@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I'll never forget the moment when over 50 people left a church I used to be a part of. Why did they leave?
They didn't like the church's approach to music.
Across the world, people sing, dance, shout, and whisper songs of praise to God in various capacities. Some gather in secretive locations with a simple candle to light their space. Others meet in large, extravagantly-decorated spaces with the beautiful rays of sun coming through the well-maintained stained glass windows. Still other groups pull up to a local strip mall, enter into a box-shaped building, and gather in a space with tens of thousands of dollars of technology in place. Even besides these spaces, there's still those who meet in schools, homes, offices, loft apartments—and the list can go on and on.
While all of these are great examples of places and environments where people gather to "worship" God, their expressions are not the heartbeat of what it means to worship.
While some sing hymns, others are DJ'ing using electronic music. Still some have no music at all.
Far too often, I've witnessed followers of Jesus become divided over styles, genres, and ways to worship God.
But what if worship wasn't about a place? What if it wasn't about a style? What if it wasn't only about music, preaching, or all that we have come to know in our own church tradition?
What if the true meaning of worship was about our heart? What would our churches look like?
Here are a few things to reflect on when we think about worship.
Worship is the act of putting God first."
Often times, worship becomes much more complicated than it has to be. (I've heard a lot of great definitions on worship, but I like to keep things simple.) In writing to the church Corinth, Paul said,
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Did you know you can worship God while eating and drinking? That means your trip to the local Five Guys can be a worship experience. In fact, you can be worshiping God while chowing on a double cheeseburger made "all the way," a Cajun fry, and a large cherry vanilla coke to wash it down (not saying that would be my order or anything...).
In actuality, our lives are to be worship, because worship is the act of putting God first. While an hour on a Sunday morning is an expression of our worship, it's just one hour of the 168 hours we have in our week. The real question becomes, "What do we do with the other 167 hours in our week?" Here are some things to keep in mind.
worship is not about us.
The prophet Isaiah wrote,
"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (Isaiah 29:13a)
It's easy to stop there. Often, people who go to church will say, "Well that isn't me." However, Isaiah isn't writing to people who didn't know God. He was talking to the people of God. Look at what's said next:
"Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." (Isaiah 29:13b)
Chances are, our preference of what worship should be or how it should look is more rooted in tradition than in anything else.
I remember when I was in college, I would often attend church twice on a Sunday. I would go to one service out of obligation while I went to another out of joy. The one service was not to my liking, while the other was done in more of the style I was comfortable with. Here's the problem: I was basing everything off of my preference.
Upon reflecting on that time of my life, I began to realize how selfish I was. I was making worship all about me. However, God doesn't want my obligatory praise. He wants my heart. He wants your heart.
worship is about god.
Bob Kauflin wrote in his book True Worshipers, "To worship God is to humble everything about ourselves and to exalt everything about him."
In the passage from Isaiah (referenced above), there's mention of a sealed scroll that's locked. No one can open it but Jesus himself. In the book of Revelation, we get a picture of what it will be like when that scroll is finally opened—when it all becomes perfectly clear. In the midst of the scene where this is taking place, John tells us this:
"And they sang a new song" (Revelation 5:9).
There are new songs in heaven! Praise isn't about a style, genre, or keeping things status quo. Worship is the act of putting God first. We can do this when we sing, dance, cook, eat, sleep, and walk down the street. Worship is about our heart. It's about saying THANK YOU to God.
Why did they sing this new song? The passage continues with the song itself.
"Worthy are you to and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
It's because of Jesus that we worship. It's because of what Jesus did for us on a cross that we praise him. We give him honor and glory because of what he did for us. It's that simple.
worship is a BIG THANK YOU.
Have you ever been given a gift?
Growing up, I was told that I couldn't play with the gift or deposit the money until I first wrote a thank you card. The meaning behind this was not that I had to write it out of obligation, but that I was to show gratitude for what was given to me. In some way, someone else sacrificed something so that I could have that gift.
In a similar way, Jesus sacrificed everything so that we may have the gift of eternal life. There's no greater gift than what Jesus did for us (John 15:13). So how should we respond? With a GIANT THANK YOU card.
Our worship is a thank you to God. It's a heart of gratitude.
Cards can come in all shapes and sizes. They can have different colors and textures. They may even have different sounds to them or no sounds at all. Some come in the form of email while others are delivered in the mail.
No matter the style of card, the important part is that one is given.
Let's start putting our preferences to the side. Let's stop fighting amongst each other. Let's begin to write one giant thank you card to God together.
Worship happens 168 hours a week, so let's live like it.