“Worship is not a feeling. Worship is not an experience. Worship is an act, and this takes discipline. We are to worship in ‘spirit and in truth.’ Never mind about the feelings. We are to worship in spite of them.” – Elisabeth Elliot
If you are a part of any kind of ‘modern’ worship service (we are going to say that modern includes an actual drum kit, real live sub woofers, and any kind of creative elements via screens, lighting, etc), those words may make you stop and think a minute. We could that that a step further and dare I say, question what you do as a leader of musical worship times.
There are moments when we as ‘planners’ of those times can become so focused on finding that moment, even planning that moment, making sure our sets have a perfect flow, dialing in a particular setting, that we negate the fact that while all of those things are good, they are not the final dictation of how a congregation will receive a worship time. Why? True worship is not an experience. It’s not a once a week feeling or a twice a week meeting.
John 4:24 says: ‘God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’ Do you know who Jesus is saying this to? The Samaritan woman. The woman with, more than likely, some deep regret, and a hopeless future. The woman who chose to go to the well at the heat of the day to avoid people in general – That woman.
You know what I love about this verse? Jesus isn’t telling a Rabbi or a Sadducee; He’s telling THAT person. Every. Single. Time. We walk into a church service we are in a room of THAT person’s. Reality check: because we are all THAT person. What Jesus is telling US through John 4:24 is that we must worship Him with everything that we are, not with all of our surroundings.
Our goal as worship leaders every time we step on a platform, lead a team, lead our church is to come before Him corporately knowing that we’ve already worshiped Him in spirit and in truth. True worship has NOTHING to do with a service – side note: services are good, we are called to them, they have a high place in our walks with Jesus – but true worship has EVERYTHING to do with our where we have our own hearts… ie: spirit and truth.
We are called to worship privately and corporately all the while knowing that our feelings will do their best to dictate our response. This is where the discipline comes in. The more we discipline ourselves to worship in spite of our feelings, the more we discipline ourselves to come before the Lord no matter our schedules, the more we discipline ourselves to step out on faith that God will meet us, the more we will see Him move in our lives, in our churches, and in our world.
Jesus offers Living Water to a woman who’s past was full of shadows and shortcomings. That means that Living Water, that sustaining presence that flows through a person is for ALL. That means, Worship Leader, that you are wanted, but not needed, by God to get His work done. You can be the best at leading, the best at your instrument, your organization skills may be top notch, but if you aren’t worshiping Him in spirit and truth BEFORE you step on that platform to lead others to do the same, you might as well be another face in the crowd.
The amazing thing about Jesus? We are all faces to Him. Every face has a name. Every person has potential. Every life is loved. He can take anyone, anytime, anywhere and give them… give us… the opportunity to lead others in learning what it means to worship in spirit and in truth, let them take that home, and begin to cultivate a life of worship that extends to all parts of their world: thus, the Gospel has gone forward, and God is glorified.
Worship is not about how we feel. It’s not about a service, though services are good and called for. It’s not about an experience, though experiences are pivotal moments, but they shouldn’t be the foundation of our worship. The groundwork of worship is first, the discipline to worship in spirit and in truth. That truth is for all. We never get past that; we should never hope that we can find a ‘more modern way’ to communicate it, because there is only one continuous Way, not one experience to the next. We worship because we are called to worship. We worship in spirit and in truth. Worship leader, take that truth to your worship experiences, and watch God blow open the gates of His presence in the hearts of His people.