Authentic worship shakes and shapes
I am sure that, like myself, you have a number of events strongly etched into your memory: the kind that you cannot shake. When recalled, you suddenly find yourself there again. These events and memories are often extremely formative.
I invite you to join me as I briefly visit such a memory…
Allow me to take you back some 20 years to a school hall in Faversham, Kent on a Sunday morning. I was aged around 10 and attending a church meeting with the rest of my family: a weekly event.
A good 100-150 people were joined together in raising their voices in singing praise to God and I was somewhat involved, usually when the tune caught my attention, but also somewhat distracted looking forward to getting out to play footie with my mates once the service had finished.
All of a sudden, I became aware of something that stopped me in my tracks, completely arrested my attention, and began to shake me to the very core, leaving me completely undone inside.
From what I remember, the church were singing a song about the cross and in one of my partly engaged glances around the room I became aware that my Father, in the row behind me, was on his knees with arms raised, stretched out to God with tears streaming down his face as he wept. He was obviously deeply moved.
As a young lad, this shook me! Here was my Daddy, my tower of strength, my hero; a man who to me had it all together; my giver of wisdom, my provider, my protector, suddenly here on his knees, humbling himself; visibly undone as he had something of a fresh encounter with the person of Jesus Christ at the foot of the cross.
Daddy becoming undone started to undo me. The undeniably real expression of worship that I was not only witnessing but being caught up in at that moment began to underline, highlight, ring around with a red pen, set in bold typeface, that all the things my parents were teaching me were more real and important than I had ever realised. I saw that this life of worship was more than just a matter of a salvation decision, rather something that, in the words of Issac Watts, “demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Although I know not the detail of what dealings God was having with my Dad that day, I know that I came in touch with authentic worship. That worship left an indelible mark on my life: it shook me, it undid me before God and has shaped me ever since.
Why do I share this personal memory with you?
I want to encourage you all that whether we are living out our faith and lives of worship at home, in the workplace, or as we gather together for corporate worship, that when we are authentic, there is always a release that comes to others. It begins to shake up those who have found themselves ‘going through the motions’ or who have not to this day encountered Christ.
If I may make a short appeal to our men and fathers, not that this does not apply to our precious women, but as writing I feel a strong burden for our men. As men, we have a responsibility and important part to play in setting the culture and environment of worship in our families and church family. Like me, I am sure that you long for your children, wives, girlfriends and wider family to encounter God in fresh and real ways.
We must each ask the question of ourselves: are we truly leading in authentic worship? When was the last time that we gave ourselves in full abandonment in worship to God?
Please understand me: I am not saying we should all be weeping or jumping around for joy all the time – after all we should not be measuring things on mere externals alone. I do, however, pose a serious question: are our lives lived out in authentic worship where we don’t switch on the limiting breaks of respectability and reservedness in our responses to God?
As we give ourselves fully in worship to God, not only will he undo us inside, but increasingly we will find that this bubbles up into external expression. We may find tears flowing and joy uncontainable welling up within us. This may well find its expression in dancing, the desire to shout aloud, the time to be completely still and quiet, the need to get on our knees or even our faces to lay prostrate before our awesome God.
I truly believe that as we give ourselves in the authentic worship of God in all aspects of our lives, that we will find not only our current church family shaken and shaped, but we will see a legacy of a white hot generation of authentic worshippers rise up from our midst. These worshippers will carry the gospel forward to see our nation and the nations won for Christ.
I believe this can flow from our personal heart response to God, starting right now!
Will you join me in being, by the grace of God, courageous to lay aside our cultural constraints and reservedness to live and model lives of authentic worship?