The fifth in a 6 part series on worship. I was invited to speak on worship in church; to articulate in 30 minutes the breadth and depth of what I have long experienced and believed to be biblical.
Click for sections: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Wonky (defn) :
1. shaky or unsteady
2. not in correct alignment; askew
3. liable to break down or develop a fault
My assertion: Worship is one of the most wonky and misconceived aspects in the contemporary church!
5. The outworking of worship (how to swim)
All the discussion so far is largely useless unless we touch on "doing" and "being" worship. The starting point here is to stop thinking about church for the moment. By now it should be apparent that what happens in church is only a minute part of worship.
How do we do breath worship, in case we die for lack of breath? For a start, re-think your perceptions. Worship is:
We were walking in our neighbourhood recently and dropped in unannounced on some friends who we had not seen for awhile. Within minutes we were discussing Christian matters, and we only left 3 joy-full hours later after an impromptu dinner. Our discussion throughout was peppered with God-things. We worshipped, because in our conversation we were unconsciously esteeming God - both explicitly and implicitly. We breathed worship without even being aware we were doing it. As Heb 10:24-25 says "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another." Many people use this verse to say you must go to church, but I think it means as much, if not more so, that you must drop in with friends, stay 3 hours, throw in a meal, and talk around God.
This is the the less obvious and arguably the more important, because it reflects "breathing worship".
When you breath, you don't say to yourself "breath in, breath out". When you walk you don't say "left foot, right foot". When you love, you don't mechanically say "now I'll hold her hand, and then I'm going to lean in for a kiss". No, as when we swim, sing or play music, or breath - our actions are unthinking and natural as we live immersed in simply being. My motions in swimming are the unthinking revelling of the body in the medium. Making music is not thinking about where to put my fingers on the instrument, but on creating a beautiful expression through the instrument. Breathing - my sighs, deep breaths, gasps, panting - are all unconsciously feeding my simply being.
That's our target; a foundation of worship that is unconsciously part of our existence, on top of which we build the conscious choices of expression. In my marriage my conscious choice to kiss comes on top of a natural continuing intimacy.
Such worship is uncontrollably expressed in confidence and commitment, not subdued or contained. If you swim tentatively, you splutter. If you walk cautiously, you go slowly. If you breath shallowly, you black out. Such hesitance has no joy. But you can be joyful in the deepest crisis when you can see something what is above the crisis. David danced, nearly naked, unconsciously and exuberantly! For as A.W. Tozer said, "Without worship, we go about miserable."
What does it really mean when it says “the joy of the Lord is our strength”? It means we have a certainty that surpasses our circumstances, is beyond our expectations. And when we have strength, we can be free to be in creative worship. We can let God's values define our actions – we invest because its important, we expend energy because He is worth it, we value giving our best because God values the best, we worship not because of any rule, but because we value God.
If valuing God means knowing what God values, then we need to spend time on thinking about what God values in me. What does God value about me? Arguably what God values the most in us is Humility: which is not being a shy little weakling, but is simply not being more than we are (pride), not being less than we are (deception), and that presumes we know what we are.
So from God's perspective, what are we?
This goes back to the start: our number 1 priority is the totality of our engagement in worship. To engage all we are in our worship, we can consider that there are two necessary aspects to breathing worship; the individual and the collective.
→ The individual starts with a choice to take time. Without that simplest yet hardest of choices individual worship goes nowhere. For myself, I have lots of ways to express this. I write to myself … a lot. I have debates with myself and God in the early hours of the morning. In those twilight hours when you can't sleep, I preach long sermons to myself knowing God is paying attention. I will sit in a darkened room with worshipful music and simply rest (which is an action) in the comfort of God. All these are choices, yet each person needs to find their own individual expression, because each person is unique just like everyone else.
→ The collective: This is the church service, or the formal gathering of Christians. We come together to put intensity of focus on our standing before God as his body here today … and we affirm his worth, we express our unity in God, and encourage others. Eph 5:18-21 has this to say about gathering together: "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Finally, it's worth considering that worship is especially about pro-active individual choice. Ps 100 classically covers this, but sadly is often talked about in a way that misses the key point; action! Consider:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! [i.e., be creative, its not kept private]
Serve the Lord with gladness! [Service is worship, we serve God in worship, in worship we serve]
Come into his presence with singing! [don't keep your distance, move forward]
Know that the Lord, he is God! [engage your mind, the brains consumes 20% of your energy!]
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, [Don't stop on the threshold - that is simply being in church - instead dive in and swim]
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; [More than saying thanks, demonstrate thanks with gifts]
bless his name! [to bless is an action]
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Make, Serve, Come, Know, Enter, Give, Bless - a totality of immersion.