We had an unusual service at church last night. The preaching was minimal; it was nearly all praise and worship. The praise team played and sang; we lifted our hands in surrender, and lifted our voices to the living God who was clearly present in the room.
And it went on…the hour approached eight and the service that was supposed to end at seven kept on going, led by the Spirit, the songs kept coming. It was amazing, I have never felt so alive…it was all about Jesus, all else was stripped away.
We are creatures of habit. If we don’t find ways to remind ourselves why we do what we do, we’re prone to just go through the motions, if not adopt some new underlying motivation altogether. Which can be especially dangerous in worship.
For songwriter and worship-leader Matt Redman, this lesson came in a remarkable experience that was both personal and corporate. In the late 1990s, the preaching pastor at Redman’s church in Watford, England, sensed that their worship gatherings were going flat spiritually, that the congregation was going through the motions, and worship wasn’t flowing from the heart, like true Christian worship must.
“There was a dynamic missing,” says Redman, “so the pastor did a pretty brave thing. 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.”
More Than a Song
During this season, the pastor challenged the congregation to be participants in worship, not consumers. To come ready to engage with God for themselves, from the heart, not just watch with their eyes. He wanted them to come as worshipers, not as concert-goers. With the band and sound system gone, it made for an unforgettable time in the life of the church as they sang a cappella only — and for an unforgettable lesson about worship.
“Before long,” says Redman, “we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and he commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”
All About Jesus
Imagine that experience as you sing, “When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come. . . . You search much deeper within. . . . You’re looking into my heart.” Good music, catchy beats, talented musicians, even the friends and loved ones with whom we worship — these are all good things, and wonderful in the context of corporate worship. And yet when we focus on them, rather than Jesus, we are losing the heart in our worship.