The new year is always a time to have a rethink, let go of some stuff and start something completely new. Your Facebook timeline is probably stuffed full of likes and shares of inspiring images and articles that give ideas for starting this new year off proactively.
Since the bandwagon is already there to be climbed on, I thought I’d throw in a short article to help you make this year a year where you can experience a growing-up, so to speak, in your worship at church.
Worship itself is a lifestyle, a choice of how to live your life based on the values you hold in your heart – a heart that is redeemed and cleansed now by the great work of salvation that was won for us all by Jesus Christ at the cross. Those values are more than just preferences or likes, which reside in our soul – they are fundamental priorities, things of great importance, that define how we live, how we speak, how we behave and how we choose.
Proverbs 4:23 says:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)
So, with that in mind, here are five simple, starter ideas to help you grow in worship at church this year.
1. Start each Sunday, before you even leave for church, with a ‘thank you’
Worship is directed always to God, and though our circumstances and feelings may changing radically (and often), He is unchanging – always good, always faithful, always reaching out to us, always waiting and ready when we turn back to Him, always true. Saying thanks helps us refocus ourselves back onto His unchanging nature. Saying thanks gets our faith going, that where all things around us seem to indicate otherwise, God has it in control, and it WILL end well. Saying thanks stops us from being self-focused, self-indulgent, self-anything, because it reminds us that it wasn’t ‘self’ that saved us, but God alone.
Saying thanks before you leave for church gets your heart ready for what’s ahead – ready to join with others in bringing praise to the name of Jesus, ready to make this coming morning about Jesus and His bride, the Church, and not about yourself.
2. Listen to some more worship albums
Singing is not in itself worship, it’s just a way for it to be expressed. Yet it is an incredible way to express worship. There are studies after studies about music and singing, and their powerful effect on our whole being – body, soul and spirit. God designed music to be much more than just some notes creatively arranged in particular sequences. Musical worship is interwoven into the whole of creation – the Bible tells us even the rocks will cry out in praise, the trees and fields will shout and clap.
We’re blessed these days to have access to a huge library of well-written songs from all over the world that is growing all the time. There’s so much more available to listen to than what we use during the worship times at church. You can stir your heart to worship by listening to more worship music – and it’s so easy to do nowadays thanks to the Internet (and I’m not talking about illegal downloading here!!). There are many websites and services that stream music to your PC or smartphone/tablet – one of the most popular is Spotify.com. We have a Spotify playlist for all the songs we use at church, so you can listen to them again during the week, as well as learn songs we’re going to be teaching in the near future. You’ll also find loads of albums and playlists, all free to listen to (if you can put up with the occasional advert, or fork up £10 a month for the premium version that cancels all adverts and gives you offline streaming too).
We are bombarded all the time with influences. Make a choice this new year to shut down some of those influences and fill up instead with music written with the purpose of worshipping God.
3. Get to church early to say “Hi” to someone
Church is about people. Whether we know everyone at church or not, the reason why we have meetings is so that people can gather together. It’s very easy, especially in larger churches, to just turn up, sing the songs, listen to the message, and go home – but that’s missing the point of church completely. The word ‘church’ in Greek is ekklesia, which means “called-out ones”. Not “called-out buildings”, or “called-out organisations”, but “ones”: people. God is all for people, and His desire is for people to live together in relationships that demonstrate His love for all the world.
So, for this one, change your reason for coming to church and make it about connecting with people. Be intentional about it by coming a little earlier than the start of the meeting so you have a few minutes to say, “Hi” to someone. That makes your time at church purposeful rather than a duty or weekly habit.
It may be hard at first – some find it easier than others to even acknowledge the presence of someone you don’t know! But saying, “Hi” is actually pretty easy – and that’s all you have to do, to start with. Just say, “Hi”. But do it intentionally, go early with the purpose of deliberately saying, “Hi”.
4. Look for a way to bless or help out someone else at church each week
Following on from the last idea, make church about other people, not yourself. When we come to church with the desire to get what we want, we come with a selfish motivation. If the church meeting didn’t please you or fulfil you in some way, was that because you came with only that intention?
It’s actually an easy trap to fall into, to go to church each week looking to get blessed and inspired yourself – and of course we do need to be being fed spiritually regularly. But coming to church with the intention of finding someone else to bless turns that motivation on its head and makes church a bless where people’s needs are met because they’ve met someone else’s needs.
That attitude of generosity has an effect on how we bring our own worship and how we worship together as a group. Proverbs 11:25 says that whoever gives generously will be refreshed. Yep, we all need refreshing at church, some weeks more than others. But God has designed church specifically so that what we need comes through someone else when we meet someone else’s need.
5. Be standing up before the worship leader says “Hi!”
It’s funny how doing one small thing has such a massive effect on what happens next. Yet, the simple, tiny choices we make in our heart before something that we know is going to happen, because it happens every time, happens can affect how we respond to that something.
The simple act of standing up before whoever is leading worship shots out their introductory greeting demonstrates your choice to be ready. You’re not waiting for someone else to get up before you do; you’re not waiting until you’re asked; you’re not waiting until the conditions are conducive to your personal expression of worship, just the way you want it to be. Why wait? I mean, you know what coming already! Instead, choose to be ready to go. Choose because you’re ready to worship. Choose because you want to worship. Choose because you know that God is more worthy than anything to be worshipped, and giving Him your thanks and praise is all you need to do right now.
That decision sets the path for the whole of the meeting for you. You’re choosing to worship, not just following along. You’re choosing to praise, not just sing along with the songs. So many of the verses in the Psalms – a book packed full of expressions of praise and worship – start with the words “I will…”. That indicates a choice, an intention, a decision. Your choice to worship isn’t (or, at least, shouldn’t be) based on what songs the worship team are using each morning, but on who God is – His nature, His promises, His love.
Starts in the Heart
All of these ideas are heart-based actions. They aren’t based on how you feel, or what you’re currently going through. Worship, though something that engages our whole being, starts in our hearts.
These are just five simple ideas to get you going. There are plenty of other things you can do to take your engagement in worship at church to a new level. Maybe you can think of some yourself? If so, share them below in the comments or replies.
By Matt Lockwood
If you lead or pastor a worship team, or you’re involved in one either as a singer, musician or in tech support, then this collection of thoughts and articles is written just for you.
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