Thursday, January 21, 2010

God-Centric Worship

God-Centric Worship

What do I mean by God-centric worship? It simply means that God is the central focus of our worship. As a result, my mind, emotions, body, and spirit are fully engaged in praise, adoration, and worship of our great God.

Several years back I read a book by George Barna titled, Revolution. George Barna is a Christian pollster who focuses his research solely on the church. In the book he compares and contrasts the first century church found in Acts 2 (Acts 2:42-47) with the twenty-first century church found in our culture today. The first thing his research reports, as it relates to Acts 2 kind of worship, is that the large majority of those surveyed said that their primary worship experience, and often their only worship experience, is on Sunday mornings during the corporate celebration services. The next thing he asked related to encountering the presence of Jesus in their day to day personal worship and then the weekly gathering. To my amazement and shock the large majority stated that they had not encountered the presence of Jesus individually or in the corporate settings in any consistent manner. Some stated that it could have been a year or two, if my memory serves me well, since they encountered the presence of Christ.

Does that shock you? Is it true of your daily personal worship of God?

What about our corporate gatherings, do you sense the presence of God in our services? I know I just opened a huge can of worms, but I really want to know the truth.

Did you know that both our individual and collective worship encounters depend on us individually and not the pastors, worship leader, musicians, singers, style of music, song selection, and length of the music portion of the worship service?

Did you know that the level of Christ’s manifest presence is determined by our own individual preparation for the corporate worship celebration and the proportionate level of love and unity shared among the people of God?

In many cases worship has been reduced to a performance and entertainment or into persuasive coercion. What is in the middle? The Center! Where should God be in our worship? The Center! Who or what is the object of our affection, the music, the musician, the singer, the style, or the song? Or is it God and God alone? What if one of our primary objectives of corporate worship became to fill the atmosphere with our praises, like burning incense, becoming a fragrant offering of love for our awesome God? What if we, through our passionate worship moved the heart of God to the extent that He felt like a welcomed part of the family and not an uninvited guest?

One of the questions Barna’s research left me with is has the church in our culture become accustomed to services without the presence of Christ to the extent that we don’t know the difference anymore? Another question; is Christ standing at the door on the outside of the church—His church, our services and ministry knocking and waiting to be invited in to what is rightly His? If you look at Revelation 3:20 it say’s, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.” I have heard that scripture used for salvation calls but the way I read it Jesus is talking to His church in Laodicea. In other words the church in Laodicea, in its prosperity became lukewarm. Jesus is calling the church back to Himself. I feel this is true of the church in our culture as well. The church in the west (USA) has experienced such prosperity and has done so many good deeds to the world that it thinks and feels as if she needs nothing. We need an awakening before we are spit out of God’s mouth. We need wholesale corporate repentance from our spiritual pride and arrogance. We need to remember the height from which we have fallen and to return to our first love. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

It is as if we, those who lead the service, have to entertain people into the presence of God or compel and exhort people to come into Gods presence. Honestly, it makes me sick to think we have to do or would do either to motivate people to genuinely worship God. He is worthy! He deserves our very best offerings of love and sacrifices of praise. Isn’t the supreme sacrifice He made good enough to stimulate and extrapolate worship from us almost effortlessly? Some say we just entertain, while others say we manipulate. Most people fall into one of the two camps. However both tongues would be silenced if we pushed all of our preferences, judgments, and the like aside and simply allow God to become the central focal point and recipient of our worship.

Time is another thing I wrestle with as it relates to God-centric worship gatherings. I am not talking about the length of the music portion of the service. I am talking about when worship starts. Our services start at 10 am and 6:45 pm. In many cases we wait for services to start before we began to worship and encounter Christ and Christ encounters us. Wouldn’t it be awesome, after we have taken time to greet one another and welcome friends and guest, that we turn our attention to God and begin seeking Him in prayer and worshiping Him in praise and thanksgiving. Or what if we took the time before coming to service to begin magnifying God and seeing Him as our great big, mighty and awesome God? I wonder what that would do to increase our faith, expectancy, and anticipation of what God might do among us. I am totally convinced that the reality of Gods presence would burn brilliantly among us if we individually came prepared (having faith and expectancy) for corporate worship celebrations.

How about expressions of worship, do we all have to express worship to God the same way for it to be received by Him as genuine worship? There are so many different ways to express worship; singing, contemplation, prayer, musical instruments, dancing, jumping, shouting, clapping hands, lying prostrate, raising of hands, on bent knees, reading of scripture, and partaking of Communion. There may be more but I can’t think of any off the top my head. In John 4:23-24 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well this, “23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” I share this scripture because I think that the way we express our worship to God is not as important as the spirit in which we worship Him. God is not looking for mindless, spineless worshipers; He is looking for people who will worship in spirit and in truth. So I encourage you to be free in your worship as long as it is true of you! Study the scripture as it pertains to worship and praise. As God enlightens you about worship through His word then obey Him with all you have and give Him the wholehearted worship He deserves.

Below is a popular worship song we sing called, “The Heart of Worship.” I wonder, how might it transform our individual and collective intimate worship of God if it were to become a reality in all who sing it? My prayer today is that we all come back to the heart of worship; where it is ALL ABOUT HIM!

Heart of Worship by Matt Redman

When the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come
Longing just to bring something that's of worth that will bless Your heart

I'll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself, is not what You have required
You search much deeper within through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship. And it's all about You, all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the things I've made it. When it's all about You, all about You, Jesus

King of endless worth, no one could express how much You deserve
Though I'm weak and poor, all I have is Yours, every single breath

I'm coming back to the heart of worship. And it's all about You, all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the things I've made it. When it's all about You, all about You, Jesus