For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

I’ll never forget the first time I attended a worship service that was relevant to me. It was days before my 14th birthday. I had spent the night before running and hiding from the law. A girl I had known since kindergarten invited me, so I went. Ah, the power of a long-lasting crush.

I was immediately captivated by what was going on. I felt something that I could not describe – Glory to the King [1], is a great picture of what I experienced. About 6 weeks later, I was saved – literally. I do not know if I’d still be a living free man today had it not happened when it did. No one had explained salvation to me. I remember raising my hands (for the first time) during worship, and the Lord spoke to me, “You’re saved”. I didn’t even really know what that meant, so I had to ask someone to explain it.

For me this produces several thoughts:

  1. Worship is a life transforming act that is glorifying to God. Not only is the act of worship itself glorifying to God, but the reality that we become more like God when we worship him further brings glory to God [2]. It is a response to the reality of who he is [3], and carries the task of telling the story of creation and new creation. [4]
  2. Worship is relevant. God, as chief creator, gave us the gift of music and creativity to help us in our worship participation, experience, and expression. The first thing that caught my attention when coming into the worship service that glorious day was the music. Being a musician, it was something that I could relate to. It immediately captured my attention, drawing me nearer. It was then that I began to experience what I now know to be the Presence of God. Worship wasn’t designed to be something that we do begrudgingly or in which we miserably participate knowing that somehow we are pleasing to God. Rather, it is an act that is live-giving, exciting, and something that is ultimately irresistible, regardless the posture of our heart.
  3. Worship brings the Kingdom. We should never underestimate the power of worship. It is not the singing of songs to a distant God who is pleased with our loyalty, but rather the pouring out of our affection to God and him lavishly and wastefully pouring out his love over us, and making us more like him. As we become more like him, his kingdom comes even more. We become points of intersection between the Kingdom of God and the earth [5]. From being these points of intersection – through us – lives are made new, wrongs are made right, creation is restored to the full beauty that God made, relationships are reconciled, and salvation comes. We become part of the story of The Kingdom.
  4. As we lead worship, we must remember that worship is about people and God, not only one or the other. We must communicate the eternal truths of who God is in a way that people are empowered to respond to who he is and experience who he is in worship. Worship can appear unattractive to people when we forget the truth about the one we are worshipping [6].As well, I believe we should always lead expecting that the lost and broken will be in our midst. I nearly weep every time I sing the familiar lines, “Did you feel the people tremble, did you hear the singers roar when the lost began to sing of Jesus Christ the saving one?” and “Do you feel the darkness tremble, when all the saints join in one song, and all the streams flow as one river to wash away our brokenness?” [7] I’m not suggesting that the only way that people will experience life change is through worship, but I am suggesting that there may not be a more powerful way that we encounter God than in worship. It is, in fact, what we were made to do.

Believing this, we should always treat every opportunity we have as worship leaders as opportunities to see all these things happen. We should always have hearts, bodies, minds, and souls that are ready to participate in the coming of The Kingdom. We should lead with the expectancy that these are not simply great things that we believe, but that they are a reality.

[1]Chris Lizotte, Glory to the King (Mercy/Vineyard Publishing, 2007)
[2] N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006), 148
[3] Ibid, 143
[4] Ibid, 149
[5] Ibid, 124
[6] Ibid, 149
[7] Martin Smith, Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble (Curious? Music UK, 1995)

* This writing has been largely influenced by several works and articles not specifically footnoted above, which include the following:
N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006)
Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology (New Brunswick: St. Stephen’s University, 2008)
George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Popular Expositions on the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959)