Worship in ActionMany years ago, a group of us from the seminary I attended went to a huge, outdoor Christian concert. We got there early, so we had a great view of the stage. We were excited. It was going to be a fantastic day.
The only fly in the ointment was the teenagers who spread their blankets on the ground just behind us. Teenagers do not generally annoy me; in fact, I cherish their boundless enthusiasm for life and value their insights into American culture. But these particular teens talked incessantly, and not always in wholesome ways. Griping and gossip seemed to be their stock and trade, and it was a bit of a downer for everyone around them.
Then something amazing happened. Late in the day, when we were all hot and tired, Twila Paris took the stage. She led off with some of her more recent radio hits, which, not surprisingly, made no dent at all in the wall of sound behind us. Then she transitioned into a time of worship, and that is when it happened. As she led tens of thousands of people spread across a huge field in “We Will Glorify,” I noticed that the wall of sound behind me had crumbled. In its place soon rose an edifice of praise, uttered by sincere hearts in a song that was older than they were.
The Power of Worship
Too often, worship has been a point of controversy in the North American church. I admit that I have been, at times, a willing participant in those controversies, for I believed (and still believe) that there are important issues at stake. But on that day, we saw what worship can be when it is done right—a powerful force that brings people together across ethnic, denominational, and generational lines.
So what made the difference? Clearly, the spiritual maturity and musical skill of an experienced worship leader helped. But I really think that it is as simple, and as profound, as this. God’s Spirit took a hand in what was going on, shifting our focus away from ourselves and to Christ.
It sounds simplistic, I know. But that is what always happens in genuine worship. The Spirit of God leads the people of God to the throne of God, and in that place, people have no choice but to raise their eyes to heaven and receive a new perspective from their Maker. They realize that their fellow worshipers are really members with them in a cosmic family that reaches around the world and across time. They hear the voice of their Savior calling the members of this family “brother” and “sister,” and they sense the love that their Lord has for each one of his precious siblings.
In that moment, the grace of God springs to life in the human heart, binding each member of the worshiping community to one another and driving out the things that divide us from one another. It was interesting to me that, after that worship experience, the teenagers behind us were more restrained—and healthier—in their communication patterns. Their encounter with the living Christ had imbued them with a certain level of sobriety and a willingness to put aside the petty disagreements they had with others.
During Lent, I hope that each of us will seek to cultivate genuine worship in the congregations we serve. I hope that we will seek to gather God’s people together around the greatness of God’s love, and I hope that we will remind them of how God’s love was manifested in Christ and should be manifest in us.
Have you had an experience where worship created unity in a congregation? Share your experience with the Carroll community.
How can pastors help their congregations catch a vision for unity in worship?
What practices and/or techniques can worship leaders and other spiritual leaders implement in order to foster unity through worship?
How can Lent be used to focus a congregation’s attention on the things that really matter and diffuse conflict over things that do not?