Sorry it’s been a while. I’ve been busy getting reacclimatized to ministry after a 3-month Sabbatical.
In the upcoming weeks I want to start unpacking my vision of how to create a Gospel-shaped life.
This week’s installment is about how we might deepen our corporate worship experience.
- I’m assuming here that you share my belief that worship is a spot where heaven meets earth.
- I’m assuming here that you believe that God indeed inhabits the praises of his people, and that He wants to meet with us, to speak to us, to “do stuff” in us during worship.
- I’m assuming that you think that worship (not just the musical kind) is probably the most important thing you can do on earth.
- I’m assuming that you think God is more important than you are, that is, that He belongs on the throne of your life, not you.
So is it possible to learn to worship better?
Should “learn” or “better” even be part of the conversation?
I think they should. I think to the degree that we want worship to be rich and meaningful; to the degree that we want to meet with God and to hear Him speak and feel Him in our presence, we should own up to our end of the bargain.
We should do our best; we should come to worship with best, not so that we can work our way into God’s presence, but so that we can make the most room for Him—and His Spirit—that we can.
Too often we show up to worship in order to receive only. Doesn’t this turn things around? Doesn’t this make worship about us? About God giving to us? Worship begins when we recognize who God truly is and who we truly are; once that relationship is clear, God tends to then speak and do His business with us in the best possible sense.
So how do we get better at worship? I’d like to suggest six very practical suggestions to helping all of us come to God better prepared to meet with Him.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Most of us roll out of bed at the last possible minute on Sunday, scurry to church, get adequately caffeinated (if that’s an option at your church), and then wander in, greeting people as we go, eventually settling down just in time to start singing the third verse of the second song. And then we wonder why the band seemed a little “off” that week, or why worship was a little “dry”. If God is truly worth it, and if the Sabbath is truly the joy that we say it is, maybe Sunday worship should begin on Saturday night.
- Engage in the “worship before the worship.” Before you come to church, read Scripture and pray. Thank God for another day of life, and tell Him you are excited to worship Him today. As you get in your car to come to your gathering place, take time to center down into God’s love. Pray for yourself and for the worship team of your church. Pray for your pastor. Prepare your heart individually in order to engage corporately.
- As you sing, engage deeply with the lyrics. Connect the words to your own life. It’s only thing to sing, “He loves us, oh how He love us” passively and absent-mindedly. It’s another thing entirely to connect those words with your own story.
- Be willing to worship “from the outside in”. We talk a lot about “inside-out” worship, and having the inward state of our hearts match the words we are singing. But this ignores a basic truth of how the body occasionally works. The truth of our existence is that our physical postures and expressions can affect our emotional states. This means that sometimes if you want to experience worship more deeply, you should be willing to engage your body. I know there’s lots of different worshiping traditions, some more expressive than others. I also understand that Paul calls us to not be distractions in our corporate gatherings. But within those parameters, I believe we should experiment with physical expressions of worship—raising our hands, clapping (I won’t even mention movement… yet), kneeling, etc.—that can unleash deeper realities for us.
- Look Around. We don’t merely worship as private individuals; we worship as a body. Occasionally, take your eyes off of the screens (no really, please take your eyes off the screens) and look around the room. Who is mourning? Say a prayer for them. Who is rejoicing? Celebrate with them. Allow yourself to be shaped by the way your brothers and sisters are worshiping with you.
- Offer a sacrifice. Worship isn’t about you. It’s not about the band. It’s about God. It’s easy—so easy—to show up on Sunday morning with an attitude of “Give something to me, God.” Indeed, sometimes life beats us down and it’s all we can do to limp into our gatherings on Sunday.But our job during worship is to offer a sacrifice to God. It’s His job to heal us, to comfort us, to give us faith, to remind us that we’re loved and valued as His children. So consciously make a switch in your mind to give rather than receive. Or at the very least, commit to giving first and receiving second.
I hope that these six suggestions might equip you to bring a deeper offering to God on Sundays. Ironically, I also think they’re the key to receiving more from God during worship as well.
But it’s still not about that.