aspects of worship that must be measured not in terms of what's wrong ... but rather in terms of what's right.  So like many things in the Christian life, it is better to focus on what's good and right instead of on what's bad and wrong.

So what needs to be right about worship?  What must God's people do to ensure that our worship is His worship?  Bear with me while we examine the facts and I'll share the conclusion(s) that the Lord has helped me draw.

Unacceptable worship.  The first time we see a problem with worship (aside from Old Testament worship of idols) is Jesus addressing the Pharisees in Matthew 15:3-18.    Jesus basically rebuked these religious leaders for what He considered to be worship that was "in vain."  In other words, He called them out for their phony religious rituals that were devoid of any real heart for God.  The point I can take here is that even worship that we may consider to be most excellent can indeed be quite unsatisfactory to God. 

What makes worship acceptable?  Jesus said that we are to approach Him as if we were children.  I gather from that that He's looking for a simple approach.  After all, children are simple-minded.  They don't tend to complicate matters to show off their intelligence of hone their skills.  One of my favorite authors, A.W. Tozer (, said that, "God reveals Himself to the child-like, but hides Himself from the sophisticated."  So I gather that the more sophisticated the worship is ... the less likely it is going to be pleasing to God.  Said differently, I'm convinced that we must simplify our worship and stick to the basics.

I remember a few years ago I was leading a service in a mega-church here in the DFW metro area.  We have a string of disasters with the band and basically only one guitarist showed up.  No drummer.  No keyboard.  No piano.  No horns.  The situation was bleak.  How could I be expected to lead worship with only one musician?  Clearly I was frustrated and angry. 

So taking matters into my own hands I sat down with the sole guitarist and worked out a strategy.  We had the songs that he could play well, which would sound good with just one guitar.  And then it happened.  He broke a guitar string.  And he didn't have a replacement.  And we had no time to run out and get another one.  The service was about to start.

What happened next was a very humbling and defining moment for me as a worship leader.  I took the stage, announced to the audience that God was not providing musicians today ... and invited them to join me a capella (i.e., without instruments).  We worked our way through some worship songs and some contemplation prayer time as well.  After the service, several people came up to tell me that it was one of the best services we'd ever had.  Go figure.

Just how do we simplify our worship then? First of all, I think one of the key secrets is that pure worship emanates from people who know the character and nature of God.  Jesus said in John 17:23 that this intimate, personal knowledge of Him is experiential.  It's fundamental to the core of who we are.  You see, God is quite personal and intimate. Religion can never accomplish that.

Secondly, we prepare ourselves for important meetings.  Worship is a meeting with the Holy Spirit.  It is an appointment with God.  And like other appointments, these can be disappointing.  In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 that many of us have appointments with Him (on judgment day) that will be very disappointing.  We may sail through life thinking viewing ourselves as Christ-followers.  But when we actually meet him face-to-face, it's going to be very disappointing. 

How is that so?  Look at the people Jesus was talking about (In Matthew 7:21-23).  They are believers.  they are religious.  They go to church.  They engage in regular worship.  They think they're going to spend eternity in heaven.  But their meeting will be disappointing ... because they didn't prepare themselves for all of the other meetings in life.  Are you prepared when you meet God in worship?

Third, authentic worship comes from authentic love.  Love for God and other sums it up.  1 Corinthians 13:1-13 tells us a lot about what love is and isn't.  You could take those words in those verses though and write a great deal more about what love is and isn't ... just based on the criteria here.  So it's very simple, really.  Do you know God?  Do you love God?  If you can get those two things right, there's a good chance you're going to get worship right.

Can someone worship God without knowing Him and/or loving Him?  No, I don't think so.  For you see, the very essence of worship is wrapped up in the knowing and loving.  Without knowing God and loving all that is God, no true worship is possible.  Oh, don't get me wrong here.  You can certainly sing songs in a spirited fashion.  But like 1 Corinthians 13 points out, you'd only be making noise.

Let's you and I get together, and let's come back to the heart of worship.  It is all about Him.  Can you and I now be all about Him as well?

No comments:

Post a Comment