This is part of the Journey of Worship Series.
If corporate worship is a journey, then we need to figure out what the destination is.
In a lot of our churches, well-intentioned people would probably answer, “the sermon.” I mean, it makes sense, we sing, pray, read scripture, take an offering and then – the message.
I’ve known pastors who said the “worship” that goes before the sermon is a warm-up to the real thing. The appetizer before the main course. The preliminaries, if you will.
Can I say I’ve tried hard to avoid working under a leader like that.
And for the most part, I’ve succeeded.
But really, the sermon is part of the worship trek as well. At least it should be.
So if we aren’t heading towards the sermon, what’s are destination?
If you’ve been a worship leader for 10 minutes, you know Isaiah 6. In the year that King Uzziah died…
Isaiah’s experience in the temple is a progression of encountering God.
vv1-4: God’s transcendence and glory experienced.
v5: Isaiah recognizes his sinfulness and his people’s sinfulness. His perspective has gone through a holy realignment.
v6: God provides healing and cleansing.
v7: Isaiah accepts it – his sin is atoned for
v8: Only then, did he actually hear God’s voice. He responded “send me” without knowing the how the story would unfold.
v.9: God commissions Isaiah to go back out to his people with a message
While I’ve designed worship experiences around this verse, I’m not suggesting that every service follows some step by step prescription. But there is a big picture progression to consider. Let’s start with the destination.
The destination is always God’s greatest glory.
God is glorified when creation (heaven & earth) worship him.
God is even more glorified when his people turn from their sin and accept his atoning work. (That’s a not a one-time event, by the way. We continually need to return to the burning presence of God to be made clean.)
God is then glorified when his people can hear his voice and respond.
God is glorified further when we live out our story walking the path that he has carved for us.
So often we don’t see more than the next step. But our heart, soul, mind and strength is surrendered and finding it’s wholeness, purpose and direction in Jesus Christ and His Spirit within us. That’s where God is most glorified.
John Piper says it like this: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
So how does this translate into an every Sunday experience?
If I could answer that with a 7-step process, I could probably get a publishing deal.
But I think that’s some of the problem. We create formulas for worship, combinations to unlock:
3 songs to the left
2 prayers to the right,
1 scripture and hymn/chorus mash-up to the left and
CLICK – the transcendence of God is unlocked.
So while trying NOT to create a crass formula, let’s break this down for worship:
- The destination is God’s glory through my redeemed life living out his call.
- We need to experience God’s glory and transcendence - his “otherness” to have a holy realigning of our perspective. In Isaiah 6, that came through a corporate worship service – albeit a heavenly one.
- Once our perspective is realigned, we recognize our need for the continual work of Jesus Christ in our lives. And we accept it and receive it.
- Then we can hear God’s voice and respond.
- Just like Isaiah didn’t stay in that worship service in the temple, we go out transformed, renewed, empowered, and on mission.
I don’t believe we have to “program” these five steps into each worship service we plan.
For example, I’ll occasionally design a time for people to deal with their stuff during our musical portion of our worship. But most often, I find a song or two into worship, I’ve experienced God’s presence to the point where I stop singing and start whispering words of confession and repentance to Jesus. Even while I’m leading. (Heck, by the third chorus of a song, the congregation doesn’t need me singing.)
Should I have “dealt with” that stuff before I lead? Maybe, but it’s that ‘holy realigning’ of perspective. When we come into God’s presence, we can’t help but see ourselves with clearer eyes.
As we talk more about the journey of worship, we’ll keep coming back to Isaiah’s experience and the destination that we determined from it.
But until then, let’s talk –
What are ways you see Isaiah 6 take shape in your worship services?
As you’re planning worship services, what are some things you’ve found effective in making it a journey towards experiencing God?