Some people are observers. Some emulate what they see. Few are true worshippers. So few that most of us assume they’re faking it. Because we’re faking it, and we wish they’d just sit down. Wish they’d just shut up. True worship is about none of those things. It’s not about the hand raising or the crying or the music or any of that. True worship is simply about letting go.
Nobody can teach you how to worship, I mean, the mechanics of
it. You can go to all the seminars, read all the books, watch
all the videos you like. At the end of the day, worship is a
personal experience, one difficult to quantify and to describe.
There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to do it, and we
should never feel coerced into following someone else’s pattern.
A lot of people become uneasy when we start talking about
worship. For many, the word “worship” conjures up the new
standard of forcing everyone to their feet while the praise team
sings for half an hour and we’re coerced into clapping or
raising our hands or whatever. Those who do not fall in line become obvious
holdouts and presumed sinners just sitting, emotionless, while the cultish
calisthenics carry on. This is a severe hindrance to
church growth: false worship. Forcing people, even indirectly, to pretend
to worship just so they won't be embarrassed works against the purpose of
the church. The church should be a refuge, hence the word "sanctuary." Too
many praise and worship leaders browbeat the congregation to sing and
get involved, to emulate what
they see. This misses the point that a congregation is a plurality; some
of us need to be sung to. Some of us are struggling and need to
listen, to hear and to have our wounds dressed with the balm of the
Holy Spirit. And we don't need to be made to feel like outcasts
just because we're not leaping and hollering. Praise Team Leaders:
learn what real worship is, not just some stuff you done seen someplace.
If the praise team is genuinely worshipping and not just yelling at
the congregation, God will breathe on that praise offering and the Holy
Spirit will flow through your efforts. Just because some people are quiet
does not mean they are not worshipping. Sometimes we ruin our own very
good work by looking for or expecting a uniform response from an audience
while missing the fact that God is out there, doing His thing. Far too many
praise teams are taught their job is to rile people up and get people involved.
It's not. A Praise Team's job is to praise. To worship.
To lead by example and invite, not coerce, the congregation to join in while
recognizing the truth that some people cannot or will not. Let's stop beating
spiritual paraplegics up for not being able to dunk a basketball.
Few churches teach, in Sunday service, what worship is and what it’s not. The worship leaders just do it—rehearsed band sets of worship music—without sharing with the seeker what that experience means and how it is properly done. As a result, the seeker kind of emulates what he or she sees around them—either the quiet reflection of white conservative churches or the thunder and hollering of black churches. Neither extreme is correct and neither has anything at all to do with worship.
Worship is not about a set of aerobic instructions. We see a lot of people raise their hands to worship God, but raising our hands is not what worship is about. Worship is about what’s going on inside, about your communion with God. We commune with God through our relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ [John 14:6] by way of the Ministry of the Holy Spirit [Romans 8:26].
For many of us, the words “Holy Spirit” conjures up images of yelling and sweating and running around speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit is a Person, possibly the most misunderstood Christian doctrine. Far too many of us do not understand Who the Holy Spirit is because far too few of our churches preach about Him or even invoke His presence in their services. Preachers pray these long, overblown, hollering invocations, praying for our marching men overseas, the sick and the shut-in, the pastor, poor little hungry children and much more. That’s not what the invocation is for. The invocation serves only one purpose: to invite the presence of the Holy Spirit, to beseech Him (the Holy Spirit is a “Him,” not an “It”) to dwell among us and within us. But, too often, our preachers forget, during the invocation, to actually invoke anything. They’re just hollering, their chance to get in the mic. None of which magnifies or pleases God, which is why God isn’t moving in your service, why your people don’t worship, why they aren't being delivered, and why your church isn’t growing: the clowning going on in your pulpit.
The Thing And The Reason
It really does. You worship God by honoring Him. You honor God
not with your lips or even with your heart (a phrase which tends
to confuse people but those same people are usually too afraid
to ask what it means). You honor God with your motives; not your actions per se but the intent behind your actions. Our actions
do not always, in and of themselves, please God. But our intent--our rationale for having taken those actions--speaks volumes
about our place with and relationship to God. Even a
flawed person (Lot, Noah, Peter) who has the right motives is closer to God than
the most pious Christian whose reason for living a pious life is
so he can lord it over others or attain some goal. Pastors who
live clean lives because they’re afraid of losing their jobs if
they are caught in a scandal are doing the right thing for the
wrong reason. With God, both the thing and the reason have to
line up. It’s not enough for you to do good, or to even be
good. You have to have a right motive for those choices, what we Baptists call a "right spirit," as God
responds to our motives, not what we do or say.
It is useless to praise God in the church house if you live like the devil everywhere else. I’d guess three-quarters of that singing and crying and falling out is all phony, false worship conducted by people who may be earnest in their going through the motions but who, nevertheless, do not worship God in their daily lives. Worship is an offering, like money or like burning the flesh of animals [Matthew 15:8-9]. Making a praise sacrifice to God is an utterly useless gesture if your life is all about you. If your testimony is jacked up.
See, your Christian conduct—what we call, your “testimony”—is like a credit score. Your effectiveness to God is based on how you conduct yourself. You worship God with your daily walk, by how you live your life and by Whose qualities your life represents. When your children go to school and start cussing like sailors and screwing in the stairwells, that reflects badly on you as a parent. Similarly, we embarrass or “grieve” the Holy Spirit when we conduct ourselves in ways that dishonor God. If we really know God, the Holy Spirit kicks us in the privates—kicking our conscience into high gear and making us feel bad about acting like a moron. This consciousness of sin is what pastors mean about the Holy Spirit “convicting” us of something. As Christians, we should get a little zing every time we act like a moron. That little “zing” is the function—the office—of the Holy Spirit.