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Ted Wilson and Worship

The August 2011 Adventist World ran an interview with General Conference President Ted Wilson entitled “Rediscovering True Worship.” As the Worship Director of the Florida Hospital Church and as someone who has a strong passion for worship, I was interested to hear President Wilson’s thoughts on this topic. 

I was delighted by our president’s desire for the “revival and reformation among God’s people” in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I, too, have found frustration with what passes for “worship” these days. I related to his reference to Paul’s words in Romans 12:2 to not “let the world around you squeeze you into its mould.” Yes! Absolutely! How often do you turn on the television, pick up a book, or watch a movie that makes you wonder why anyone wasted their time?  There’s no flow—no direction of thought—no intentionality to bring something real and relevant to life. I agree with our president! The worship we offer in our churches should be known for its excellence. Our worship should be meaningful, relevant, and done with the quality our Creator deserves.

President Wilson’s next point that “Even faithful followers of Christ can grow accustomed to the routines of spiritual life” is spot on! He states that leaders need to ask “for the power of the Holy Spirit to be poured out . . . “ Precisely! When worship is planned, we need to offer our efforts, thoughts, and ideas to God’s leading. Nothing should be done in worship that is rote, mindless, or routine. We need to prepare worship in such a way that our attenders understand they are in the presence of a mighty God. If this is how worship is led, how could people be distracted? How could they arrive late? How could they doodle when God’s word is spoken or remain seated when His praises are sung? 

The next question brought up the topic of keeping “holy God’s seventh-day Sabbath.” How blessed would our people be if our leaders not only encouraged but lived out the true purpose of Sabbath: Rest, Worship, Fellowship, and Service. We seem to do the first three pretty well, but that fourth sometimes gets missed. Imagine a church filled with people who understood the Sabbath was a day to serve! Serve your friends; serve your neighbors; serve your community! What a blessing our church would be—fully embodying God’s purpose for the Sabbath.

I applaud President Wilson for his next answer. When asked about the variety of customs and styles in worship, he referred to the privilege of living in various parts of the world throughout his life and how he has learned to respect and appreciate cultural worship. In today’s climate, where worship styles are mistakenly considered moral issues, how refreshing for our president to encourage tolerance and acceptance and to point out that, when it comes to “the core motivations that cause us to want to worship the One who made heaven and earth, people are generally the same the world over.”

Our president then voiced his concerns about the types of prayers and music sometimes found in our churches, wondering if we would be doing the same things we’re doing now in the presence of Jesus.  Now, I’m sure it wasn’t his intention, but this could be construed as suggesting that the people praying these prayers or singing these songs were not intentionally doing these things for the very purpose that they believe Jesus is, in fact, there.

Isn’t this the very thing that should be foremost in our minds as we plan worship? This is the case for many churches out there. I know at my church, our pastors give much thought and prayer to the sermons they present to those who attend our church—understanding that they speak not only to lifelong Christians, but to those who may be hearing about Christ for the first time. Our worship committee asks the Holy Spirit’s presence as it brainstorms about music, drama, videos, and interactive elements that will help those attending our services to fully incorporate the pastor’s message into their lives. Our band prepares and rehearses, knowing this weekly event is not a performance, but an offering of worship to our Lord and Savior. Our praise team leaders contemplate scripture and song lyrics, working to bring the reality of God’s presence and Christ’s sacrifice into the hearts and minds of those they lead. Our actors and video producers offer their gifts and talents for the sole purpose of telling the story of Jesus. And our attenders have come to expect a worship experience of authenticity and excellence, fully reflecting the width, depth, and height of our God’s love, mercy, and grace.

President Wilson ended his interview by stating that the “Lord has laid a burden on my heart about reviving biblical worship among us. . . .“ I hope our president has the opportunity to visit worship communities out there—like ours—filled with members who are passionate about the worship experiences they create. I think he would find this revival is already happening. . .maybe in places he least expects.

—Tami Cinquemani is the Worship Director at the Florida Hospital Church.

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