Two things stood out from my first visit to Josh Gen way back in 2005. The first was the friendly one-greyed-eyebrow stranger that very intentionally struck up a conversation in the car park as I made my way into what seemed a very precarious gathering of happy-go-lucky Christians. The second was the wild and wonderful worship, where all the congregants suddenly jumped up and streamed to the front of the church to worship their God.
When ‘the gun went off’ for worship I felt as if I was caught in a group of marathon runners at the start of the Two Oceans Marathon, yet I knew I was by no means fit enough for the race. It felt kind of like I was experiencing a stress dream on the eve of a race I hadn’t prepared for. (I’m sure you know the feeling!) Luckily my esteemed host set me at ease, while the festivities continued.
Fast-forward fifteen years. These days I’m not only in the front row of the worship marathon group, but I am usually the hooligan holding the guitar and leading the song: what an adventure it has been!
While worship is more about laying down our lives than lifting up a song, here are five things that God has taught me through leading worship and growing as a worshipper.
- John 4:23 says “The Father is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and in truth.” What a profound, incomprehensible truth! No matter how fast we chase to the front of the worship party, until we fully grasp this scripture our worship will lack the very “Truth” that the Father is seeking. Worship is always from the top, down. It’s a response. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Imagine a stranger walked up to you and handed you a briefcase full of money: all above board; no strings attached. Now imagine that the stranger then pointed to a suited chap leaning against a wall and said, “A gift from Mr. Smith”. Now you have the chance to approach Mr. Smith and show your gratitude by thanking him, do you think there’s any way to thank him without your response being, so to speak, ‘stained by the gift’? No. In the same way, we approach King Jesus, stained with His precious blood. It’s quite simple, but very important to bring humility and the repentance of salvation with us into our times of worship.
- Being on the front foot does not always mean being in the front. I sometimes struggle to focus on the Lord when I am in the ‘mosh pit’ (the very front) at a meeting, so I prefer to find a spot with some room to move and lift my hands and dance and sing without popping my neighbour’s eardrums, but that’s just me. You may thrive there, just make sure you are thriving in worshipping the Lord with all your heart soul and strength and not just getting caught up in the crowd. Then there’s also the dynamic that as leaders we are called to lead by example. If everyone is facing the front then there’s no point in you being an example at the back. The point I am trying to make is that it is an attitude of heart, but like all things in life the attitude alone is not going to keep you in the race. You actually need to put the shoes on and head out the door, too and spur on your brothers and sisters to join you.
- Are you keeping fit? I did sermon a few months ago titled “Kamikaze Worship”. I was asking myself the question, “How could these Kamikaze soldiers so easily and literally sacrifice their lives for the sake of king and country?”. The answer lay deep in their Samurai culture, which has a history of thousands of years of training in the laws of honour, obedience and self-sacrifice. If you ask a Samurai to sacrifice his life, before you know it he has fallen on his sword, so we, too, we should entrench ourselves in a culture of worship. Worship in your quiet time, worship in the car, worship at community group, worship on the toilet… (softly). By the time our corporate weekly meeting time comes around we should find it easy to step up to the plate.
- The clamorous fool. There are eight different meanings for the word “praise” used in the Psalms and the one used most often is halal. It means to be clamorously foolish. Now, you are welcome to make your own interpretation, but like King David’s response to his ashamed wife (also the daughter of Saul), Michal, who accused him of disgracing himself while bringing home the Ark of the covenant, I also choose to become ‘even more undignified than this’. Always be open to whatever the Holy Spirit guides you to do in worship!
- And lastly, “oh the joy”. There is such a great joy in worshipping our wonderful Lord. Joy can be discovered by simply setting our eyes on him, being awestruck at His beauty and seeing the things of the world grow strangely dim, while uniting with our brothers and sisters in a corporate chant of victory to remind ourselves – and the enemy – of the great victory that Jesus won for us all.
Worship truly is an incredible weapon and a magnificent gift. We get to worship the One who gave it all and he deserves our ‘best foot forward’ kind of worship. So, join us as we come to the altar in all humility with sincere confidence knowing that He first loved us; prepared to become even more undignified; fit for the race and give Him all the glory, praise and adoration that He deserves.