Posts Tagged ‘the heart of worship’

Joshua 8:30-35

The Lord’s Covenant Renewed

There is a Christian contemporary song that came out a few years back called, “The Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman. The lyrics to the song go like this:

 

When the music fades

All is stripped away

And I simply come

 

Longin’ just to bring

Something that’s of worth

That will bless your heart

 

I’ll bring You more than a song

For a song in itself

Is not what You have required

 

You search much deeper within

Through the ways things appear

You’re looking into my heart

 

I’m comin’ back to the heart of worship

And it’s all about You

It’s all about You, Jesus

 

I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it

When it’s all about You

It’s all about You, Jesus

 

According to Song Story, at www.crosswalk.com, Matt says that

 

“The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of apathy within Matt’s home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England. Despite the country’s overall contribution to the current worship revival, Redman’s congregation was struggling to find meaning in its musical outpouring at the time.

 

“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

 

Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”

 

That’s the thing that we struggle with at times as churchgoers we get so caught up on things that do not matter to God. Sometimes we get so caught up in the trappings of church that we forget why we are there. We are there to worship God. It does not matter what the formula of the service is, contemporary or traditional. It does not matter that we have lights and bumpin’ sounds systems, it does not matter that we have one song, the welcome, two songs, the cool video bumper for the sermon series, the sermon, the closing song, and the final word from the pastor, and then the musical overlay to our dispersal. That’s our formula. I am sure that your church has yours. Do you worship the formula or are your there to worship God?

 

I have noticed a disturbing trend, at least to me, lately at my church. It is a modern worship style church like Elevation, like NewSpring, like many others of our kind. We have the modern worship building. We have the café with the cool name. We have the kids’ ministry with an equally cool name (and they worship with an equally cool sound system). We have the bookstore with all our latest t-shirts and books by the most recent Christian authors. We have the atrium where there is plenty of room to congregate, sip on your coffee, and talk. We have the welcome team that greets everyone who comes through our doors. The coffee and the conversations and getting your children checked into Kidzlife with its computerized labeling system, it is all easy to get wrapped up in. Lately, myself included, I have realized that we spend maybe too much time milling around in the atrium talking and reconnecting with other LifeSong folks. It’s not like we are not warned. We have a video reminder that comes on the atrium TV sets on the walls just above our heads that we have 5:00 minutes before church starts and it counts down to 0:00. At five minutes, the sweet voice of our church’s finance & admin manager, Bonnie, reminds us that there is 5 minutes til the service begins, 2 minutes til the service begins, and 1 minute til the service begins.

 

However, I would venture to say that half of each service’s attendees are late getting into the worship center. There are conversations that have to be finished. There is a refill on our coffee or fruit drink that has to be obtained. There is that bathroom break that you just didn’t get around to. Over half the congregation comes in and does not get settled until the opening song is about halfway done. Then, at the end of the sermon, right at the beginning of the final song, a certain percentage of the congregation begins peeling off. I realize that some of these people are working the service that day, but all of these folks are not. These are parents rushing to get their kids before the rush after the service is really over. These are people who want to get to their cars and get out of the parking lot before the mad rush at after church is over. These are people who want to get to the local restaurants before the LifeSong rush.

 

What are we here for on Sundays is my question. It is not about the light show. It is not about the bumpin’ sound system. It is not about the cool videos. It is not about Jeff, our senior pastor, the face of our franchise. It is not about singing the latest songs that we have heard on His Radio (89.3 on your FM dial) or sampled and downloaded to our iPhone. It is not about all the cool stuff that we do make our church appealing to you. It is about worship. We are there to worship God. All the cool stuff is there to get us to be in the right frame of mind to worship God.

 

These were the things that I thought about this morning when I read the passage, Joshua 8:30-35. Let us read it together now:

 

30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses. 33 All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.

 

34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.

 

The altar was to be built out of uncut stones so it would be holy (see Exodus 20:25). This would prevent people from worshiping the altar itself or worshiping the craftmanship of the workers rather than great works of God. And on this altar was to be written, most likely, the Ten Commandments which are the central core of all of God’s laws. The altar was to remind them of the fact that God was the reason for their victories. The whole scene we see here is about reminding the Israelites as to why they have reached the point that they are at. It is because of God. When they have properly worshiped God they have had victories. When they have not worshiped God in proper focus they have suffered defeat. It’s that simple. This scene of worship, which probably took a good while (seeing as how Joshua repeated the blessings and curses from the books of Moses), was to remind them that they needed to stay focused on God and worship Him for what He has done and will do.

 

That got me to thinking about that disturbing trend that I mentioned about our church services. I admit that I am just as bad about straggling into the service as anyone else. So I am preaching to myself here as much as anyone else. I may not slip out of the service as some do, but I am guilty of missing the target on the beginning of the service. What are we here for? To worship God. We are not here to sip coffee and have conversations that are more important than to end them when the warning for services are about to start. We are not here to beat everyone else to pick up your kids. We are not here to beat everyone else out of the parking lot. We are not here to beat the mad rush to the restaurants after church. We are not here to say we were here and leave early so we can make it to the lake on time. We are not here as a checklist thing that we check off as having been done. We are here to worship God.

 

I am not saying that we should not congregate in the atrium and talk to one another. There are people that we need to reconnect with and see how their week went and there is value in that. Developing relationships at church are essential in retaining people at your church. We want our people to end up having their best friends in the world right there in our church’s congregation. There is support and accountability that comes from having deep and abiding friendships within the congregation of your church. What I am saying is that we need to place priority on worship on Sunday rather than having our needs met.

 

Maybe we should be drifting from the atrium to the worship center sooner so that we can begin preparing our hearts for worship. Maybe we should be in there in prayer to have our hearts opened to better understanding God’s Word and open to any conviction of our heart that may come. Maybe we should be in there praying for God to use our pastor’s words to convict someone’s heart so mightily that they give their life to Christ. During the service, maybe we should be less focused on certain things happening in certain ways. During the service, maybe we should be less focused on the media aspects of the service that we think are so cool. During the service, we should leave our phones in our pockets. During the service maybe we should not be thinking about whose in church this week and who we don’t see. During the service, we should be focused on worshiping God. After the sermon is complete, maybe we should be in less of an exit mode and more in praise mode for having just heard a mighty word of God and it being driven home by the final song. Maybe, we should be less concerned about keeping our afternoon time schedule and just luxuriate in the moment of worshiping God.

 

I think that might be one of the reasons that during our senior pastor/elder’s sabbatical that the other pastor/elders are going to have a time of Wednesday night prayer services. These prayer services will be just that. All the fancy stuff that makes modern church what it is, will be stripped away. We will be there for prayer and prayer only. We will strip away the trapping of modern church and just worship through prayer. We will be seeking God’s will for our church – each and every one of our people not just the pastor/elders. We will be all stripping away all that we have added to church and focus on the one thing that we are there for – worshiping God.

 

Have you overcomplicated your relationship with God? Do you need to strip away all the fancy stuff you have added to it? Do you need to refocus on the focus of our praise – God? Do we need to remember the joy of our salvation and the simplicity that was our relationship with God?

 

Or do you need to understand that church is not about you? Or that church is not about what church can do for you? Church is about assembling together to learn more about God and to worship Him for who He is and to take that idea to the streets. We all need to focus on God! We all need to stop and worship God and thank Him for the things that He has done for us through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

 

Amen and Amen.