Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming Back to the Heart of Worship

Mike Pilavachi

With a spanking new building, a congregation wearing combat trousers, a PA system that cost thousands and links with the summer festivals, some might have thought that worship wise, a Church like Soul Survivor Watford had it sussed.

Since it began - meeting in school halls with a PA that packed into the boot of a Cavalier - Soul Survivor Watford has always been given plenty of time over to worshipping through music. Over the years people have poured out their hearts to God through it, and there have been plenty of examples of great things happening as a result. However, in the autumn of ’96 we realised that something was ‘up’ with our worship. At first it was difficult to put our finger on the problem. On the surface everything was just fine; many of the musicians had worked out how to tune their instruments and the sound engineers were getting out of bed on time. Each service contained a block of songs that focused on the cross and gave people the chance to get down to business with God. To make this easier, the music was (nearly) up-to-date, the chairs had disappeared and the lights were low: what better atmosphere for young people to worship God?

Yet, we seemed to have lost the spark. We seemed to be going through the motions but I noticed that although we were singing the songs, our hearts were far from him. Was it Redman’s fault? I listened…he wasn’t singing any more duff notes than usual. Then it clicked; we had become connoisseurs of worship instead of participants of it. In our hearts we were giving the worship marks out of ten: “Not that song again”, “I can’t hear the bass”, “I like the way she sings”…We had made the band the performers of worship and ourselves the audience. We had forgotten that we are ALL the performers of worship and that God is the audience. We had forgotten that sacrifice is central to biblical worship. In the Old Testament, whenever the people of Israel gathered to worship, they sacrificed a lamb or other animal. In 2 Chronicles 7, when King Solomon and the people gathered to dedicate the new temple to the Lord, Solomon sacrificed 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. Now that’s what I call a barbecue! The passage says that the glory of the Lord fell on the people and they prostrated themselves on the pavement and worshipped. In fact the presence of God was so tangible that, for a while, even the priests could not perform their duties.

We don’t need to sacrifice sheep and goats today and certainly no sacrifice on our part can earn God’s forgiveness or our salvation; the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has done that for all time. Yet we ARE called to bring sacrifices in worship. We are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices - this is OUR spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). We are called to offer our sacrifice of praise.

We were challenged to ask ourselves individually, ‘When I come through the door of the church, what am I bringing as my contribution to the worship?’ The truth came to us: worship is not a spectator sport, it is not a product moulded by the taste of the consumers. It is not about what we can get out of it; it is all about God.

We needed to take drastic action. For a while, in order to truly learn this lesson, we banned the band. We sacked Redman!

Then we sat around in circles and said that if no one brought a sacrifice of praise, we would spend the meeting in silence. At the beginning, we virtually did! It was a very painful process. We were learning again not to rely on the music. After a while we began to have some very sweet times of worship. We all began to bring our prayers, our readings, our prophecies, our thanksgiving, our praises and our songs. Someone would start a song a cappella and we would all join in. Then someone else would take it on to another song. The excitement came back. We were not having Church; we were once again meeting with God. With all the comforts stripped away we worshipped from the heart.

When we had learnt our lesson, we brought the band back. It was at this point that Matt began to sing the song he had written out of this experience. I wept as we sang it for the first time. The words expressed exactly what was going on:

download mp3 here

The Heart Of Worship
Matt Redman

Key: D

Verse 1:
D A Em
D A Em

Em D/F# A
D/F# A A/C# D
Em D/F# A
D/F# A

D A2/C#

Verse 2:
D A Em
D A Em

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’ll bring You more than a song.
For a song in itself is not what
You have required.
You search much deeper within,
Through the way things appear;
You’re looking into my heart.

I’m coming back to the heart of worship,
And it’s all about You,
All about You Jesus.
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it.
When it’s all about You.
All about you Jesus.

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve.
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours,
Every single breath.

Matt Redman
© 1997 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music

Mike Pilavachi serves as pastor of Soul Survivor, Watford, a growing and thriving youth congregation near London, England where Matt Redman is worship leader. In addition Matt and Mike head the leadership team for the Soul Survivor festivals which occur in England and South Africa.

Source: Soul Survivor Magazine

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