May 2, 2011

The Direction of Worship

"One of the greatest discoveries of my Christian pilgrimage has come with the realization that the primary importance in worship is not what I do but what God is doing. In worship, God is present, speaking to me, and acting upon me. It is in worship that God feeds, nourishes, and cares for me. And it is in worship that he gives me his grace, surrounds me with his love, lifts me up into his arms, affirms me as a member of his community, and sends me forth into the world with a fresh vision of his work and a new concern to live for him."
(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1992), 66.

This quote is awesome for a number of reasons!  I love it because it puts the primacy of worship on God, not me.  It puts the focus of worship on God, not me.  It puts the flow of worship in the proper perspective, and it demonstrates that eternal truth - that it starts with God, it's all for God, and it will end with God.  And it shows that "worship" is not an end in itself - it is for the glorification of God in the moment, and, for the furthering of His worship in the nations of the world. Do I have a part in it?  Yes, of course I have a part to play - I was born to worship!  But lest I forget that somehow it is all about me, the style I like, the instrument I use, the visual or visceral response of the congregation that I can "see" or "get" - the immediate results - Jesus is the High Priest, not me, and it is He Who initiates, sustains, and completes worship - not me! But this line of thinking leads me in to an area of a bit of controversy when played out in real life!  In regard to God being the real worship leader, I have noticed an interesting fact.  For the most part (and there are exceptions to this), in cultures where the Church (body of Christ) has put an "end time" on their "worship services", the church is stagnant - it is not growing in a big way overall.  In cultures where the Church has not put an "end time" on their "worship services", the church is exploding, or has just exploded.  Hmm.  Should we decide when it is over, or should God? Of course I am very familiar with the age old tension between "Does the Holy Spirit work in the planning, or does He work in the spontaneity of the moment?"  The answer is obviously "BOTH", and therefore the previous question sets up a false dichotomy.  The better question might be, "If God is the true worship leader, does He have the 'room', or the 'freedom' to act in congregational worship outside the man-made boundaries that we maybe impose on Him?  And does He have the 'room', or the 'freedom' to act in my personal life of worship in a way that might take me right out of my comfort zone, and transplant me into a place where He sovereignty decides that if I go there, He will get even more glory?"  I am thinking that it is in this sense that worship has a real Director, and His worship has a true relevant direction.