Worship is For God and God Alone
Matt Redman is a gifted worship leader who served in Watford, England, at a church called Soul Survivor in the late 1990s. Mike Pilavachi, the pastor of the church, wrestled with the temptation to make that very gift the centre of the worship. Here’s his perspective:
Since it began, Soul Survivor has always given plenty of time over to worshipping through music. Over the years, people have poured out their hearts to God through it, and there have been plenty of examples of great things happening as a result. However, there was a season when we realized that something was ‘up’ with our worship.
At first, it was difficult to put our finger on the problem. On the surface, everything was just fine: the musicians were tuning their instruments and the soundmen were getting out of bed on time. Each service contained a block of songs that focused on the cross and gave people the chance to get down to business with God. To make this easier, the music was (nearly) up-to-date, the chairs had disappeared and the lights were low. What better atmosphere for young people to worship God?
Yet, we seemed to have lost the spark. We seemed to be going through the motions, but I noticed that although we were singing the songs, our hearts, were far from Him. Was it Matt Redman’s fault? I listened. He wasn’t singing any more off notes than usual. Then one day it clicked; we had become connoisseurs of worship instead of participants of it.
In our hearts, we were giving the worship team grades on a scale from one to ten: ‘Not that song again,’ ‘I can’t hear the bass,’ ‘I like the way she sings better.’ We had made the band the performers of worship and ourselves the audience.
We had forgotten that we are ALL the performers of worship and that God is the audience. We had forgotten that sacrifice is central to biblical worship. We are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices – this is OUR spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). We are called to offer our sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15).
We were challenged to ask ourselves individually, ‘When I come through the door of the church, what am I bringing as my contribution to worship?’The truth came to us: worship is not a spectator sport, it is not a product molded by the taste of the consumers. It is not about what we can get out of it; it is all about God (Paul Martin, “When The Music Fades: The Eternal Truth Behind ‘The Heart of Worship.’” Online Posting. Worship Leader Workshop Magazine. 16 Oct. 2004.
The leaders of the church did a bold and extremely risky thing. They took away the music. The very thing that had become the attraction for the church was stripped away. They began to focus on words of praise directly from God. They began to bring the worshippers back to the service. They did away with the entertainment.
Out of that experience, God renewed Matt’s heart and the music returned.
THE HEART OF WORSHIP
When the music fades,
All is stripped away, and I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your 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,
All about you Jesus.
I'll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself is not what you
You search much deeper within
Thrrought the way things appear;
You're looking into my heart.
King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve.
thought I'm weak and poor
All I have is yours, every single breath.
When I first heard this story, I was humbled to the point of weeping! As a pastor and worship leader who had been very involved in worship teaching, training and leading for many years, I had to admit that my Sunday morning corporate worship experience had often become exactly like that – an opportunity to evaluate and critique. And when other leaders didn’t make the cut that morning I often wished that I had been leading because I would have done a better job!
Can you hear the chorus, “It’s all about me, Jesus. And all this is for me, for my glory and my fame . . . ?”
You see, worship and entertainment are not synonymous. Just because we have been entertained by a talented worship team, attracted by the rhythm and flow, or felt moved by the arrangement of our favourite song does not mean we have worshipped.
It’s so easy to take our focus off God and put it onto the format itself. We will never be able to become true worshippers of God if we do not learn this first and ultimate principle.
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