Yesterday we reopened our campus for worship. It was nice.
Of course not everyone could attend in person, and then our streaming platform had tech issues, so I wanted to bring everyone up to speed.
I spoke on "What Most People (Still) Get Wrong About Worship." If you didn't get to see it or want to review it, you can watch the whole service here, or watch the stand alone teaching in a more succinct format here.
The message is dear to my heart, and it influenced a decision I made to reverse our worship service. That's what I want to explain here.
After Mike Christner welcomed us, I introduced the topic of my sermon, and then led everyone in the doxology.
Usually the doxology is sung at the end of the service as a response. It concludes with a distinctive "Ahhhhhhhmennnnnn!" I actually like it there, but yesterday we started with it. I wanted to jar our thinking a bit, and remind us of this truth that all worship is response.
So after singing the doxology, I talked about how most people still relate to worship with misunderstanding. And the biggest misunderstanding is this:
"Worship isn't for you; Worship is from you."
I opened scripture and told about my unique perspective as someone who has spent countless hours on a stage making music in front of countless crowds of people, both in secular settings, and in church settings.
I confessed my own complicity as a pastor who has made decisions that turned the worship service into a show, and inadvertently taught people that worship is for them.
I talked about marital intimacy as a powerful metaphor of Christian worship. Not sure I've ever heard that illustration before. At least not in church.
And I told about how when I recently prayed for God to light me on fire with inspiration and zeal, he answered by reminding me of a tiki torch fail from several years ago. I said that if you're relying on worship services to light you on fire, and all you're getting is a few sparks with a little warm glow that dies out during the week, you're probably dealing with a wick that saturated with the wrong things.
I won't reteach the message here. I'm just asking you to lean into it. I really don't want it to be a "one and done" message. It must become who we are. (Like I say, if you haven't heard it yet, stop reading this and go spend 20 minutes with it here.)
So yesterday I spent time baring my heart and mind about what we tend to get wrong in worship. Then I invited everyone to pray. And we just took time to pray.
As I've taught recently from Acts 2:42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
So we prayed.
Then we sang.
And it was tender.
When Wendy and I talked about it at home, I told her I wasn't as tired as I usually am after a Sunday morning. That's when I realized that I had been relaxed all morning. I had experienced no anxiety about whether people would like our worship and stay or get bored and leave. I just wanted to open scripture to increase our understanding. I just wanted to call us all to worship as a responsive love. And I just wanted to create space for us to pray and become tender before the Lord. And to do it together.
And that's what happened. Amen.
This week we're going to keep the reversed order. We're going to start with the doxology. Come ready to worship God as response. Just don't come thinking it's for you. Come remembering it is from you.
I mentioned above how God answered my prayer. I don't always hear word for word from God. But this was pretty clear to me, and I believe it's not just for me, so I'll leave it here for you to consider.
This is from my prayer journal. I prayed:
“Lord, restore unto me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Cause your fire of inspiration and zeal to fall from heaven and baptize me anew.”
And God answered me:
“Have I not allowed your life to become dry for this purpose? How can you wick the pure oil of my anointing when you are dripping in the synthetic anointings of this world and its patterns? But I am taking your feet out of that. And I already have. But do not be afraid of the desert. I can bring refreshment from a rock and nourishment from the morning dew. Can I not put a roof over your head, even one with a million stars?
"My fire fell and filled the temple. It also fell and danced on the heads of my disciples, my new temple! But today my fire falls on wet wicks. It ignites a few hairs and you get excited. But I want you to become all flame!”
Like I say, that message is not only for me, it is for all who are listening. And I invite you to contemplate it as we allow God to refine our worship together. Who will we become?
As we explore a "reversed" worship service, let it reverse your thinking: Worship is a response. It's not for us. It's from us.
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.