25 Aug Swept Up in Worship
Last week I wrote briefly about the six “Great Ends of the Church.” The third Great End is “the maintenance of divine worship.” I am a pastor, so worship is in many respects my “job.” But, worship is much more than a job to me. It is my passion. It is my vocation and my avocation. Simply put, I love worship—thinking about it, planning it, writing sermons, putting it all together. Along with our church musicians and worship team, I work hard at creating worship experiences that can open our hearts to God. To me, that means that what we do in worship is done with excellence, that we give our best to God. It means that we prepare. It means that we endeavor to coordinate scripture, music and liturgy so that each speaks to and reinforces the others. It means that I am disciplined in praying for my church and especially for our worship together. It means I think about how different people find meaning in different worship elements: some love traditional language and music, some more modern; some appreciate diversity, some need structure and order. One of the things that makes worship endlessly interesting and fun is that it is so uniquely individual, yet simultaneously corporate.
I have to confess that I have almost zero tolerance for sloppy, haphazard, and ill-prepared worship. It is just too important for that. But, that doesn’t mean worship is a performance or that perfection is the goal. Worship is all about being in relationship with God. It’s enjoying God and having a venue in which to express our praise, thanks, repentance, faith and dependence on God. In worship we are reminded of how much God loves us, how we are made to love God, and thus, how critical to our own humanity it is to order our lives with God at the center.
I have to really watch my attitude about worship. It’s appallingly easy to forget that worship is about God and instead to become preoccupied with what I like or need or want. It’s tempting to judge worship, to “grade” how good the music or sermon is or how well I think the flow “worked.” I have to be careful that my desire to offer my best doesn’t become a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to earn a pat on the back from my fellow worshipers or even from God. This quote, shared with me by a friend, captures the danger all too well:
“When ministry becomes performance, then the sanctuary becomes a theater, the congregation becomes an audience, worship becomes entertainment, and man’s applause and approval become the measure of success. But when ministry is for the glory of God, the Lord’s presence moves into the sanctuary. Then, we all fall down in worship and confess that God is among us.”
To experience God’s presence among us, to feel, palpably feel, God’s Spirit in our midst, to be so aware of God’s majesty, holiness and power that we are swept up in worship—that’s what I desire for my church, and yours, every Sunday.
O, friend, may it ever be so.
Yours for the Kingdom,