By now, I’m sure most of you have realized that our church is in a period of transition. With growth, change must follow. Much like the continuous advances in technology, as the spirit leads us from glory to glory, and season-to-season, adjustments have to be made. The flow and structure of our services have changed. The way our leadership interacts with the congregation and volunteers has also changed. While we are still a part of the smaller community that is Jacksboro, gone are the days when an average of 50 people met in a small room and prayed for an encounter with the Lord. The intimacy was real, y’all. Shout out to everyone who has been with us since those early days!
“With growth, change must follow.”
That being said, the vision and heart of Pastors Eugene and Sadie has not changed. Their obedience to the Lord, commitment to this community, and tenacity for building the Kingdom of God is, in fact, stronger than ever. We are simply beginning to see the dreams and visions the Lord gave them over 20+ years ago come to pass. Part of this vision, is for people to experience true, unbridled, worship.
I love this quote from John Bevere, “Our worship isn’t shown by our songs. But our obedience.” So often, we can misinterpret what it means to worship in spirit and in truth (read John 4:20-24). True worship isn't about the music or how it makes us feel. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Yes, when the anointing flows and the Holy Spirit moves, we are often brought to tears and sometimes to our knees. But the truest form of worship is in the motives of your heart.
Worship is not about getting goose bumps or how a certain song makes you feel. Worship is about your obedience to the Word of God and your desperation to know your Savior more. Worship is about surrender. Most importantly, worship is not about you. When you find yourself seeking out a particular style of "worship music" because of the way it makes you feel, you’ve missed the point entirely. Worship is meant to bring you closer to the Lord. God isn't interested in how pretty your voice is or how awesome the worship team played on Sunday morning. He's after your heart. The purpose of praise and worship before the sermon isn’t so you can get chills and become emotionally charged. Its purpose is to soften your heart and prepare you to receive the Word of the Lord from your pastor.
“Most importantly, worship is NOT about you.”
To be completely transparent, I’ve struggled in this area myself. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of several different congregations and worship teams over the last decade. I’ve been involved with 3 different worship teams, sat under the leadership of dozens of pastors, and had countless conversations with friends and church leadership about the subject. The implications of worship and stylistic preference meant something very different to each one I encountered along the way.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “You’re 29… how is it possible that you’ve experienced all that?” I assure you that attending Bible College and transferring universities twice in a span of five years, living in Nashville for a season, and now finding my way back home through divine intervention, your boy has experienced a lot – and sadly, not all of it was good.
All that to say, the worship experiences I had at every church I attended/served in, was different each time. Often, my involvements with worship teams and worship leaders were strained. Genuinely, all I’ve ever wanted from worship was to experience the presence of the Lord and operate out of the anointing. Sadly, this can be misconstrued, and turned into something else altogether if your heart isn’t in the right place.
When it comes to personal preference, I tend to prefer worship teams that operate in a more prophetic and sprit-led style of worship. Bethel Worship, Elevation Worship, and the conglomeration that is Hillsong are three of my favorites. (You can find them all on iTunes, YouTube, and Spotify). While these worship teams are able to lead massive congregations into songs of triumph and adoration to our Savior, there is a freedom within the moments between songs that allows the spirit to fall and completely touch every person in the room. I love being in that atmosphere, and having the ability to completely lose myself in the Father’s presence. What I didn’t realize for several years was that I didn’t need Bethel or Elevation worship teams to get me to that place.
The church I went to in Nashville is very similar to these churches and worship teams I mentioned, but on a smaller scale. The Belonging Co. immediately became my home away from home for the two years I lived in Nashville. The message from the pastors was very similar in approach to how my parents have always taught. Humble, straight up, and no B.S. Both, Pastors Henry and Alex Seeley, have a way of putting their mistakes and flaws in front of the congregation in a manner that I had only seen my parents do. The only difference (other than the obvious fact that they're Australian), the worship at TBCo. was completely tailored to what I most enjoy and relate to. Up until this point in my life, I had not been able to engage during worship and the message without feeling like I needed something more. It was the first time I was truly seeing a team of people 100% on the same page and operating under the same vision, without discord. Now, that’s not to say they were perfect, no ministry is, but it was exactly what I had been craving for years. The marriage of worship + message that felt like home.
“Let me back things up a bit.”
Let me back things up a bit. In all my travels, my parents are still among the most anointed speakers I’ve had the pleasure of sitting under. I have no doubt that each week they will be on their face before the Lord and present a timely and spirit-breathed message to our congregation. They also are about the Father's heart when it comes to worship. That being said, growing up, our worship team has always seemed to be a struggle. Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve had plenty of talented musicians volunteer as a part of our worship team at Christian Missions over the years, but I never really felt like I could engage the way I wanted to. This was especially true during college. Every time I came home for a visit, I would end up praying that worship would end soon so that Dad could preach.
As a musician, I can be quite harsh when something doesn’t line up with my personal preferences. Knowing this, I have had to bite my tongue over the years when it came to pointing out flaws or cringing if something didn’t go the way I would have liked it to, or if I didn’t relate to a certain song. Some might call that perfectionism, or striving for excellence. Truthfully, it was pride. I felt like I could do it better if I was in charge. Perhaps I could, but my heart would not have been in the right place.
In the same manner, some people are having trouble adapting to the new songs we’ve been implementing recently, because they prefer the older songs or even hymns that touched them as a child. On the other hand, some of you wish we could move into the new era of worship faster and completely do away with the old altogether. Admittedly, I can fall into the latter category in moments of unrest. Either way, we are making worship about ourselves. Like I mentioned earlier. Worship is not about you. While your intentions may seem valid, grumbling and complaining about something you don’t like is only spoiling it for yourself.
A few years ago, I was really having trouble with the worship we were doing at Christian Missions. Every time I came home for a visit, I dreaded the first half of service. Naturally, I began complaining to my mother, and she dropped some wisdom on me that I often have to remind myself to this day. She said, “It doesn’t matter if you like what song is being played or even who is leading worship. You have to make the choice to enter in to God’s presence no mater what.” That struck me to my core. I had been craving something that wasn’t even God. In fact, I had been treating the way music made me feel as a substitution for what it meant to experience the Holy Spirit's presence. My perception was that if I didn’t enjoy the music, and if it didn’t move me emotionally, that it couldn’t possibly be anointed or from God.
“I had been craving something that wasn’t even God.”
Nowhere in the bible does it say that Jesus traveled with a rocking worship team. The pillars of the early church, Peter and Paul, didn’t have the incredible musicians from Hillsong or Bethel to help people enter in to the Lord’s presence. Kari Jobe and Chris Tomlin weren’t around to help knock the walls down at Jericho with their beautiful voices. No, that was the living breathing spirit of God and the OBEDIENCE of the Lord’s people. Meanwhile, I was complaining that I didn’t like the style of music, and that I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I was being selfish, stubborn and immature. God was there the entire time, just waiting for me to cry out to Him. He promises in Hebrews 13:5 that He “will never leave [us] nor forsake [us]”. So why do we let something so specific and trivial block us from entering into His presence? It’s pretty humbling when you think about it.
Several years ago, Matt Redmond wrote a song called, The Heart of Worship. The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of time where the pastor of his church discharged their worship team for a season. The point he was making to the congregation was that they had lost their way in worship, and the only way to get back to the Father’s heart would be to strip everything away.
We are not meant to solely be consumers in worship, but rather the ones who produce it. Ask yourself these questions, “When you come through the doors on Sunday morning, what are you bringing as your offering to God? Is your relationship with the Father one sided? Do you even ask Him what’s required of you?” Humbling as it may be, it’s necessary to move forward in your walk with Him. The lyrics from TheHeart of Worship encompass what it means to enter into His presence in pure worship:
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
Bringing things back to my church home in Nashville and how all of this relates to where we are at Christian Missions today – The Belonging Co. will always hold a very special place in my heart because it was the first time I saw a church operating in a similar vision that my parents have had at Christian Missions for almost 25 years now. The difference? The entire church community was functioning as the Kingdom of God, not just a select few. They were also operating under one vision and in one accord. The atmosphere of the church and the heart of the people was that of genuine worship. Yes, they have Nashville quality musicians and some of the top worship leaders in the world at their disposal. But even without that, the people were working together and BEING THE CHURCH. This is something we strive for everyone in our congregation to understand and run with. The Kingdom of God is at our fingertips; we only need reach out and grasp it.
We are moving into a season of KingdomLiving like we have never experienced before. We’re at the edge of the Promised Land and taking those first few steps inward. The wilderness season is over, my friends. The Body of Christ has been headed this way for a while, but we are at the crossroads now. It’s become a personal choice for each individual, whether they enter or not. Do you want to move forward and into all that God has for you, or are you content to stay in your comfort zone? Do you want liberty and freedom to worship the Lord in every area of your life? Do you want to worship in spirit and in truth? Make the choice.
Pray about the motives of your heart. In the book of Psalms, King David constantly lamented to the Lord about the motives of his heart. He was a warrior and a worshipper. He definitely wasn’t perfect, and even in the midst of all the scandalous things he did, the Lord still considered David a man after the Father’s heart because he understood that worship was not about himself.
As you read this essay, my hope is that you take a deeper look at yourself and examine what worship means to you. What are the motives of your heart? The experiences I’ve had, good or bad, have allowed me to form a relationship with the Lord that is completely my own. He desires that for each and every one of you! This message is a continuation of where God has already been taking us. His grace is sufficient for all things and He will continue to reveal Himself to you, if you let Him. Change is inevitable, and a necessary part of this season. At Christian Missions, we will continue to strive for growth and maturity within our church body, leadership, worship team, and ourselves.
Worship doesn't just happen on Sunday mornings as part of the service. Worship happens in your bedroom late at night when you cry out to the Lord for answers. Worship happens when you buy a friend lunch just to bless them. Worship happens when you read your bible instead of binge-watching Netflix. Worship happens when you give tithes and offerings. Worship happens when you submit to leadership and obey the Word of the Lord. Worship is surrender. It's time we come back to the heart of worship. We must surrender our will to the Father's, and commit to living a Kingdom lifestyle.
It’s time we start worshipping in sprit and in truth.