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Archive for April 23rd, 2012

What is genuine worship, and how can we achieve it in our church? That was the final question to discuss at our church retreat this past weekend.

As our small group, among other small groups, discussed these questions I found myself needing to ponder more than to respond. So, I came home, and searched for what the Bible says about worship:

Psalms 29:2 “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.”

Psalms 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!”

Psalms 99:5 “Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

Psalms 66:4 “All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.”

John 4:23-24 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

Mark 12 tells the story of the offerings being made at the temple. The wealthy gave large amounts, but a poor widow only gave two small coins. Jesus response to seeing this was “truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Her act of worship was one of faithfulness, and of sacrifice.

King David is remembered in 2 Samuel 6 for his leaping and dancing, animal sacrifices, and celebrating (possibly even naked) as the ark was brought into Jerusalem. When he was confronted by Michal, daughter of Saul, for his embarrassing public acts as a monarch, he said, “it was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:21-22) His act of worship had nothing to do with special clothes, it had nothing to do with “tradition”, it had nothing to do with what others thought. His act of worship was for and before his Lord. He humbled himself, as King of Jerusalem, to acknowledge and worship the king who put him on the throne.

Worship is such a foundational part of my Christian life. It is not just a Sunday thing. It is not just a music thing. It is not just a corporate thing.

For me, worship is similar to how C. S. Lewis described his reason for prayer, “I pray worship because I can’t help myself. I pray worship because I’m helpless. I pray worship because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.” I do not believe God needs my worship, but He does require it of me, and I fade when I do not acknowledge and worship my Creator and Redeemer.

Alexander MacLaren said, “fruitful and acceptable worship begins before it begins.” I believe that for us to worship, corporately, and for it to be genuine, our worship of God must enter our churches with us. Corporate, church worship is not entertainment, it is the joining of individual worshipers in a common place, to worship a common God. For it to be genuine, corporately, it must be genuine, individually.

There is the true story of a church in England whose pastor believed that they had lost their way in worship, and “the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.” So, this (brave) pastor asked the worship leadership to take a break. He then taught about worship, genuine worship. He taught them that they are not simply consumers of worship, but that they are the creators, the producers of it. Then he (Mike Pilavachi) asked, “when you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”

Then, he waited,
and waited,
and waited.

It got quiet.
It got awkward.
It got uncomfortable.

But, eventually, a most beautiful thing occurred …

spontaneous,
heartfelt,
sincere,

genuine worship.

In the form of prayers,
and scripture,
and a cappella singing,

the people began to BRING worship to the service, and it was genuine.

While this church was learning about worship, their worship leader, went home to the quiet of his bedroom, where he quickly, easily wrote a song of worship to his Lord. Like David dancing in the streets, this songwriter was simply sharing his worship to God, and God alone. It did get shared, and has probably been sung in the streets, as individual worshipers came to understand that genuine worship begins with a heart of worship.

“When the music fades,
all is stripped away, and I simply come
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart…
I’m coming back to the heart of worship,
and it’s all about You, Jesus”
Matt Redman

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