Yesterday I posted about the Essentials–those things God built us to thrive on spiritually–and without which we cannot be healthy–or even live–spiritually. Today, I want to write about the first, and most important, of the Essentials–Worship.
First, let’s clarify that there are two aspects of worship–both of which are Essential to our lives. The first is Individual Worship. This is what Paul referred to when he told us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). He told us that, whatever we do, whether in word or deed, it is to be done in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17). Literally, this means we can offer up everything that we do or say as an act of worship to the Lord. Everything from the way we drive (“Lord, you know I’m angry with that guy, but I know you don’t want me to yell at him, so I offer my silence as a gift to you.”), to our secular work (“Lord, thank you for allowing me this skill and opportunity to use it. Please accept this as an expression of what you gave me.”) can be offered to Him as worship.
Of course, this requires that we be aware of the Lord’s presence moment to moment. Most of us do not have this awareness. As strange as it sounds, we forget that the Lord is with us. (If we were aware of his immediate presence, would we still say and do some of the things we do?) So, how do we improve our individual worship? First, we have to be committed to serving our King. If we are not, he is not Lord, and we do not worship him anyway. Second, we have to overcome our human mental frailty by reminding ourselves of his presence with us. Some set a chime on their watch, chiming to remind them the Lord is here. Others may wear a wrist band (at NOCC we provide wrist bands which read “My King Is With Me”) reminding them of God’s presence whenever they see or feel it.
To assess your individual worship, ask yourself what percentage of the time you are both aware of His presence, and purposely offering to him whatever you are doing or saying. Transfer that percentage to a sten score (1-10) by moving the decimal. For example, 50% becomes a 5, 70% a 7, etc.
The second aspect of worship is what we normally think of–corporate worship. This is what happens when we gather together on a Sunday morning (for most of us) and worship the Lord together. Corporate worship requires that we understand a basic premise: we don’t “go to church”, we go to worship together. We aren’t there to be lifted up, encouraged, fed or entertained. We are there to worship. It is what we do and offer to Him–not what he, or others, do for us.
Understanding this, we also need to realize that one of the primary reasons people find they are limited in their ability to worship together is that they are unprepared. When we do not worship the Lord in our daily lives, we are ill prepared to worship him together. We take the self-centeredness of our daily life into the worship experience–and we are not able to truly worship.
To improve our corporate worship, we begin with a commitment to consistency. This is why I insist on not using the phrase “go to church”. People who “go to church” feel free to substitute other activities for “going to church”–going to the beach, having brunch, children’s sports–like “going to church”, they are all simply activity choices. But when we gather for worship–will we really intentionally substitute the beach for that? In rating our corporate worship, we start with how often we are actually with the body of Christ in worship. If we are only there 50% of the time, the best we can do on the 1-10 scale is a 5.
To consistency, we add focus. Are we just enjoying (or hating) the music, or are we actually focusing on the words and praising the Lord? Is the offering a business item to rush through, or an opportunity to present an offering to the Lord? Is communion routine, or is it a glorious celebration and remembrance of the sacrifice of our King? The second half of our corporate worship rating is to what degree we are actually engaged in worship!
Having rated our individual and corporate worship, we then need to examine the other Essentials. When we have similarly rated them, we will be ready to assess our overall spiritual health–and any strategy for strengthening our faith and faithfulness. So, tomorrow we look at the next Essential.