Culture Of Worship
Mark Wooldridge 3/6/12
(Rom 12:1) Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Did you know that Gods presence is with us at all times? Of course, every Christian and even many non-Christians believe that He is with them always. We are also told, quite correctly, that He is everywhere at all times, right? Yet often, in the church, we present situations where the claim is made that the presence of God is greater in one part of our meetings than in other parts. What I am talking about are our modern worship services. We as church leaders have many times been unconsciously training those in our congregations that during “worship” the presence of the Almighty is more evident than at other times. When we open our “worship” times by inviting His presence, or when we emphasize certain activities such as singing, dancing, clapping and waving banners as “worship expressions”. We by implication say that when we play music, sing or dance we are worshiping and that God’s presence is greater at those times than at times when we are going to work or making dinner. This creates dualistic thinking people who often ask Papa to give them what they already have. It also lowers their anticipation of having a meaningful encounter with God apart from the worship service. And enforces the expectation that the presence of God is stronger in, and somehow connected to those times when music is being played. As Bill Johnson said “if we continually ask for what we already have, how will we know when we get it?”
Before I continue let me say that I love the musical expressions of worship. I have been a musician for many years and almost all of that time has been spent playing on or leading various worship teams. I also am aware of the many examples in scripture of heavenly and earthly worship where singing, dancing, and playing skillfully on instruments was directly connected to the worship of God. So please don’t misunderstand my motives here, I love to worship Papa. I love to sing to Him, I love to open my heart to Him, and most of all I love His presence. I also love to use my musical talent for His glory. And let me say that playing worship music with other skilled musicians is very exciting, fulfilling and fun. So what I am proposing here is not a condemnation of modern worship, but I see that by placing so much emphasis on the accepted musical worship expressions we by implication teach people that activities that are not musical are not really worship.
Scripture teaches that every activity that a believer engages in is in fact worship. (Rom 12:1) Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. This tells us that when I present myself to God, and when I live in a pleasing way before Him I am worshiping. So what I am proposing here is a cultural shift in the church that raises the expectancy of God’s people to such a level that those extreme encounters with Papa, experienced primarily during worship, become our new normal. We can learn to live form His presence and to have a deep engagement with His heart in every circumstance. Eph. 3:20 says that He is able to do more for us than what we can ask or imagine. So as we elevate our expectations of encountering the “Beauty of His Holiness” in situations that we used to call ordinary suddenly they become extra-ordinary. And when we learn to live from that place of expectation our lives become extra-ordinary because of Papa’s presence. Suddenly worship doesn’t stop when the music ends but it actually increases. And when we live from that kind of place things are changed.
Ok, you say, I get this but how do we do this? How do we as leaders increase not only our expectation of worship but how to re-teach our people that worship is a twenty-four seven lifestyle. To begin with we have to live in a worshiping lifestyle ourselves. And become more aware of not only what we say about worship but what we imply by what we don’t say. When we say that “The Lord inhabits the praises of His people”, which He does, the shift in our thinking and speaking needs to be that our praises are as much a place of God’s habitation when we are doing laundry as when worship music is playing. For musicians who are blessed to be leaders in this arena the main shift has to be that we become worshipers first, and musicians second. I’m reminded of a song by Matt Redman called “When the Music Fades” where he says that when music is taken away then we see that the heart of worship is “all about You (Jesus)”.
Next will be an increased understanding that worship is our response to Presence, and that God’s Presence is the chief atmosphere or environment that all of life flourishes in. So as our senses are increasingly opened up to the Presence of God in every situation then the expectation of Him being mightily with us increases. This expectation of His Presence will change our hearts, and it will create a hunger for more intimacy with Him. Then the result will be an increased boldness to expand His Kingdom into our everyday activities.
What I am describing here is a culture of worship, a lifestyle that recognizes that worship expressions are more than music or dance. It recognizes that a hammer is as much an instrument of worship as a guitar, that a bookkeeping ledger affects the atmosphere as powerfully as a banner or a song.
Every church has a culture, we have traditions and created expectations of what will happen during our meetings. We all know what to do in the cultural environment we are a part of, so this isn’t about creating a new culture as much as it is about shifting your and my expectations of what takes place away from the sanctuary. So that the anticipation of life changing God encounters will be a daily part of our lives. Then we will have a greater impact on the world around us and can see more of the Kingdom of God manifested in every kind of situation.