Corporate Worship: which way is right?
John 4:19-24 (NKJV)
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
So let me be clear at the start of this five-day series on Corporate Worship – I’m a worship leader and my heart is not for style, the latest songs, the coolest technology, or the current trends (or anti-trends) that regularly sweep the attention of the church this way and that. My heart is for people. In fact, I saw a tweet recently by @GatewayWorship that summed up my heart: “a worship leader is actually a people leader”. I can’t make you worship any more or less than you want to, but I can lead you by giving you a focus and direction, and creating an atmosphere where you can bring your worship as part of a congregation united in the same purpose.
The thing is, so much of how we ‘do’ worship in church these days is based around style or tradition; and each church will ‘do’ it differently, and each worship leader and pastor will secretly be thinking that they ‘do’ it better than most other churches around (yep, I can include myself in that!). I’ve been ‘doing’ this a while and I’ve come to the conclusion that God isn’t really interested in what songs we use, or whether we have lights or not, or whether we have pews or cushioned seats. God is interested in people – that’s what everything is all about, His love for people. So all these things (songs, technology, format, liturgy, etc.) that for each church help define who we are and how we operate, it’s how we use them to serve people that matters to God, not that we have or don’t have them.
Jesus’s response to the Samaritan women makes it clear that God’s heart is not for whether we do it this way or that, in this place or that, with lots of resources or none, but it is for authenticity and love in all that you do. Spirit and truth: an understanding that what we do is not just a physical thing but engages our lives with the presence of God and encompasses our whole being, starting from our inner person, our spirit, quickened and made alive by the life of Christ in us; and that before God all things are plain and open, nothing is covered, and anything that stands can only stand upon the foundation of His Word – everything else falls away and is exposed as empty before Him.
However we ‘do’ our corporate worship gatherings, they will only have value and spiritual integrity when we build them on the foundation of God’s Word and a love for people.