Episode 1. Inspiring Worship
Now some churches … When you go there it feels like you’re going to a concert. That’s one way of worshipping. Other churches are more quiet and sedate. That’s fair enough too. Horses for courses. What I can’t stand though, is when you rock along to a church and it’s like … The worship is […]
Now some churches … When you go there it feels like you’re going to a concert. That’s one way of worshipping. Other churches are more quiet and sedate. That’s fair enough too. Horses for courses. What I can’t stand though, is when you rock along to a church and it’s like … The worship is dead.
Over the years one of the questions that I’m asked over and over again is this. Why do people go to Church? In fact I’ve asked it in a different, far more personal way. Why do I go to Church? Because over the years, in times when I’ve been looking for a church to belong to, I’ve attended say a particular one, week after week, only to discover that’s it’s not having an impact in my life.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not being critical of all churches, I’m not. But I remember one church in particular. For a period of a year or so my wife and I persisted. And at some point my wife, Jacqui, asked me, ‘Why are we going there? Is the preaching having an impact and making a difference in our hearts, in our lives?’
Try as we might and I’m a preacher remember, I believe passionately the word of God changes our lives, that’s why I do what I do, but sadly I had to answer, ‘No’. Technically it was pretty good but there was something missing. Then we asked, ‘Is the time of praise and worship making a difference in our lives? Is it lifting us up closer to God?’
Now I love God passionately, I worship Him passionately. Again I had to answer, ‘No’. Is the fellowship with other Christians having an impact in my life? Again, the answer for this particular church was ‘No’. Try as we might nothing was having an impact. Something was wrong. Something was missing. The question is, what?
My hunch is that there are quite a few people today who know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not that we don’t approach church with enthusiasm and vigour, it’s just that there seems to be something missing. This particular church of which I was speaking, the pastor is a fantastic guy, really. I have a lot of respect for him.
The people were faithful people, good people. Everyone was doing their best but something was missing. As I looked around week after week during the worship service, what I saw was that many, many people were simply going through the motions. We sang the same songs almost week after week. There were announcements and we’d pray for missionaries and we received solid Bible teaching but people, many, dare I say most, were going through the motions.
And after a while going through the motions isn’t enough. What I hungered to do was ask these people with bored looks on their faces, these people who kept looking at their wrist watches during the sermon, what I hungered to do was to ask them, ‘Why do you come here each Sunday? I mean, why? You don’t seem to be enthusiastic about it’.
In fact a few that I came to know reasonably well I did ask. And here’s what they said, the crux of it was this. ‘Well we’re Christians and we have to belong to some Church and we feel this is the one where God wants us to be.’ Now, both of those things are perfectly valid, really they are. But as I talked further with some of these people they too knew that something was missing.
It turns out this is an all too common problem across the Church today. My prayer is that it’s one that you don’t experience. But of course so many people do. We’re going to talk about it a bit today.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at this whole thing called ‘Church’ and asking ourselves, what should we be looking for in a Church? A man by the name of Christian Schwarz has written about this very subject based on a comprehensive research project of over 1,000 Churches in 32 countries.
And this problem we’ve been talking about, what his research tells him is that one of the absolute essentials in a healthy Church is an inspiring worship service. Now a worship service that lifts us up into the reality that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, into the reality of God our loving Father, into the reality of the presence and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
But here’s the thing, many people believe that the way that you do that is to tweak the formula of the worship service until you get it just right. The right songs, the right sequence, the right elements in the service, the right lighting. Make sure the preacher doesn’t preach too long. Follow this with that. Include some videos. Make the service seeker friendly for people who haven’t given their lives over to Jesus yet.
And when we get the formula just right then we’ll have an inspiring worship service. Let’s make it a concert, energy, contemporary music, then it will be inspiring. But here’s the thing, based on this massive body of research that Schwarz and his fellows conducted, he discovered that it was not the formula that made the difference.
This is what he writes about an inspiring service:
The word inspiring is to be understood in the literal sense of the word and means an ‘inspiredness’ which comes from the Spirit of God. Whenever the Holy Spirit is truly at work and His presence is not merely presumed, He will have a concrete effect upon the way that a worship service is conducted including the entire atmosphere of the gathering. People attending a truly inspired service typically indicate that going to Church is fun.
In other words going to Church to please the pastor or to please God or out of some stoic sense of duty is not what leads to inspired worship service. It’s the presence of the Spirit of God in the midst of His people that does that.
So, what are you saying Berni, that God only shows up at Church? No, I’m not saying that at all. So are you saying then that God only shows up at some Churches and not others? Mmm, no I’m not saying that either.
What I’m saying is that when people show up and go through the motions, when their hearts aren’t open to the presence and the influence and the leading of God through His Spirit, when they’re watching their watches and thinking about what they’re going to be doing when the service is over, then the Spirit of God is not going to be at work in the same way as He is amidst a people who hunger after God Himself.
And it has nothing to do with the style of a service. Charismatic, non charismatic, contemporary, traditional, really professional musicians or not. None of that makes a real difference. One of the most inspiring worship services I’ve ever been to was about 20 of us meeting together one day, all about to graduate from the same Bible College and the music was one guy with a scratchy voice on a guitar and the sermon was a few people sharing what was on their heart.
That service stands out in my memory as truly inspiring. So here’s the thing, when I walk into a Church the thing that I’m looking for is not a particular style of worship or music or preaching. It’s not the style so much that matters, different folks different strokes right? No the thing I’m looking for is for a people whose hearts hunger after God. For wherever there is an earnest desire after God Himself, a hungering, a thirsty being, there amongst those people the presence of God will be manifest.
God is at work amidst His people in a special way when they gather together to worship Him. For over and over and over again His word, the Bible, He tells us of His passion, His desire to be with us and He says:
I will be your God and you will be my people and I’ll walk amongst you and I will be in your midst.
That’s the heart of God.