Returning to the Heart of Worship

Your church may have restarted physical gatherings or soon be about to. Some churches are a few weeks into this uncomfortable experience—no singing, mask-wearing, spaced out seating. It’s not surprising that some people have been thinking, “We waited four months for this?” Maybe you’re still joining in worship online for the time being. We all […]

Your church may have restarted physical gatherings or soon be about to. Some churches are a few weeks into this uncomfortable experience—no singing, mask-wearing, spaced out seating. It’s not surprising that some people have been thinking, “We waited four months for this?” Maybe you’re still joining in worship online for the time being.

We all know that church and worship have always been about more than our best Sunday experiences, but this is a good time to examine our hearts. What is it we have been waiting four months for? Many of us just want everything the way it used to be. This is an opportunity to consider questions such as: What has God been teaching us while we haven’t been able to meet? What is the point of the church? Why do we gather together on Sunday? Is there anything we should change? What is worship? Why do we sing?

The words to the song “The Heart of Worship” came flooding back to me as we prayed for friends and their church as they navigate regathering. They are a timely reminder. This moment is not so much an opportunity to come back to church but to come back to the heart of worship.

When the music fades and 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, it’s 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 …
I’ll bring you more than a song …

Maybe our Sunday gatherings had become a bit of a production. Or perhaps for years we have equated the warm feeling of togetherness, the uplift of corporate singing and some of our denomination’s style with the presence of God. Maybe we’ve kind of believed that the Holy Spirit arrives during the third song or during the moody keyboard interlude. Or that it wasn’t really a proper service if it didn’t end with a rousing hymn. God, however, does not depend on these things for him to be among us. Nor is he limited by government directives on singing, mask wearing and physical distance. He comes near wherever, whenever, people come near to him (James 4:8). Corporate singing or not. Masks or no masks. Sitting apart or sitting close together. He waits to be wanted, as A.W. Tozer wrote. He is much more concerned about our hearts than about having things the way they were.

There are things that will always affect our sensitivity to God’s presence among us. If we’re coming with irritable, cynical, self-seeking hearts we won’t recognize God’s presence. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God,” taught Jesus (Matt. 5:8). It’s a hard enough road we’re on without littering it with our complaints and grumblings. The accumulation of the last few months of stress and strain means that we’re more prone to be less gracious than we otherwise would be. It’s something to be careful of as we restart church gatherings.

From Outreach Magazine  Jeff Clark: ‘Simple Is the New Complex’

I have missed corporate sung worship, but it has always been good not to think only of that when we talk about worship. Hopefully you’ve found various ways to worship alone or as families which God values as much as any corporate time of praise. He’s looking into our hearts. If we regather under the current restrictions some of us will read Scripture aloud. We can use open prayer to speak our praises. We can write psalms. We can listen to a song and let our hearts affirm the truth of the words. Soon we hope to let our collective voices rise again in congregational singing. Whatever we do, we choose to worship because Jesus is the “King of endless worth” and we want “to bring something that’s of worth.”

This moment is also a great reminder that worship is much more than these “acts of worship,” whether in homes or back in a building. It is a whole disposition. Our daily lives offered as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1), full of acts of love, obedience and service, with all our gifts and talents offered in Jesus’ name. “All I have is yours, every single breath.”

Let this moment be a return to the heart of worship. It’s all about you, Jesus.

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