Stepping into the waters of Worshipgreenspun.com : LUSENET : SHCC Discussion : One Thread
I found this article on worship encouraging to us all. John
Stepping Into The Waters of Worship by Don Moen, February 2000
I am frequently asked what I expect to see developing in the area of worship as we enter the new millennium. While there are many things on my heart that I would like to share about this subject, let me focus on a few things that I feel God is saying to me. I have been involved in leading worship for over 15 years now and I am still learning everyday. I have seen styles of music come and go. I have seen the "worship service" on Sunday morning change drastically in many churches. I have also seen a real change in the hearts of God's people. There is a hunger for God's presence now that I have not seen before. This is reflected in all age groups, almost all denominations, and almost every culture. Isaiah 61:11 says, "God is causing righteousness and praise to spring forth through all the earth." Today, everywhere you turn, there is a new song, a new spirit of worship, a new sound of rejoicing!
My friend, in case you haven't noticed, God is doing a new thing among us! Something significant is happening. The Holy Spirit is resurrecting living worship among His people, paving the way for the King to visit us in ways we've not known before. The lyrics of a song I wrote several years ago say, "I just want to be where you are, dwelling daily in Your presence." (Incidentally, this is one of my favorites to sing because it is my prayer and my desire. As a young boy of 12, I accepted Jesus as my Lord. The first scripture I underlined in my Bible was Psalm 27:4, which is pretty much the lyrics of the song.) What I have realized is that God desires to be with us more than we desire to be with Him. God desires to be in our towns, our churches, our homes and in our hearts. He is initiating fellowship with His church, His people, His creation. No, He is not a lonely God, desperate for our affection and worship. Worship is for our sake because worship is the atmosphere that welcomes His presence. Psalm 22:3 tells us that God is enthroned upon the praises of His people. Our praise and worship of Him creates the atmosphere or the platform for God to do what He does so well! When He is among us, He will heal the sick, save the lost and deliver the oppressed. We should not be amazed that these things happen as we worship Him in Spirit and Truth. When we have welcomed Him with our praise it is in His nature to heal, save and deliver! That is His desire. He longs for our fellowship because He wants to pour out His love and affection on us, His Bride!!
There is a passage of scripture in Ezekiel 47 that I like to use to describe what I see happening in worship today. "Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, 'Son of man, have you seen this?' Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river. When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: 'This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.'"
In most of our churches today, there is a river of worship beginning to flow. It is starting as a trickle and growing into a mighty river. We need to understand, as worship leaders and worshipers that there are many levels of worship represented in our churches. There are many people who are just now beginning to experience this river and they are comfortable dangling their toes in the waters of worship. Others are comfortable wading in the river of worship that is ankle deep, knee deep, and waist deep. Then, there are those who have learned to "jump" into the river and swim in God's presence! That is where I want to be! (As a conservative Norwegian from northern Minnesota, sometimes this is hard but it really is my desire!) It is important that we understand that even the person who is just dangling their toes in the waters of worship is being drawn by the Holy Spirit into God's presence and desires to offer an acceptable sacrifice of praise. Because some are more comfortable with outward expressions of worship and praise doesn't minimize the sacrifice of those who are more reserved.
Remember the parable of the widow's mite? Even though her offering was small, Jesus said it was the greatest because it was all she had to offer. (Mark 12:41-44) Perhaps you have found yourself in a worship service feeling very out of touch and disconnected with everything going on around you. The person standing or sitting next to you doesn't know what you have been through during the past week. They may be very exuberant in their praise and you may feel like you have to "fake" something to offer up to God in order to "keep up" with everyone else. I want to encourage you not to do this. God does not ask us to "fake" our praise to Him. There certainly is scripture to support offering a sacrifice of praise when the circumstances around you are not the best. (Hebrew 13:15) We need to understand this. But our sacrifices need to be sincere and honest. As we enter the next millennium, I believe God is raising the standard of honesty and integrity in our worship and praise. However small or large, make it sincere. Let's also be careful not to judge people by the outward appearance of worship. God is always looking at our hearts.
As a music director or a musician in your church, you need to be aware of what style of music will be effective in leading your congregation into God's presence. Today, there are some incredible new songs being written, particularly by the young bands in our churches. These are honest, straightforward songs written by a generation that is not interested in anything that is fake or phony. I really believe this is an emphasis God is bringing to the church. He wants us to be honest in our worship. David was extremely honest with God in the songs that he wrote. Take a look at Psalm 109. How would you like to sing this song for your Sunday morning worship service? Yet, this is a Psalm (song) of David. I think we will see this kind of honesty in our worship as we move into the new millennium. However, don't fall into the trap of chasing a certain "style" of worship just to be relevant. God inhabits the praises of His people when they sing a hymn that is heartfelt and sincere just as much as He inhabits our praises while singing a simple chorus. Remember, He is looking at our hearts. Musical styles are going to come and go but God's word will stand forever. Let's make sure our worship is grounded in God's word and not in the latest musical style. God will show you what will work for your congregation if you ask Him.
Finally, I think God is going to require worshipers, especially those who lead, to develop character. Psalm 24:3 asks the question, "Who can come to the hill of the Lord and who can enter His sanctuary?" Here is the answer. He who has clean hands and a pure heart. As we move into this next era as worshipers, we cannot have hidden agendas. This is not about us, it is about Him. Our lives, as worshipers should reflect God's glory in all that we do everyday. It should be obvious to our spouse, our children, our business associates that we are different people. God is looking for worshipers who worship Him in Spirit and Truth twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. He wants us to live a lifestyle of worship.
I challenge you today to take a step deeper into the waters of worship. Let God draw you. Remember, God is causing righteousness and praise to "spring forth" through all the earth! That means He is causing this to happen in your town, your church, your home and in your heart. As you let Him draw you deeper into the river of worship, don't seek any particular gift. Seek the Giver! Seek more of Him! You will never be disappointed. And let's all make a decision to be at a deeper place in the river of worship by this time next year. God Bless You!
-- John Hogan (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 15, 2000