How do we make our worship less about ourselves, and more about Jesus?
There are just some performers who can capture an audience with their show or act. Whether it is a musician or band that executes their sound flawlessly, or an actor that causes you to enter into the plot or setting right beside them. Everything that they do serves a purpose. That purpose is to put on a breathtaking show that leaves the audience wanting more. Nothing happens on accident, and they are prepared for everything that will take place during that time.
Would it surprise you that I think that we should share some commonalities with secular performers when we worship on Sunday mornings? Hear me out… because we will get to the differences, but lets hit the similarities first. Like a well-tuned performer, everything that we do when we worship should work to serve one ultimate purpose: to Glorify God. Every word, thought, and action should work towards that purpose.
Also, like a performer we should be prepared. An actor doesn’t show up without having read through their lines and gotten into the mindset of their character, the same way a musician doesn’t show up and try to learn their instrument on the spot.
How prepared are we when we take the stage before God?
I believe that one of the primary problems with the worship in our churches is the lack of preparation. Do we understand what we are doing when we worship? I’m not sure that we do… because if we did then we would surely want to prepare. Here is an excerpt from one of my blogs from a few weeks ago that talks about preparation.
It is of absolute importance that we take time to prepare our hearts to worship God before we set foot in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. True spiritual preparation takes time and effort and isn’t done in the fifteen-minute gap between sound check and service.
In fact, God made this crystal clear when He gave the law in Exodus 19. Verses 10- 11 say,
The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
God called the people to prepare to come into His presence, or even near His presence when He came down onto the mountain where He would speak to Moses. The people weren’t even on the same mountain and they had to prepare! We are actually approaching and entering into the Lord’s presence with our worship… we should seriously prepare! We see consistently throughout Scripture and history that God wants His people to get ready to come near to Him, to prepare themselves for an encounter with Him.
Are you truly preparing yourself? Your worship team? Your congregation? Some of us might be receiving a well-deserved gut-check here… but I think it is time that we return to our original question and topic.
How do we make our worship less about ourselves, and more about Jesus?
Below I will provide a few thoughts and elaborations. Know that they are not exhaustive and take some time to think for yourself before just taking my “word” for it.
It’s about more than music.
The musical portions of our services are probably what comes to mind for the average church attender when they here the word “worship.” When in fact the music portions are just one avenue of our outpouring of worship to our marvelous God.
When that is misunderstood or not communicated and music is seen as a means to encounter God, worship leaders and musicians are elevated in a way that is entirely incorrect. What ends up happening is our worship leaders take on the role of being the ones who bring us into the presence of God taking the place of Jesus who has already fulfilled that role. Let’s remember: Our worship isn’t dependent on the music or sound. The musicians are there to accompany the congregation, not vice-versa.
Get out of the way by providing a correct understanding of what worship is and who it is too and through. It’s not about us or anything we have done… it is all about Jesus.
Don’t do anything to call attention to yourself.
I’m probably going to step on quite a few toes with this point… but please hear me all the way out. We are not rockstars, we are not actors… we are servants. A servant serves their master in a way that reflects well upon the one in which they serve. When a maid is hired to clean a house they don’t expect the credit from the work in which they were called to do. The next day when the guests arrive I guarantee you that the first thing off the guests lips isn’t about how well the maid did, but rather, they will be about how well the house looks. We are to be that type of servant. The work in which we do should make God look great… not us.
You may be thinking… what is the application to this? Well… think about what you do when you worship. Does it cause people to look at YOU? Admire YOUR skill? Be drawn to the way in which YOU worship? It’s a hard balance. How far can we go?
In my particular area or setting of worship we are completely contemporary in using modern instruments, songs, etc. I often times have to be careful at not looking too much like the world, because at first glance our stage and instrument set-up looks just like a U2 or George Strait concert. There is nothing wrong with that, but you get the idea. When we are rehearsing or playing we also need to be conscientious of the things we are doing and how they are contributing to the worship. Is there a need for 3-minute guitar solos that leave everyone’s jaws on the floor? Probably not.
My rule of thumb is… if it causes people to divert their attention to me then it isn’t necessary or useful to what I am trying to accomplish. Be tasteful. Use the skillsets you have been given by God wisely to point back to Him. I’m not saying we should be bland or boring, we have skills… but we also have a greater stage and responsibility in which to use them.
Sing about God… not about yourself.
What are we singing about? How directed are our lyrics? It isn’t uncommon to find lyrics that are shallow and repetitive, that focuses on self and not God being used widely in our local and national churches.
One way to move out of the way and focus our worship on God is to focus our songs on Him and His greatness and glory. God has given us creativity, skill, and hundreds of thousands of words in the English language to describe His glory, beauty, works, etc.
My personal thought about this is… why do we need to sing about our reaction to God. Live it. Allow your reaction or response to God to be evident in your life. If we merely sing about what we are going to do and don’t follow through in doing it then we are just using empty words and phrases to deceive ourselves. God isn’t fooled.
Let’s be picky when it comes to what we are putting before people to sing. Let’s decide now to sing about God and not about ourselves.
Keep the congregation focused and involved.
If we claim that our worship is about God, then why would we include something in our services that doesn’t focus entirely on God?
I have said it before and I will say it again… our entertainment saturated culture has soaked into the church and our corporate worship of God has been devolved into a talent show filled with praise and applause of man. Biblical worship involves the whole congregation, prompted by worship leaders, focusing on and responding to God. Every believer present should engage in worship, not observe it. So sing God’s praises together, read Scripture together, and pray together.
The platform at church isn’t for just the “best” worshippers to “perform” while others watch. It is for the leading of God’s people. There is great weight and responsibility that comes along with it. We should guard it with all that we are!
Now obviously I am not saying that everyone should be allowed to “lead” just because their heart is right… we must balance and weigh the costs carefully. No two situations are the same.
What I am saying is… we should focus our time together on God alone. We must lead… not perform.
Make the reason you gather known!
This probably should be able to go without saying… but unfortunately we miss this point far too often. Why do we gather together? Why do we sing? Why do we do any of the things we do in “worship” to God?
We should be pouring into each other and as leaders we should be pouring into our congregations, and part of that is focusing our limited time together. I’m sure at some point in most of our services a visitor or moderate churchgoer probably thinks, “Oh, this is about God!” But… what about someone of another religion, or someone that knows nothing about the Gospel or Christianity? How are we informing them? It is a shame that we meet together and rarely state why we are there. Do our actions show it? I hope so. Now let’s say it with words.
Let’s decide together right now to move out of the way and be transparent worshippers. Those in our congregations should see directly through us and to Jesus. It’s not about us or anything we do… it’s all about God.