April 18, 2011

Worship and Sacrifice

"I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." [Romans 12:1-2]

When I talk worship with my teams, my congregation, or - really - anyone, I start with this passage because it most closely connects worship with the bigger picture: worship as sacrifice. I once heard a pretty helpful definition of worship: it is to acknowledge greatness and respond. We can acknowledge a lot of things as great, and do on a regular basis: celebrities, athletes, writers, but the key to worship is in how we respond. Worship does not separate the belief from its consequences, the head and heart stuff from the action stuff. To acknowledge something as great does not in itself mean we worship it; what we do in response to that greatness matters.

Worship is sacrifice. A verb. Action.

For me as a missiologist and worship pastor, I need to be able to see worship as more than just something that happens once a week in an hour on Sunday. We can’t reduce worship to something as trite as a performance or an event, as good as those things are, because according to Paul, true worship IS sacrifice. Worship can’t be just accepting some set of beliefs or codes or laws, it has to be practical, something to be lived out.

Worship is a lifestyle.

Which brings me to Lent. We’re in a season right now that celebrates and remembers the life and sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus and I’m drawn to ask a question: could Jesus’ time on the Cross have been an act of worship? We tend to think about what the Cross did for us, how Jesus died so we can live (emphasis on the "so we can live") but if we look at the cross as an act of worship on Jesus’ part, it puts it in a whole new context for us as followers, as worshippers, as imitators of Jesus. In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul writes that we are to be imitators of God, to follow His example. And what was His example? He gave of himself for others. His worship was to love others and to love God in the fullest way possible: his worship was sacrifice, both as he lived and as he died.

Philippians 2 contains one of the first recorded worship hymns, and here too Paul puts Jesus’ sacrifice in the context of worship for his followers. In verse 4, we are to look to the interests of others. In verse 12 and following, worship becomes an action, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. And so I guess my question in this season where we usually give up stuff as a way to benefit our own journey, how are we giving up of ourselves for others? Are we taking the time for people, or do we hoard it? And on the other hand, what are we doing that’s new? Are we giving more of ourselves, or simply ceasing activity for a while hoping that we will receive something?

What are we doing that is sacrifice?

What is our worship?

April 11, 2011


Our video and graphics ministry could use a major tech upgrade, which is why I'm entering the contest featured below. It looks like it could be interesting software, so here's hoping ...

New church presentation software is coming out soon called Proclaim and it’s located here. Unlike all other church presentation software systems, this one will allow pastors, worship leaders, and worship team members to all access and add to the same presentation before it’s presented, and then use the same application to run the presentation during the service.
To add to the excitement of the release of Proclaim, they are giving away $25,000 in worship resources in The Great Worship Resource Giveaway. They are going to have 100’s of winners of some of the best worship resources on the market. The giveaway is located on the

Postures of Confession

Did you know that your posture changes the way you think?

It's true that your body shows the rest of us what's really going through your head at any given moment, but the reverse is true as well: the way that you carry your body will change the way you think, the way you feel. A quick example: on a day you're not feeling so great, take a pencil and hold it in your mouth, forcing the corners upwards in an approximation of a smile. See how long it takes before you start feeling better.

The simple fact is that we behave because of what we believe, but we also believe because of how we behave. The two are a cycle, influencing one another in our lives, egging the other onward. This is the reason why actors often become uncomfortably close to a character they work on particularly closely; Heath Ledger became chronically depressed after he spent so much time on his character the Joker, and the world is now lesser because his exceptional talent is gone, lost to a drug reaction.

We think and feel how we behave. We behave how we think and feel.

Think about this the next time you're in church. I was leading one of our services this past weekend and, as I sang "Jesus Paid it All," I couldn't help but notice several people standing with scowls on their faces and their arms crossed. I didn't know any of these people and so I can't speak to their hearts, but I really wanted them to grab a pencil. Such a posture speaks very loudly, to me as a worship leader, to those around them, and to their inner dialogue - their posture tells THEM something too. What I saw were people not engaged, people unhappy with something, people closed off to the movement of the Spirit in their lives. But In the same service, I saw people smiling, their hands open and heads bowed; engaged, singing, worshipping, people who were also speaking to themselves, and people around them, and to me on stage.

In our contemporary service.

In our traditional service.

In every church I've ever been in, both kinds of people are there.

Side by side.

What all of this tells me is that we can, if we want, intentionally change things. If we are closed off to God, perhaps changing our physical posture towards Him will help us change our mental and emotional postures. I have to wonder if the difference between those two groups of people was their posture, if making an intentional change could have helped them engage with God and those around them. They could have worshipped if they had purposefully changed the way they stood, held their hands, arms, and heads. It's a question of attitude; why am I here at church?

It's about choice.

I find that on those very rough days when I travel all the way to church tired, worn-out, discouraged, it simply takes picking up my guitar and playing to remind me who I am, why I'm here, and put me back into my place. Not in a bad way, in a good way. They say that to confess is to agree with God about who we are; as I play, yes, I agree with God that I am a sinner, but THEN, then I agree with God that I am His child. Forgiven. Given grace.

Deeply Loved.

The next time you're in church - traditional, contemporary, emerging, wherever - try changing your body language; open your hands instead of holding the pew or chair in front of you, or maybe raise them over your head. Sing. Move. Dance. Worship.