Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pure Worship

I have written here before (see Missing Silence) of the wide variety of elements I enjoy in a worship service.  Drama, video, music, creative preaching and teaching are elements I have come to enjoy in modern worship.  I am fully aware that my tastes cut across a variety of differing styles, which makes in highly unlikely that I will ever discover a church that "worships" the way I wish they would.  And that's life.

Like many of you I have seen churches struggle over the years with styles of worship.  They want to keep their older members happy, so they continue to have organ music and sing hymns from hymnals.  Three hymns, an offering and a sermon (with perhaps an altar call) all scheduled out neatly in the church bulletin.  For many people my age (53) and older, this is what they expect from a church service.  But church leadership is always looking for ways to attract young families, and for nearly 20 years now they have seen changing worship styles as the way to do that.  Contemporary worship seeks to encourage a more youthful congregation through modern music (often with a band), more creative teaching styles and less liturgy and formality.  Some churches still offer both; separate services, separate worshiping bodies who barely know each other.  Some offer a "blended" service, seeking to appease both groups at the same time.  Churches have split over differences in worship styles.  "Worship" has even become its own genre of music.  In some places, the words worship and music have become interchangeable.  They are not.  Music is an act of worship.  Worship is so much more.  My friends, some of us have lost sight of what worship is.  It's not anything we perform, or schedule.  Worship does not have a style.  So what is worship? 

"Worship is a hunger of the human soul for God.  When it really occurs, it is as compelling as the hunger for food.  It is as spontaneous as the love of a girl or boy.  If we feel it, no one needs to tell us we should worship.  No one has to try to make us do it.  If we do not feel it, or have no desire to feel it, no amount of urging or forcing will do any good.  We simply cannot be forced from the outside to worship.  Only the Spirit within us, the Light within, can move us to it.  - N. Jean Toomer            

You see, worship is much more about what you bring to God than it is about what your church brings to the service.  If your heart is hungry for God, then it won't matter the instruments that are played or the songs that are sung.  You will find the beauty in Amazing Grace, O For A Thousand TonguesOur God Saves or Shout To the LORD.  You will find wisdom in the Word of God, whether read directly from scripture, delivered by a speaker or experienced in a drama or video.  And you will find joy in the presence of God with the family of God as you you all seek Him together.  But you need none of those things. We need prayer.  We need to listen to God- and God often does speak through those elements.  But I can tell you from personal experience that if you are truly seeking God, an hour of silence can be some of the best worship you will ever experience.  When worship becomes about style or elements, then it has become all about us.  All that is required is an open heart and the presence of God.  And God will always be wherever you are.

So if we don't get anything out of worship this weekend, perhaps it's time to quit pointing fingers at the worship team or the pastor and start looking into our own souls.  And if we do, then praise God that that the Holy Spirit is speaking to your hungry heart.  I pray you all have a blessed week.

Because of Jesus,

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