Worship has been something on my mind a lot here lately… It is something that I honestly had trouble with for many many years while serving in ministry. I knew how worship “went” in church. The singing of a few hymns. The occasional special music that had powerful lyrics that move you. I’ve experienced worship since the age of 15 when I came to know the Lord, in over 7 churches now. Four of those churches my husband and I served at in ministry… some of them we were just guest at or actual members at while out of ministry. I have been in churches with incredible instrumental talents, orchestras, praise bands, to small church choirs who have nothing more than a piano.
I remember at our church in NC (a church that eventually resulted in us taking a 4 year leave in ministry, a much needed one, but a very hurtful trial at the time) the area of worship was a huge area of struggle for me while there.
We would stand there in worship, before the word of God was preached to us… singing songs with incredible theology, yet the environment surrounding the worship was lacking. It lacked an excitement. It was smothered by traditionalism and routine… and I just yearned so greatly for something more.
I remember during our last few years at that church in NC, God really beginning to work on my heart… and help me to realize that it didn’t matter what the room was filled with. It didn’t matter who was singing… or what was lacking. Worship is not an experience.
When we moved to Atlanta, GA and became members at a very large church there. The largest we had ever step foot in honestly… and one that at first glance seemed overwhelming and way to big… but a place and a body of believers that was used in ways I can’t even fully explain. It was one of the 1st places I truly felt free in worship… Maybe it was the fact I was no longer a Pastors wife. I didn’t have eyes looking on me, watching my children or judging my motives. I was just a person in this huge room, being presented with powerful words of Praise… and it was so needed….
I remember singing songs I had never heard before, but ones that would drive me to tears because of what they said…
Those years I needed.
But the years I spent prior to that, where we didn’t have worship like it… was also needed.
God knew I would not be able to stay there forever and he knew that I needed to experience both. That there was purpose behind the lacking and purpose behind the fulfilling.
I have learned….
“Worship is not an experience.
Worship is an act, and it takes discipline.
We are to worship “in spirit & in truth.”
Never mind about the feelings.
We are to worship in spite of them.”
I firmly believe that churches should make worship a priority… and that the way that worship is led and presented is so important. People need it. If you are in a small church, without the lights, guitar, talented vocalist, praise band, whatever, know that your experience doesn’t have to be hindered by what is there or what isn’t. One thing I try to always remind myself when I am struggling with “feelings” (mostly self pity and desire pulling me elsewhere or frustration)… is that my praise to God isn’t about anything surrounding me.
Learn to be free in your worship.
Worship in spite of your desire for a specific image, sight, sound, place.
Discipline your heart.
Break free of religious routine and motions…
Be overwhelmed…. knowing you are there to worship a Holy God who loves you.
(Photos taken at a concert I photographed back in Woodstock, GA – the above song was one of the songs sung that night during a live recording – its a song that I adore and is just such a reminder of how loved we are as believers… )