Last Sunday my Pastor Gary Englert talked about the heart of worship. I have been pondering his message and wanted to share my thoughts on what he said.
Pastor Gary said that in our culture we have been taught to be consumers. Watch just 15 minutes of television, open any magazine, or check out the side of a public transit bus, and you will see that it is true. We are bombarded with advertising telling us that what we want we really need, and that we ought to get it “right now.”
That consumer mentality often spills over into our worship services. We leave church on Sunday asking questions like these:
- Was I fed by the message today? Did the pastor go too long? Was what he said relevant to me today? Did I like his speaking style?
- Did I enjoy the songs? Were there enough hymns or contemporary songs for me? Was I pleased by the instruments the worship team used?
- Did the service end on time so I could get home in time for that game I want to see?
- Was there more liturgy than I like? Was there not enough liturgy and structure to suit me?
- Was the worship team dressed appropriately according to what I think is appropriate?
Do you notice how all of these questions have “I” or “me” in them? But not one of them includes “God” or “Jesus”?
Worship should not be about you or me. It should be about God, the only One who is worthy of worship. Speaking of the Pharisees who put their own traditions and desires before the desires of God, Jesus said:
“These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Matthew 15:8-9 (quoting Isaiah 29:13).
Do we worship Jesus in vain when we put our own desires for how we think a worship service should be run, what kinds of songs should be sung, and how the Word should be preached, ahead of heartfelt adoration of God? Do we forget that worship is about serving God, being in awe of the majesty of God, and giving our whole heart to God, when we focus on “I” and “me” questions?
I am reminded of the song “The Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman, which starts out like this:
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 ways 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 thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You Jesus
Worship is not about us, it is about Jesus. A worship service should not be designed with what we want in mind, it should be led by the Holy Spirit. Worship style is not important. A heart of worship is all that matters. Whether we plan, run, or just participate in worship services, our eye should always be only on Jesus and we should want worship to be such that it encourages everyone present to focus on Him alone.
[Speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well,] Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:21-24.
Are you worshipping in spirit and in truth? Is your Sunday morning focus on God? Do your worship habits point towards Him or towards your own needs? When you leave church on Sunday morning, do you ask a series of “I” and “me” questions, or do you ask, “Was God glorified by the awe and reverence we all felt in our hearts today?”
As consumers, we’ve turned worship upside down. I think it is time we asked God to set it and our hearts right side up again.