A Believer’s Response
There is a memory from early in my life in ministry that has never left me. I was working on the tech team at a church that was hosting a well-known worship team for an evening concert. Before this team took the stage, I witnessed a strange pre-service ritual that has stuck with me now for over a decade. It is very typical (and I believe very important) for worship teams to spend a few minutes together before service in prayer and preparation for the what’s ahead. In this particular instance though, I watched as the team not only prayed together, but they each went through a routine of stretching and calisthenics like they were about to run some sort of spiritual/musical 5K.
I ran monitors that night so I watched the entire service from the side of the stage, and over the course of their time on the platform, I could now see why the stretching was necessary. Theirs was a passion that went far beyond the songs they were singing—a passion that required each team member’s entire body to adequately express it. When they sang about humility and surrender, they fell to their knees and bowed down in reverence. When they sang of victory over sin and death, they leapt like they were trying to impress an NBA scout. Their passion moved beyond their lyric—it embodied their entire being. It was incredible to behold.
Years after witnessing this, I heard what has become my favorite definition of worship. Warren Wiersbe’s deeply biblical explanation tells us that worship is “a believer’s response of all that they are—mind, body, will and emotion—to who God is and what He has done.” The assumption here is that we have need for a response. When we think on who God is and what He has done, we should be compelled to respond, but not just with a “Well now. Isn’t that nice,” but with something that requires everything we are.
Our intellect—that which gives us thought and is rational. There is a present awareness in ourselves that exerts effort to constantly be aware of the depths of our sin and the heights of the heavens and how Jesus has closed that gap for us.
Our physical being—as when David successfully returns the arc from Obed-Edom or when a senior pastor finds out his underdog of a football team just scored a last-minute touchdown to make the playoffs. Occasions of immense good news require more than a thought or a verbal acknowledgement—they require a physical celebration.
Our agenda—Once someone understands the perfection of our Creator, even in doubt, even in times of trial, even in the face of challenge, we run a race of endurance that asks us to trust His sovereignty and His will over our own. I may WANT to binge watch another season of The Office on Netflix, but the Holy Spirit may be calling me to wander into my spheres of influence and share the incredible good news of who Jesus is and what He’s done for me.
Finally, our emotions—We respond with something that many are often afraid of responding with. We shed tears of sorrow for the price that was required to pay for our own sin. We cry out with undignified shouts of joy when we think about an eternity secured with our Christ. We don’t just think about the finished work of our eternal Savior—we FEEL and we express it.
God is more powerful than the combined might of all earthy presidents, kings, queens and the armies that moved at their command. More loving than the tender care of a mother for her sick child. Infinitely more creative than history’s greatest-living artists. Perfect. Just. Forgiving. Grace-filled to the end. Surely God, our King, deserves our response—all that we are—to who He is and what He has done.
Now, lest ye think this is just another post from an emotional creative trying to get a congregation to sing and emote when we gather, let me explain why what I witnessed was so important to me. I have since learned so much about how the spiritual disciplines we practice when we’re together impact what we do when we’re apart. A Christian who cares deeply about the teaching pastor’s insights into the Word of God is far more likely to love his or her own daily time in God’s Word. A saint who agrees with and echoes in their spirit a prayer lifted inside the gathering is probably going to spend some time praying on their own. A believer who responds in song and celebration with all that they are when the church gathers is far more likely to share a compelling witness of what it means to be saved by the finished work of Jesus.
When you speak of Jesus to those around you who may not know Him, does the praise you offer require everything you are? Are the people listening faced with the realization that what you know to be true gives you an unstoppable feeling of joy and security? If not, I would encourage you to practice your worship skills in the safety of the gathering of the saints. Process the words we sing with your intellect. Leap for joy and bow in reverence. Submit your Sunday morning will to what He has for you when we gather to worship. Respond with your heart—emote from a place of understanding and authenticity to who God is and what He has done. I promise you, if our church showed up this weekend committed to this idea of worship, we would be an unstoppable force for the gospel in our community.
My prayer each week is that we come expecting that Jesus moves powerfully when His bride is gathered in worship of Him. I pray that we come knowing that time singing about and learning from His truth is transformative for all of us. I pray that we would stretch before we worship because worshipping God should require everything we are. I pray for unity—I pray for hope. I pray for a deep sense of victory and joy for all of us. Let the church gather—and let us respond. See you this weekend!