Recently, in these articles, we’ve been focusing on some of the more practical points of the church worship experience. While I firmly believe that vocal parts, lighting, volume, team, and instrumentation are very important aspects of our church worship service they are all instruments in the hand of the worshipper. They are figurative lambs that we are bringing every church service to the altar, without spot (think: a vocal part sung as perfect as possible because I’ve put in the time and effort). We have the awe inspiring responsibility to bring these spotless lambs to God every week, but is God after my perfect sounding guitar part or is He looking for something more? What is the service God expects from me?
Musically there are few things I enjoy more than hearing our small worship band play a song in church and really kill it. I mean, everyone is into it. The bass is on point, locked in with our cajon player, the vocal parts are tight, people are comfortable and really worshiping and the whole church knows it. Add to this the sense that God is pleased, not with us, but pleased to be there, to bless us with an atmosphere where He takes over and anything is possible. What made that moment possible? Practice? Yes, hours of listening, playing, tweaking, perfecting. But, there is something more.
A Living Sacrifice
Paul urges us in Romans 12:1 that “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God…as an act of intelligent worship, give Him your bodies, as a living sacrifice.” In the Old Testament a skilled workman was commissioned to build the altar, but the sacrifice offered gave the altar meaning. In the New Testament we aren’t building altars and burning our sacrifices on them, WE ARE the sacrifices, living, walking around, working our jobs, practicing music, attending our churches, etc. This sacrifice of our entire life is what gives the building of the altar great value and meaning!
Paul continues in verse 2: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed.” I need to understand that while spend time, energy, and money on “building the altar” or practicing for worship, working, family time, mission trips, etc., is all a necessary part of life the temptation is to think that it is the main event. I need God to change my mental attitude and this only happens by time spent in His presence.
Welcome to the Party!
Thanksgiving and Christmas will soon be here and I love to think that the practice is like decorating a room for a great, formal holiday party. We arrive early. We are arranging the furniture in a particular way to encourage mingling, conversation and comfort. We arrange the refreshments so the guests can enjoy different flavors and smells. We hire musicians to play in the background to help people feel the mood we are setting. We make sure every detail has been seen to. All of this is necessary but it is not the reason for the party. Something more is needed: guests, a host, an understanding between the guests that we are here to enjoy the night, the company, and the graciousness of our host.
I see this “something more” as our worship service, the night of the party. We come to the party. We have put aside all other plans for that night. We send in our RSVP. We spend the time getting ready. We spend the money needed to make it happen. Regardless of what last minute distractions arise we have been waiting for this night and nothing can stop us from getting there. We step into the room and the doorman takes our coats. The fire is roaring, the band is playing, waiters are walking around with food and drink. Other guests are standing here chatting and seated there laughing. They are enjoying the effort you put into making this night happen. Then you see the host. He walks over to you with a huge smile because his guests have come and are enjoying supremely. He grabs your hand and says, (here comes the “something more”) “Thank you for being here!” Be careful at this moment of being “squeezed into a certain mould”, an attitude that whispers: “What?!? What about all the effort I’ve put into the decor and the food and the music?” Quickly do away with those thoughts. Get some refreshments, take a seat on the couch in front of the fire and enjoy the cider. Sit and listen to the music, enjoy the buzz of conversation and the energy of the party all around you. Realize that the only thing on the host’s mind is your presence and that you could enjoy being in his house as much as all the other guests.
What I want you to realize in this article is that all the effort you put into your church’s worship times is valuable and needed. But, the service that God is looking for is that you, just like the congregation you are serving, would just be there and enjoy. Let’s be all there, body, soul, and spirit, and let’s enjoy the graciousness of our Host.