Conversations about worship often center around Sunday mornings; and more specifically, the music. They often revolve around the skill of the musicians, the volume of the music, the song choice and style, and the level of professionalism with which it was all presented. Conversations about worship often sound like conversations about concerts or theater productions. We consume, we critique. We blame external factors for our own failure to engage with the living God.
I don’t think it was meant to be this way, and I think that you’re to blame and I’m to blame. We’re to blame, because we are consumers by nature.
For our purposes, we’ll define worship, the spiritual discipline of worship, as the act of ascribing worth. It’s the spiritual discipline of shifting our heart’s focus and posture away from self and onto Jesus Christ. It’s an act of offering. If that definition sounds like a far cry from the conversations you may have had lately about worship, I’m with you. But, let’s start a new conversation.
I believe there are a few reasons why when it comes to Sunday mornings, it’s easier to receive than give.
1. Heart posture is everything.
Having a right heart posture means ongoing, steadily stewarded, obedient and quiet work. Worship is a spiritual discipline, and what we sow in the quiet places matters.
We were created to worship. Throughout Scripture we are told that not only do we worship now, but we will do so for eternity. The trouble is, the worship that comes most easily is the worship of self and other created things. The quiet work that produces a right heart posture is unseen, unrewarded relationship-building stuff that sets aside time to commune with God in prayer, praise, and meditation on His word. Jen Wilkin talks about studying Scripture as a discipline that specifically results in increased affection for God; to know Him is to love Him.
We see an example of private worship proceeding corporate worship in Psalm 107:28-32 NASB, a Psalm of thanksgiving:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still….then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness…Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him at the seat of the elders.”
God delivered them and they gave thanks. Then, they extolled Him in the congregation. A private response preceded corporate response.
2. We are a distracted people.
For myself, it’s nearly impossible to muster affection, much less adoration towards my heavenly Father in the absence of the quiet work. What comes easiest then is to continue on in the habit of uninterrupted self-focus I’ve allowed through the week and strictly consume; drink my coffee and critique my environment and the presentation of the service. Inevitably convicted, I bring an offering because I’m reminded that he is worthy, but what I bring feels more like a feeble attempt at small talk than a continuation of an intimate and ongoing, tender conversation between the Knower and the known. I’m convicted by the inconsistency I feel between my heart’s posture as I fumble to bring a sincere offering amid overwhelming self-focus, and what I believe a King deserves-the highest praise and absolutely everything.
If any of that resonates with you, I’m not surprised.
3. Idols Are Everywhere.
Although we were created for God, sin entered when created ones placed themselves in the highest place. We’ve been erecting altars and placing created things in the highest places ever since. As children of God, we have hope, and we have his boundless grace. But, on this side of eternity, our default mode tends to be self-focus, and keeping Christ in the highest place takes some work. It requires spiritual discipline; it isn’t automatic.
Our heart postures seem to be at enmity with each other, because they are. But, when we humble ourselves, God is exceedingly able, just as he is in every area of need, to take us from hapless, addicted and bored self-focused consumers to eternity-minded, God-centered worshippers.
Praise God for his nearness, his ever-present help when we call on his name. May that call never be far from our lips.