Today, I want to share with you a post from my friend and colleague, Brian Upshaw. In Brian’s newly-launched blog, he explores what a disciple-making culture is and how people can create this culture in the environments and contexts where God has placed them. His last two posts have been excellent posts about worship. Today, I share his second one with you and encourage you to take a good look at his blog. Great words about worship we all need to hear.
In the last post I asserted that if your worship is off then all of your life as a disciple will be off. If that is true, then it behooves the disciple to ask, what will it take truly to worship our sovereign God? In other words, after we establish WHO it is we are to worship, we must establish HOW we are to worship. By how, I am not speaking of style or method, per se. If you are looking for a good series on Worship Wars you should check out my friend and colleague Kenny Lamm’s series on the subject. I am speaking more of the practicalities of living out a life of worship to the Father.
Discipleship is holistic; however, it is helpful to think of specific environments in which the disciple lives out his faith. Four environments for discipleship are (1) personal; (2) family; (3) church; (4) world. Each dimension of discipleship–worship, community, and mission–can be explored in each of these environments. Help in establishing best practices for worship can be found in examining worship through the lens of these four environments: personal worship, family worship, corporate worship, and worship in the world.
Worship the Lord personally. We must abide in Christ to be His disciple (John 15:5).
1. Protect your personal worship time as time that is literally sacred! I have heard strong and busy Christian leaders from Bill Hybels to Johnny Hunt speak of the necessity of guarding one’s personal worship time.
2. Spend time in God’s Word and prayer every day as a time of personal devotion. Bow before the Lord daily ascribing worth to Him for the good of your own soul. I say this for everyone, but particularly for the pastors and other Christian leaders reading this post. It is often the case that the minister of the Gospel spends time in God’s Word preparing to teach it to others without ever allowing it to nourish himself. This is like a chef who is always preparing meals for others but never eating himself! He will first not know if the meals he is serving are savory, but worse yet he who feeds others will starve.
3. Load your iPod with God-centered worship songs, listen, and sing. It may sound redundant to say “God-centered” worship songs, but sadly much of what is thought of as Christian music does not have a solid biblical foundation. I recently heard someone (I cannot remember who) say that one’s theological formation comes more from music than preaching, teaching, or Bible reading. I believe this may be true. Therefore, it is paramount to select music, regardless of style, that is lyrically focused on God and His glory.
Worship the Lord with your family. Worship begins at home. Don’t over-think this one. Don Whitney suggests the simple formula of Read, Sing, Pray for family worship times.
1. Read Scripture together. It could be a verse or a chapter. I have written more about this here.
2. Pray together. Lead your kids in a prayer not asking God for anything, but telling God why they love Him. Use the Psalms like Psalm 8 or Psalm 19 to guide this prayer time.
3. Listen to God-centered music together (see above). My daughter loves for us to have a “happy dance” time of worship where we hold hands and dance and jump up and down together worshiping God. I must admit it is rather undignified, but Scripture tells me I’m in good company (2 Samuel 6:22).
4. Worship the Lord by serving your family. Serve your spouse and your children as an act of worship to the Lord.
Worship the Lord with your church congregation. Really worshiping at church, as ironic as it sounds, may be harder than we think. My friend, Brandon, made a powerful comment about corporate worship after my last post on true worship and the idols of our hearts. He said, “‘worship’ itself–that is, our program of worship, style(s) of worship, etc.–has become an idol. Christians idolize the actions, the environments, the accoutrements of a worship service. We often place the act above the One to whom we offer it.” Well said. On the other hand, some attend corporate worship with such passivity that it doesn’t seem like their hearts are in it at all. So, how do we overcome idolizing corporate worship or being passive spectators?
1. Make sure your personal worship precedes corporate worship. Pray and ask the Father to give you a heart for Him in corporate worship.
2. Sing to God, even if you don’t like the style. Consider it an act of sacrifice to put personal preference aside.
3. During the preaching, glorify God in your listening. I get this third one from one of my mentors, Jim Shaddix. In his book The Passion Driven Sermon he notes that the preacher is magnifying God’s voice, but those in the pew ought to revere the Word with praise, fear the Word with awe, and hear the Word with conviction. Sadly, too many of us are guilty of not seeing the preaching event as worship. We listen with respect at best, but our minds are not engaged. Unfortunately much preaching is personality-driven and not Gospel-driven. Preachers should strive to preach with excellence to be sure, but regardless of the skill of the preacher, if he is preaching God’s Word, you can worship by focusing on the message more than the messenger.
Worship the Lord in the world. Disciples are to present themselves to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). The idea here is that your whole life is an act of worship. We have so compartmentalized faith today that we miss the fact that we are to be worshipers in every aspect of our lives.
1. Worship the Lord by serving those in need. Take time to invest in ministries in your community.
2. Worship the Lord by sharing the Gospel in word and action. Invest in those far from God as an act of worship to Him.
3. Worship the Lord by conducting yourself as His disciple despite your circumstances. I confess I double-clutched when I typed those words because I miss this so often when I allow my flesh to trump the Spirit many times each day. By His grace, though, I believe we can all grow into a lifestyle of God-honoring worship.
So, what about you? What practical ways do you find to worship? Share your ideas and spur others on to love and good deeds so that we can all worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
Brian Upshaw is a strategist, ministry consultant, coach, and team leader with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. He often teaches as part of the adjunct faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His blog is found at www.BrianUpshaw.com.