Monday, March 18, 2013

Challenge to Those Who Love Worship

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“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship...” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Somewhere along the line we started using the word "worship" to mean "singing" or to refer to a church gathering where there will be singing. We say things like, “Worship was great this morning,” or, “That song is so worshipful,” or, “The sermon will come right after worship.” And it’s not just a matter of not knowing better. Even in our pastoral team meetings, it's almost impossible to get away from it. I'm sure I do it all the time.

But please hear this: Worship is about so much more than singing songs.
In Romans 12:1 Paul couldn't have been more direct when he said that “true worship” is the kind that consumes everything about us: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

And in John 4:23-24 Jesus said that God isn't just seeking singers, he wants “true worshipers” who worship in spirit and truth—with zeal, sure, but the kind that leads to a faithful life.

As a follower of Christ, I want to be a true worshiper. And as a pastor I want to be a true-worship leader. With or without music, I want to make sure you're a true worshiper:
  • I want you to have a personal encounter with Jesus that is so moving that you remain moved. 
  • I want to see your passion shift from “I love that song” to “I love God!” 
  • I want to see God’s glory fill your life like it did the temple, to where you can’t do your “work” anymore -- where you stop making all those silly beautiful noises -- and where you replace it with a passionate and devout love for God. 
Don't get me wrong, I believe our music should be great, and as a musician myself, I am moved deeply by it. Many of us have had our souls genuinely awakened to God's grace at that altar of sacred music--be it traditional or contemporary. But way, way, way, way, way too many of us have carved our name into the front of that altar and turned it into our idol. When we have opportunity to meet with Jesus at another altar, we don't know how to worship God there, because our god is not there.

Worship is honoring God by following Jesus. That's my working definition, and working definitions are usually the best kind. Start treating "worship" as a whole-life response to the love of God, and you'll find that you can do it with or without music, in your own culture or someone else's culture. And God will be honored; he will be worshiped, as he should be.