Thought For The Week - Heart Of Worship
Words by Bev Jones
Heart of Worship
Today has been a significant day – a day that is long overdue and which I was beginning to think would never happen. Last night, I wondered whether the excitement would prevent me from sleeping. It didn’t!
But today when I woke up, there was an anticipation that something new was going to happen. Today was the day when I had my hair cut! And how good it feels. It has to be said though that it was a slightly different experience than I’m used to. At times, it felt like I was in a hospital waiting room with staff in PPE, customers in face masks and chairs being disinfected every time somebody got up. Despite that, it felt good to be back, and this different way of doing things will no doubt be with us for some time to come – if not forever.
Photo by Mostafa Meraji via Unsplash
And as we get used to doing things differently, that of course extends to the way we will do church when we are able to gather again once more. As I was thinking about this in the hairdresser’s today, I was reminded of the story behind one of our best loved songs in church. Many of you may already know this, but I think it’s worth reminding ourselves as we consider how gathered church will be in the future, and what it might mean for us when we come back together once more. In the late 1990’s, Matt Redman’s home church in Watford was going through a spiritually tough time. The musical creativity of the worship band was on a high and they were writing new and very influential songs that became known worldwide. Yet Matt recalled that, ‘there was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing.’
The Pastor was Mike Pilavachi, co-founder of Soul Survivor, and he questioned the congregation about what they were bringing to God in worship, or if they were just there as consumers, soaking up the music. He felt that the church and the band had lost their way in worship and the only solution was to take out every diversion and distraction, and that included the entire sound system and the worship band. Initially, Matt said that ‘unplugging’ just led to an embarrassing silence. But eventually the congregation rediscovered their own voices, singing unaccompanied, offering up heartfelt prayers and encountering God in a fresh way.
By the time they felt sufficiently ready to reintroduce the musicians and sound system, the church had found a new perspective on worship: that it’s all about Jesus, and that it demands a response from the heart. The song that was written at the time in Matt’s bedroom was a very personal response to what he was experiencing, but on sharing it with Mike Pilavachi who suggested a few amendments to the lyrics that meant any member of the wider church could relate to the sentiment, it became an internationally recognised song, still widely sung today.
When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come. Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart. I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you Jesus.
Photo by Edward Cisneros via Unsplash
I wonder when we eventually gather in our buildings once more for worship – unable to sing, whether we will be able to echo the lyrics of that song, Listen on Youtube.
Over the last four months, the recognition that church is not a building has been very much acknowledged, but our prayer must surely be that as our buildings gradually re-open, we come back not only to the heart of worship but with a heart for worship. We come back not as consumers but as a people responding to the amazing love and faithfulness of a God who is present with us wherever we are, and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. And in the beauty of a pared down act of worship, may our prayer be that we encounter Jesus in a deeper way that resonates deep into our soul, making us long to share the transforming power of God’s love with a broken world.
“Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which ‘comes upon you,’ but it is vital that we understand that it is rooted in a conscious act of the will, to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ”