Worshipping as consumers or contributors?
I know I’m a “young gun” (pun intended!). So, it might come as a surprise that this summer I’ll be celebrating my 10th year in vocational ministry. I am so grateful to God for his faithfulness over the last decade, during which time I have had the joy of leading worship in the local church nearly every weekend.
A lot has changed in that time. But what has never changed is the aim of worship—what we are working toward. Because that is not dependent upon our ever-changing circumstances; it is built on the firm foundation of God’s Word. And so, as I look out to future years of ministry together, my longings for our worshipping community are the same as they have always been.
As we seek to “excel still more” in our worship, here are my top five longings for our worshipping community:
- That we would be contributors, not consumers. It doesn’t take a social scientist to figure out that our culture has become increasingly consumeristic. And I’m afraid, the church is not immune to that! You know what we consumers do? We complain. When an experience, a meal, or an event doesn’t meet our desired outcome, we find a way to voice that. We must fight the tendency to make worship all about us—what we get out of it. The lighting, the sound, the song selection. It’s not about any of these things. It’s all about God—what we are giving to him. And we are all called to offer our worship. Worship is not a spectator sport! We are all called to be contributors—to be prayed up and ready to sing, and to pray, and to engage God’s Word with all that we are.
- That we would value substance over style. It’s easy to put more stock in how we worship than in why we worship. Over the years, I have been brought to tears in so many worship settings… be it the joyful praise of gospel choir in an African Methodist Episcopal church or the silence after a Scripture reading at midnight mass in a Catholic cathedral… whether it’s spontaneous or liturgical, free-church Pentecostalism to high-church Lutheranism—whatever the context, when the Spirit moves, he moves! Jesus warned us to not prioritize our traditions over God’s truth. Paul warned us to not to emphasize our ceremonies over our salvation. Let’s avoid prioritizing preference over the power of God’s presence.
- That we wouldn’t just engage part of ourselves, but our whole person. As the old hymn says, we worship God “with heart and hands and voices.” We are called to offer all that we are in worship. We should engage both the intellect and the affections. Both the inner person of the heart and the outer posture of our bodies. Some of the very oldest drawings we have of the early church are of people with hands raised in worship. Given how many times the Scriptures speak of believers lifting their hands in prayer and praise, that shouldn’t surprise us! God calls us to engage our whole person—to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Imagine how powerful it would be if everyone in our Sanctuary was completely engaged in worship, from the inside out?
- That our worship would be just as much geared toward the outsider as it is the insider. Pastor Mark has encouraged us well that Sunday mornings aren’t just for us, they are for our neighbors, too. We dedicated an entire sermon series to this idea some time ago called Your Welcome—about how we can become a more welcoming church, particularly in our services. In 1 Corinthians, Paul encouraged the church to worship in such a way that the non-Christian in their midst would say, “Surely God is among you!” My longing for our church is that we would invite our friends and family every week. Then, when new folks attend, we would extend to them the hospitality of Christ. That through our worship, and our fellowship, and our love and welcome, we would show that God is truly among us.
- That our worship wouldn’t just be an event but a lifestyle. We talk a lot about the “doors of amnesia.” But isn’t it true that what we are so prone to forget on Monday what resonated with us on Sunday? It is too easy to become Sunday-centered Christians. But worship always begets mission. Our gathering inspires our scattering. In other words, what we learn, and experience, and share on Sundays should overflow into our week. Oh, that we would be a people who worships, and prays, and serves, and cultivates Christian character in our everyday lives. That worship would not be an hour on a Sunday, but our very way of life.
Would you pray with me that we would become this kind of a worshipping community? Would you join me in redoubling our efforts to worship in such a way that exalts Jesus, elevates others, and launches disciple-makers? God is not done with us yet! Will you be open and expectant to what he has in store?
Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash