“Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God. “ – Eugene Peterson
Just over a month ago, I spoke in our weekly staff meeting about ‘Creating a Worshipful Environment’. I love this quote above from Eugene Peterson… it paints the picture that as we take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on God; our worship becomes a powerful strategy – a force for good, changing the environment around us.
Hillsong is a worshipping church. For reasons unbeknown to us, God has graced our church with a ministry of praise and worship that has exceeded far beyond our own natural abilities. I believe worship is very much a part of the culture of our church and to continue a healthy culture of worship, I shared with my staff ten points that we must always keep in mind…
SEE ALSO: WORSHIP & JUSTICE
1. Worship is led.
The Psalmist in Psalm 42.4 (MSG) cries out, “I was always at the head of the worshipping crowd, right out in front, Leading them all, eager to arrive and worship, Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving…”
What does it mean to be ‘out front of the worshipping crowd?’ I believe that worship cannot and must not be led just from the platform. Worship must be an environment we cultivate, a culture that we encourage from the furthest seat in our sanctuaries to the Worship Leader at the front of the crowd.
Romans 12:1 (MSG) exhorts us, “Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering…”
As leaders – or more to the point, as CHRISTIANS – we are to lead lives of worship, eager to always be ‘head of the worshipping crowd’.
2. Worship is a reflection of a healthy, unified church.
Over the years many people have asked about how we create a culture of worship. And I truly believe that the sound of our House will always reflect the soul of our House. Where there is a healthy soul, filled with life and praise and adoration of who God is, there will be a healthy sound that emanates from the very core of who we are and what we know and declare about our God.
Pastors, we must take responsibility for a worshipful environment in our churches. If we see worship as a way of life, then surely a healthy church filled with healthy people will simply see Sunday’s praise and worship as an overflow of our Monday-Friday living.
3. Worship focuses on who God is.
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV) says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence…”
If worship was about us, I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t be able to approach worship with confidence! Don’t make worship about your worthiness or about what is wrong with you; but instead, focus on what is right with Him. It’s easy to approach the throne in worship when you are focusing on the character of God. He IS good, He IS kind, He IS worthy of all our praise!
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness”. 1 Chronicles 16:29 (NIV).
There is such temptation to write songs about our feelings, our seasons, and the ups and downs of this life. And, in many respects, there is a place for these songs. Yet, what I know is that songs that speak to God’s unchanging nature, His holiness and the ‘glory due to his name’ are songs that seem to shift the atmosphere, and cause our hearts to focus on who HE is, despite our circumstances and once again allow us to take the focus off ourselves and onto Jesus. Worship is about Him and only Him.
4. Worship is a heart issue.
I love the thought of the Psalmist in Psalm 45 (NKJV) “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”
Worship is an overflow of what is going on in our heart. The correlation between what is on our lips and what is in our hearts runs all throughout scripture. What is on our tongues is so critical and if we truly understand worship in our hearts, it will flow from our mouth with great passion and ease.
5. Worship is just our salvation being worked out.
Salvation comes by confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart that Jesus is Lord.
Psalm 42:1 (NIV) “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
Salvation is God’s restorative work – and our worship is a partnership with God in that work. Worship has the power to write the story of your life. Just as your soul longs for God, so our worship is outworking our salvation story.
6. Worship charges the atmosphere of your life.
Have you ever walked into a service where there is praise and worship and you can just sense the presence of God? There is something tangible in the atmosphere of a room where people are worshipping in song. And the same way that worship can do that to a room, I believe it can do it to your life.
Psalm 16:7 (AMP) says, “I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.”
If we have a worshipping heart, even though naturally speaking we might not have direction, our heart can guide us with wisdom to the courts of our God. In Psalm 142 David is speaking from a desperate place. I believe we can all have ‘night seasons’; seasons when we are in great need of God. Listen here as David changes the very atmosphere of his life by praising God:
“Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will surround me
because of your goodness to me.”
‘The righteous shall surround me… ‘ The scripture paints a picture of being surrounded by praising, worshipping people. It is in that environment of worship that David’s soul was brought out of the ‘prison’ he was in. One of the best things you can do when you are in a stressful, hurtful, or desperate situation is WORSHIP!
7. Worship comes from a revelation of Jesus!
From the conversation with the woman at the well (John 4), to the cross of Christ, the empty tomb, the upper room, the early church, the Gate called Beautiful – people began to worship Christ as he was revealed to them.
To truly worship in spirit and in truth, we must discover the person of Jesus and have a personal revelation of who He is. True worship comes out of a revelation of the One whom we worship.
8. Worship has a generational impact.
Psalm 145:4 (NIV) says, “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.”
I love watching the youth of today in Praise and Worship. To some, their crazy dancing, spinning, exuberant praise could be seen as irreverent…but to me (as long as it is Christ-centred) it is their over-the-top expression of love and passion for God that keeps church fun!
9. The Message is sacred, but the methods must change.
There is a beautiful reverence that comes from singing the old hymns penned by Wesley and Newton, and yet there is something powerful about new songs and new anthems that are speaking to the here-and-now of our current walk with Christ.
New songs keep church relevant. We can never lead out of what we used to be, but we can only lead out of what we are, who we are and where we are now.
10. Worship is a unifier.
Worship unifies and brings blessing. It’s a stake in the ground, an irrefutable truth, and a testimony to the glory of God.
I’ve seen worship break down walls of divide that have seemed impossible. In recent times, you can see age-old denominational divides that have been set aside for the sake of worship and song. I truly believe that God uses worship, worship leaders and worship teams to go to many places where perhaps as pastors and preachers we may never be invited to.
The walls of Jericho came down as they ‘shouted unto God’ and I believe the same things happen today as walls that were once divisive, crumble as the people of God unite.
Psalm 133 (NKJV) says, “How blessed are those who dwell in unity.”
Our churches must be environments of worship. But most importantly, let us never forget Who it is we worship. We worship a risen and reigning King, a powerful God and a personal Saviour. He is worthy of ALL our praise, ALL our adoration and ALL of our worship. Amen.