Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unshaken Worship is Godless Worship

Worship leaders...

The presence of the Lord shakes everything, just as it shook Mount Sinai at the giving of the law (Psalm 114). We also know that there is coming a day when the presence of God will shake all creation, until only that which cannot be shaken will remain (Hebrews 12:27). For those who believe and follow Christ, there is a promise in Psalm 16:8, "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved" (Hebrew: "shaken")

This promise speaks first of the buffeting from around us, but it also speaks of the unshakable stability we have in Christ. Our union with Him gives us a stability that transcends death, so that we remain even when heaven and earth crumble at His coming. The wicked may claim that they cannot be shaken (Psalm 10:6), but the righteous King will come one day in judgment.

The presence of God in your life has the same effect. Where God is, sin cannot remain, and those who are indwelt by His Holy Spirit cannot help but have that presence shake their idolatry and wickedness from them. If this is true, then there are some profound implications of this idea to our worship.

Worship leaders often claim to be leading a group of people to experience the presence of God, but if that experience doesn't shake lives, then you can be assured something is wrong. In Psalm 40:6 we see a person who has a song that can be seen. That is a song that springs from a changed life, a life where sin is being shaken free.

That reality must mark our worship, both expressively and experientially, and if sin remains, the presence of the Lord will shake it lose. It is the mercy of God that He doesn't shake hard enough to destroy the wicked entirely, but that time will come. In the mean time, the bottom line is that the church's songs should be songs that you can see, in the changed lives of both individuals and the church body.

If you desire this kind of worship, you need to pray. Pray for God's presence, because music, though powerful, cannot ultimately shake a person's life. Beg God to use your worship to display His glory and press it upon the hearts and mind of those you are leading. Pray that God would shake your life, and repent of sin in your own life. Draw near to Him, because it is impossible for you to lead people where you have not gone. The following will go nowhere without this.

Then you must choose the expressions of worship (commonly called songs) to display accurately who God is, and this should include both the content of the songs and the emotional force of the music. It makes little sense to sing about the love of God to angry music, but it also makes little sense to sing about the wrath of God toward sin with loving music. Each expression should appropriately display the glory of God to the church.

Don't obscure your congregation's view of God with unintelligible or false lyrics. Turn their eyes to God, in the person of Christ, and leave them there to soak in His glory. Where their focus is on themselves, worship will be anemic, even if it is exuberant. (People who idolize themselves have no trouble reveling in what they get.) Show people that the best life is one in fellowship with God, freed from all that He hates and loving all that He loves.

You can't do that if your music is stale, and I am not suggesting anything about style. Any style of music can be either vibrant or anemic, and it is possible to allow any style of "worship music" to devolve into little more than a concert. You must use music to communicate, but you should not allow it to eclipse the community based nature of public worship. Make sure the congregation can and does participate by choosing your music carefully to fit the lyrics. Also, practice your craft so that you can communicate as effectively as possible.

Plan elements of prayer, doctrine, and response in your service and never lose sight of the fact that worship is relational. It isn't about what you know or how many elements you tick off a checklist. It is about a community expression of a right relationship with God. Where that relationship is made clear, God's presence will really shake things up.

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