Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Color of Worship

I have been in the ministry for over 22 years in some form or fashion. I began cutting my teeth as an intern for my home church in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 17. I got out of school at noon my senior year and would spend each afternoon working at church and learning by observing. In college I was able to serve in a local church as its youth pastor. Between college and seminary I served in two churches, one as a church planter and another as a minister of discipleship and singles. In seminary I pastored my first church. After seminary I worked in Christian education, served as an associate college pastor, and later as one of four start-up campus pastors for a new location of a mega-church. Currently I serve as the pastor of one of the larger churches in the state of Arkansas. I've done a lot of ministry and learned a lot about leadership. I've seen good leadership and bad leadership. I've practiced both as well!

Out of all my experience in leadership and ministry I can say very clearly that the most difficult aspect of leadership within the church is in the area of worship. Everybody, it seems, has an opinion about worship: how it should be done, how long it should go, how loud/soft the music should be, what instruments to use/not to use, where people should stand or sit or how much of each, the configuration of the stage, whether to have a stage, how bright or dim it should be, what style of music is appropriate, whether praise singers enhance or detract from worship, the "biblical" way to worship, and it goes on and on it seems, endlessly, ad nauseum.

Worship is such a personal issue that it is hard to "let go" and just "let God" take over. Take over our hearts, and passions, and egos, and wills.

Curiously, in my study of Moses, I ran across an interesting aside as it relates to worship. In the Book of Exodus chapter 12, the people are preparing for exodus, to be delivered from Egypt. God is giving very specific instructions for the preparation to leave the country. After receiving these instructions, it says in verse 27 that, "The people bowed their heads and worshipped." Did you catch that? They bowed their heads….and worshipped.

Now jump ahead to chapter 15, post-exodus. The people are so excited at being delivered from the hands of the Egyptians. Moses even composes a new worship song. It has come to be known as The Song of Moses, pretty fitting I think! The song declares the glory and majesty of God and celebrates His crushing victory over the Egyptians. A nationwide worship service was held. Notice the language in verse 20:

"Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing."

Can you get two more contrasting pictures of worship? One is very quiet, solemn, with heads bowed. The other is loud and celebratory, with instruments, and yes, even dancing.

And they were both worship. And since they were both in the Bible, and the language is nothing but affirming, that means they were both biblical.

My point: The color of worship changes just like the leaves in season. As the people of God, we must be willing to lay aside our prejudices and be led by God and His appointed people into worship.

We have a saying around my church: We (all) perform for an audience of One.

Worship is never about us, it's always about God. The question on any given Sunday is not: did I like what I heard? The question is: Did God like what He heard?

If you are in a Bible believing church that loves Jesus and seeks to worship him, and you cannot worship, the problem is probably not with the church, or the worship leader, or the musicians, or anything or anyone else.

If you can't worship, its most likely not a leadership issue but a followership issue.

Passage for Reflection: Exodus 15

"Lord, may I be a worshipper of You! Amen."



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