As a minister, one of the questions that tends to flutter through my mind is the credibility of my worship, public and private. I am wondering if what I call an act of worship reflects my personal worship experience. Lately, I am beginning to realize the importance of having an authentic personal relationship with God in relation to the meaning of worship. The more I continue my journey back to the heart of worship, the more I understand the importance of making it part of a lifestyle and not just a Sabbath morning service.
The saddest reality I am finding in our churches today are worship leaders who are wolves in sheepskins. They may be singing songs about God, but narcissism is consuming their hearts. They are not glorifying God but themselves. It is hard to discern it in the worship services, even if you are singing with some of these individuals, side by side.
A true worship leader encourages the congregation by leading them to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. They invite the congregation to join them to invite the presence of God in their worship services. They encourage the congregation to express their love and devotion to God in any way each feels comfortable in responding to the praise and worship, whether standing, clapping, lifting their hands, singing, shouting, or even sitting down and deeply meditating on the words of each song.
Therefore, they do not try to cause a spirit of rebellion by guilt-tripping people to stand up and clap while they lead out in song services. (This is one of my greatest pet peeves in praise and worship services as it has the tendency to give attention to the singers and not to God. I do believe that there are some times when the congregation is to stand, but once again, it depends on the intent.) They lead the congregation by example, not just on stage, but mainly offstage. They do not wait until a worship service to have an encounter with God; they encounter God during the week. They strive to live a life that is pleasing to God. They are not perfect; they admit that they are broken and will embrace character growth. When somebody who has known me for years tells me that I have matured from the first time they met me–this is something I do not take for granted.
Every day, I am thankful for character growth. I praise God that I am not the same person I was before Christ. Character growth can even show when one is ministering during the worship service. The songs you choose to sing can be a reflection of your spiritual journey that gives someone sitting in the back pew a touch of hope and points them to their Creator.
This is why my prayer is that my public worship directs others to God and not to myself. They do not need to see me singing while dancing and waving my hands; they do not need to see me break out shouting just for shouting’s sake; they need to see Christ and His crucifixion. They need to see the Jesus in me that saved me from myself. They need to see the Jesus that has given me hope despite an emotionally and physically draining week. They need to see the Jesus that has called me to live for Him. They need to see the Jesus who has taught me how to love others, especially those who might have plotted to mess up my life, family, and ministry.
Someone once told me, "You can never mess up worship." I would like to also add, "as long as it's authentic, you can never mess up worship." Worship God in a way that you are comfortable with, whether it be singing, drawing, dancing, writing. Make sure that the recipient of your worship is your Creator and Lover of your soul. Let your worship be for real.
Darnisha Thomas is currently serving as the pastor for Student Ministries and Volunteer Engagement at New Hope Adventist Church in Fulton, MD. She also blogs on www.nishaisnaturallyadorned.com where she frequently discusses practical theology and life with a touch of pink. This article first appeared there as part of a series entitled, “Journey Back to the Heart of Worship.”
Image Credit: FreeImages.com / Amy Burton
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