1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
The first concert that I ever went to was a Billy Graham Crusade when I was 5 or 6. Jars of Clay and DC Talk were the main bands playing, and I remember when Jesus Freak came on, I just loved it. My mom said that I turned my hat around backwards and started dancing. I’ve always loved music, and I really love worship. I love it loud. I love it quiet. I love it electronic. I love it acoustic. I love it spontaneous. I love it liturgical. I love it reflective. I love it praise.
Worship is one of my favorite parts of a Sunday morning. (I love your sermons too, dad. Don’t worry). I often think about the hymn that the disciples sang in Matthew 26, or what Paul meant when he said speaking out to one another in psalms in Ephesians 5. The word for worship in the New Testament is like a dog licking its master’s hand. It’s an action. I love that. In the Greek, it is proskuneo. That pros is a direction of to or towards.
One of the things that I dislike hearing is, “I didn’t get anything out of worship.”
Worship is not about us. It’s what happens when we are in the presence of God. When we meet God face to face, we worship. Worship is an action for God, is singing to God, and is about God.
In the Vineyard, I would say that one of our biggest emphases is on worship. John Wimber, a musician himself, wrote many different worship songs singing to God. At the time that the Vineyard came into existence, there were many songs about God. They were full of praise and adoration which is fantastic; God is holy. But there weren’t many songs to God. That is, there were plenty of songs about God’s transcendence but not as much about God’s immanence.Worship is an all-out response by everyone to who God is: the God who is the holy other and closer than a friend.Today, Vineyard songs have been sung in 97% of American churches.
I love the simplicity of some of the Vineyard’s worship songs. I went back through some of the old song sheets from the 80’s and 90’s and saw how easy they were. Four chords, at most. They were meant to be distributed throughout the Vineyard so that anyone and everyone could sing them. Worship is not meant for the spiritually elite or for those who can carry a tune. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that there definitely needs to be an artistry to worship. (Why should the devil have all the good music? kind of thing) But when there is such a distinction between the worship band’s abilities and the congregation, we’ve created a show where little participation is possible.
Matt Redman’s Heart of Worship will always be one of my favorites especially because of the story behind it. In the 1990’s, Matt Redman’s pastor sensed that the worship was becoming spiritually flat and that congregants were going through the motions. So the pastor took away all the production of worship: the sound system, the lights, and even the band. It was just Matt and his guitar. The song was birthed out of a dry season, and it became an anthem to returning to the heart of worship. Returning to the heart of God.
Worship is not about us. I’ve said it before. We definitely experience something in the midst of worship. When we raise our hands to praise God, we’re recognizing his sovereignty. It’s believing that God is greater than we are, greater than our situation, and that God is worthy of our praise. When we open our hands, we’re believing that his Spirit will breathe in us again. It’s understanding that this world sometimes sucks the life out of us and that we need the ruach to make our dry bones live again. When we kneel, we’re honoring God as King. We come to his throne room, and we worship at his feet.
Worship is directed towards God. It is praising God for what God has done, is doing, and will do. And as we worship, we become more attuned to the things of God. Jack Hayford says this, “Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the one worshiped.” A crude allegory, but one that works nonetheless. When I was younger, I used to really want to be a basketball player. Shocking. But I would watch and study all these famous basketball players hoping that I could emulate their skills. As I study God, and worship God for all that he is, I become more and more like the Creator. Adam and Eve’s sin was that they desired to be worshipped like gods. We too have this curse. But true worship is the redirection of praise to whom it is due. God alone is worthy of praise. God alone is deserving of worship.
Worship isn’t just the thirty minutes on a Sunday morning. It’s a lifestyle. It’s something we do in this life, and life after life after death as N.T. Wright says. That is, when we worship God in spirit and in truth, we are getting glimpses of heaven. When we worship God fully, with our hearts, souls, and minds, in fellowship with all believers, we experience a part of God’s kingdom here just as it is in heaven. In Revelation 7, it speaks of every tribe and every nation, all people, worshipping God together day and night. As we worship here on earth, we are anticipating worshipping when all things are made right again.
So let’s worship God fully with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Let’s give our praises to the one who’s deserving. We’re not getting anything out of worship because we’re not giving everything of ourselves in worship. Worship is for God, to God, with God, in God, of God, and about God.