I admit it – I’m addicted to worship music, and can even become a bit of a worship music critic. That’s sad, but I’m just being honest. Of all things to be critical of, worship music has to be one of the worst things. We make a joyful noise and pursue a heart of worship. The music part can easily become about us, so really, I should spend my time worshipping him without music and in private. Musical, public worship should be an overflow and icing on the cake. Truly, worship is about every little choice I make throughout the day to honor God or not. By the time Sunday morning comes around, it is already too late to decide if my life is going to be about worshipping Him. A Worshipful Life is quite independent from worship music. Romans 12 tells us that we should submit our bodies as “living sacrifices” and that this is our true act of worship to God. I believe that a God-filled life is one where a Worshipful Heart and music happen to overlap whenever possible, but the former is certainly more important than the latter.
A friend of mine preaches about community as if that were the core of the gospel – and it didn’t take him long to convert me. Father, Son and Holy Spirit – we were created in his image. Man and wife – together reflecting God. The tribe. The nation. These are concepts of unity and also of community. Yahweh is one God, the only true God, sufficient unto himself, and yet he wanted a friend in Adam – why? Something in His nature treasures relationship. Something about the nature of Love needs to be shared. Something in the nature of God demands creation and procreation. Thus, “be fruitful and multiply” is a command which resonates with the very heart of God and tells us what he is like. And then there are those two great commandments- love God, love each other. It’s essential to community.
Practically, what does this look like? What does it feel like? Describing it to you might seem a bit like I’m trying to sell you something, but the fact of the matter is, Love is the bottom line. Despite all the fascinating debates we could get into about doctrine, I can’t escape the mandate to love or the amazing miracle of being loved. Love is essential and love creates community.
So if we are people who love like God loves us, what will our communities look like and feel like?
We will be communities who:
welcome the outsider
adopt the unwanted child
pray for each other
open our homes
share our resources
mentor the young
seek wisdom from the elders
build deep friendship
invest time in each other
mourn with eachother
exhort eachother to great things
hold eachother accountable to the terms of Love
forgive eachother and live without unforgiveness
1 Peter 4:8
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Rob Bell’s church, Mars Hill, in Grandville, MI. For those who don’t know, Rob Bell is on the map, but not formally associated with (I think) the Emergent Church Movement, primarilly because of his Nooma vidio series which packages sermons in 11 minutes of beautifully constructed part-music video, part film short, part straight up face to face teaching. I’ve only seen the first one so far (Rain) and it was terrific. I will definitely collect more of them and use them for small groups. But anyway, about the church.
Mars Hill in Grandville is a paradox. They were given a mall, which is a dream come true to a post-modern church plant. But what they did with it is the surprising thing. I had google directions and was riding in a taxi to the church. When we got there, we saw the mall but no signage anywhere. It looked as if, apart from the cars outside, it may have been abandoned. No advertising. It wasn’t until I got out of the car and walked up to the front door that I noticed, in clear but unassuming text on the glass doors, “Mars Hill bible Church, South Entrance” and an arrow inward. I came in through the back, about an hour before the second service. I wanted to get the lay of the land and meet a few people – check out the merchandise. After walking the length of the mall and noticing that all of the manaquin stalls were more or less windows into different children’s ministries, I popped over to the welcome table and get to know a few friendly people there. I asked where the coffee and CDs were, the staples (I thought) of the postmodern church. To my shock there was no “coffee ministry” or bookstore. They did sell the Nooma DVDs and a few worship CDs (literally 3). There were on sale for a couple bucks. It suddenly dawned on me that I was in a mall with no commercialism. It was as if Jesus had come through and kicked out the money lenders. Oh yeah, and Rob Bell’s very popular book, Velvet Elvis, wasn’t for sale there either because most of his sales happen outside the church. They told me that the church attendance was about 3500 and the weekly podcast footprint was about 35,000 – more or less a virtual church. But lest i come on too strongly in favor of this anti-commercial vibe, I should say that I would have been blessed to have a good stiff cup of free coffee, as a newcomer. It’s a social thing too, I think.
The worship was great, but the congregation was surprisingly reserved. For so many young people in casual clothing, I am accustomed to a lot more ruccous, clapping, hands in the air, etc. There was some of that, but it seemed as if people were wary about creating an image of false enthusiasm. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I, as a newcomer, felt a little subconscious to raise my hands (strange, right?). Maybe that says more about me than about the church.
If you are from New England and are looking for a group to go with for SoulFest or The Call DC, check us out on Facebook in the group “Renewal Bible Study”. Let us know you’d like to come and we’ll get you the info.
Pastor Paul Hoffman raised the essential question: What is true worship? Feel free to post your response here as a comment or in the Facebook group for Aquidneck Island Worship.
I like to reference the Psalms, Romans 12 and James 1 for my own answer, but there are several other passages that illuminate the issue. What scripture comes to mind for you? Feel free to respond with Biblegateway links so others can read it too.
What does it mean to worship God in spirit? and truth?