Friday, January 26, 2007

The Heart of Worship

Scenario One:
The prelude begins and few people are in any kind of hurry to get to their sseats. Instead they're still milling around talking to each other. Those on the platform entire with somber faces and sit at the same time. The song leader gets up and the song begins...and you realize that while the organ is playing loudly, those in the pews are only half-heartedly singing, if at all. The youth, young adults, and young at heart sigh as yet another ancient hymn is sung. One of the deacons leads out in the prayer -- one that is peppered with thee's and thou's and bible verses and all poetically strung together in the lilting voice that only comes when reading aloud. The lighting is dim, the organ is loud, the faces are somber... and it's all in the name of reverence.

Church ends. The congregation rushes out and the mood lightens. They shake the pastor's hand.
"Great sermon, Pastor."
"They're getting better..."
"Another good one."
"Now Pastor, I'm not sure I agree with..."
"A wonderful sermon as always, Pastor."

Church is supposed to be somber and serious. Some stand outside and chat about getting nothing out of the worship service. Others appreciate the reverence of the service and feel as if they were filled. Many came and left, having given nothing nor recieved anything -- it's just a weekly habit.

Scenario Two:
The guitars and piano begin to play and the praise team walks out and begins to sing "Come, Now is the Time to Worship." The congregation stands, claps with the music, and makes a joyful noise. After a string of worship songs, the song leader begins to pray and invite God into this place. After a few more songs and normal preliminary things, the sermon is preached. The preacher gets into it a few times and he gets some response from the congregation. The service is ended with prayer and everyone rushes out of the sanctuary and shakes the pastor's hand.
"Great sermon, Pastor."
"They're getting better..."
"Another good one."
"Now Pastor, I'm not sure I agree with..."
"A wonderful sermon as always, Pastor."

People begin to congregate into little clusters in the foyer and parking lot.
"I feel SO good!"
"I really got a lot out of this service!"
"Oh man, that music was great!"
"Preacher man really got fired up today!"
"I love coming to church!"
"Did you hear him sing? Wow!"
"I feel so good!"

And then, there are the others...
"Did you see how they were clapping?"
"I can't believe she had her hands raised!"
"This was the most irreverent service I've ever been to!"
"I just don't understand why these kids like this repetitive music."
"That music lacked inspiration."
"Did you hear what the pastor said? And in the sanctuary!"
"I feel like I just left a party."

You know what? We need to get back to the heart of worship. That isn't scenario one, and I hate to break it to you, but it's not scenario two either. Worship is not about what you GET, but what you GIVE. When we seek to meet our own needs and our own preferences, we lose sight of what, or who rather, worship is really about. Worship is about Jesus Christ. Period. It's for Him, to Him, and about Him. Worship is not something to make you just "feel good." Worship is also not an experience where everyone leaves empty. Worship is not an experience where there must be perfection and precision and preferences are all met. Worship is about praising God for who He is and what He's done. And that means there needs to be JOY in the house of the Lord. Put a smile on your face and keep a song in your heart. But most of all, let it come from your heart.

Let's quit pushing our own agenda so that we can "worship" according to our preferences. Let's worship according to His preferences -- and He prefers to have our hearts. He also wants us to be unified and at peace with one another. When you begin to push your preferences, you lose sight of who the worship is for and division is created. Let's get back to the heart of worship.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the things I've made it
When it's all about You
All about You, Jesus

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