Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Worship - Going to the Next Level?

By the nature of what Pagus is and the people who comprise Pagus, we tend to have some of the same conversations over and over again. Now this is not a complaint, they are topics that we love and are passionate about and the conversations are the consequence of that passion.

It seems like the question we hear most often is how do we take worship to the next level.
This question has always puzzled me. Think about it for a moment. What are we asking when we say that?

Isn’t God enthroned on the worship of his people? How much higher do you want it to go?

What most people are really asking is how do we make the performance better?
I think it is a legitimate question. We should always be giving God our best, but how are defining better?

Is that everyone sing on key, and come in at the right times? Is that the congregation is moved to tears with each song? Is that the atmosphere and mood are conducive to the proper spiritual vibe?

Those are easy things to address – practice, practice, practice. It really is that simple. It is how all great performances are made. From operas to movies, from bar bands to classical concerts, all hinge on the amount and intensity of the time they put into practice. But it is not the answer church people want to hear.

So that leads me to believe that we are not asking the right question.

In order to find the right question we need to think about what we are doing in worship, what makes a worship song more than just another piece of music, and what are we trying to express both for ourselves and to those we lead in worship.

Worship is a performance simply because it is performed, but our goal of worship should never be to simply perform. How contradictory is that?

Worship at its most fundamental level is a response to God. When you read through your Bible there are some really great songs sang pivotal moments where God has revealed his love and provision to his people. When you read them you can still feel the reverberations of their awe and wonder if you sit still enough. Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel, Miriam’s in the book of Exodus, Mary’s and Elizabeth’s in Luke.

There is an instinctive understanding that none of these songs were carefully executed planned performances. They were the overflow of a heart that had been overwhelmed, words that can still overwhelm us today if we let them.

This is not to say there isn’t place for music that has been written, practiced, and perfected in its execution. Obviously, the Psalms are an example of this type of music, but even they were born out of contemplation of God’s power and protection – and awareness of His overwhelming nature, but how many of us can say that we have been overwhelmed by God lately?

Allow me to be a name dropper for moment, my friend Dennis Jernigan is a great modern example of what happens when we allow ourselves to truly experience what God is doing in his life. His songs are filled with an honest, gut level response to a God who has overwhelmed him with His love, grace, and redemption. It is why I can worship with Dennis and feel God’s presence – Dennis felt it first, and then he shared it with me.

This is the key to all great worship. As a leader, you have to feel it first or you have nothing to share, nothing to give away. Inspiration begets inspiration, and until you have been inspired you cannot inspire anyone else. When inspiration washes over you, through you, it falls like rain on those you lead and they have the chance to be overwhelmed by this amazing God.

So how do we take worship to the next level? Get inspired. Get to know the source of all inspiration. Study this God you serve. Seek Him out both in His word and by remembering those moments when you knew His redemptive love, grace, and power. Forget the performance for awhile, and just remember Him because once you have experienced Him worship is unavoidable.

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