Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

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Why Worship Should NOT Be Defined by Musical Style

 stained glass 2   “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. ”  – Matthew 15:8–10, NIV

The worship renewal movement began several decades ago to rediscover the place of authentic corporate worship in our evangelical church life. For centuries, evangelicals had been so focused on evangelism that we had ignored communing and connecting with the Father in our worship services. Worship in our churches had become primarily evangelistic services focused on attracting non-believers into church to hear the gospel. In that setting, only the music portion of the service was referred to as worship, like an appetizer for the main course—the sermon.

Worship in the church should not be defined by our music. The power of church is not the power of music. The power to change the world does not come from a particular musical style. In fact, in a typical worship service, only 15 to 30 minutes are given to music. If you do the math, that means that around two tenths of one percent of the 10,080 minutes of a church-goers’ whole week is spent engaged in worship music. How strange that, in many churches, 100 percent of our identity is determined by two-tenths of a percent of our weekly activity. “The major challenge,” according to George Barna, “is not about how to use music to facilitate worship as much as it is to help people understand worship and have an intense passion to connect with God.” Bryan Spinks has said: “To put it bluntly, worship is about worshiping God and the Lamb, and not about entertaining the sheep!”

The focus of biblical worship has always been God initiating relationship with a chosen people at the cost of his Son on the cross. This revelation demands a corporate response of self-denial and sacrifice. But attractional worship mistakenly turns the spotlight of worship on individuals and meeting their “felt needs” in a worship service. The danger here is that worship with the family of God becomes our individual narcissistic relationship with God, like the child at the family reunion who seizes all the attention as if they were the only one present. In that self-focused context, corporate worship becomes simply a party or show the church offers me. Then, few demands, if any, are placed on seekers since it becomes the church’s responsibility to sell them on the benefits of following God. Shallow worship produces shallow Christians who are no more than consumers of worship as entertainment. And worse, worship narcissism can fuel ruthless church leaders who tear apart the church with their own agenda on committees or governing boards in the institutional church. Paul warned Timothy of people “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1–5, NIV). Acceptance of Christ is always a personal decision of surrender at the heart level. And discipleship focuses on continued surrender in daily life. Sending church members on mission may be the best antidote to our self-centeredness. In the meantime, God’s kingdom is seriously hindered by self-centered worshipers who are allowed to think worship is “all about me.”

Bob Kauflin, in his book, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, stated the biblical concept of worship beautifully: “Worship is God’s gift of grace to us before it is our offering to God. Apart from this perspective, leading worship can become self-motivated and self-exalting. We subtly take pride in our worship, our singing, our playing, our planning, our performance, our leadership. Unfortunately we separate ourselves from the God who drew us to worship him in the first place. Gathering to praise God cannot be a means to some “greater” end, such as church growth, evangelism, or personal ministry. God is not a genie we summon by rubbing the bottle called ‘worship.’ He doesn’t exist to help us get where we really want to go. He is where we want to go. God’s glory is the end of our worship, and not simply a means to something else. In the midst of a culture that glorifies our pitiful accomplishments in countless ways, we gather each week to proclaim God’s wondrous deeds and to glory in His supreme value.”15

The worship renewal movement was long overdue. But, as often the case in renewal, we focus solely on the area which is crying out for attention and are blinded to other issues. “Let’s fix this problem,” we say, and we pour all our attention and resources into solving that issue. By focusing exclusively on worship, we have given it disproportionate attention. It seems that we think we will fix the church if we can just fix our worship. If we are not careful, the focal issue of worship becomes our newest idol. The goal of “Going Full Circle” is certainly to renew our worship. But it goes beyond that to show you how worship is just the start of the church’s calling. My passion is that you will see that worship—both personal worship and corporate worship—is the ignition key to discipleship and that you will learn how the power of true worship propels us out to share Christ with the world around us.

When all is said and done, we have nothing to offer our world but God himself and his Son, our Savior. Jesus, our only source of power to impact the world, mandates that we “Go” and share his power with the world. Yet we keep on missing it. At a recent conference, Charles Billingsley, worship leader at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg Va., said, “God doesn’t need our production to show his presence. True worship is not just what we do; true worship is what we are.” We think if we can just offer the right mix of music presented by outstanding performers enhanced with modern technology that true worship will result. We are very flashy, but often very empty. If our worship is not focused totally on God, it will be essentially powerless in eternal impact. After all, he created it for himself!

(NOTE: Charles Billingsley will be with us at the SC Baptist Convention on Tuesday evening, November 11 at 7 pm at Shandon Baptist Church, Forest Drive, Columbia.  A 200 voice mass choir and orchestra will join him.  It’s FREE and open to the public.  Come worship with us for LIVE IT,  A CELEBRATION OF SC BAPTISTS!)


>”Focus on ‘Worship Wars’ Hides the Real Issues Regarding Connection to God,” http://www.barna.org, (accessed November 19, 2002).

>Spinks, “Worshipping the Lamb or Entertaining the Sheep,” http://www.modern reformation.org, (accessed July 31, 2012).

>Kauflin, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, 176–77.

>Author’s personal conversation with Charles Billingsley.


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Is Worship Your Lifestyle OR just another event?

 Blessed Be“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV

Worship is not bound by time or place. The failure to realize this concept leads to blank stares whenever I say, “Worship ignites us to discipleship and mission!” Why this reaction? Because it is so hard to think that the anemic hour of worship going on in many of our churches could ever ignite anything. We must enlarge our concept of worship!

Robert Webber, in Worship Is a Verb, wrote: “Worship challenges secularism because it establishes a relationship with God and sets the world in order. In worship, the good news is happening again. It reaffirms the reality of God, the significance of life, and the worth of the human person. It creates, sustains, and enhances a relationship with God, and it heals broken human relationships. Worship refreshes the soul, rekindles the spirit, and renews life.”12

The bottom line, the main thing, the essential ingredient of true worship is this: that I hunger and thirst every moment of life for God’s presence. Are you thirsting every day all day to experience God at every turn? Are you hungry to find God’s work revealed in daily situations and conversations? Do you possess a craving to see his glory in the smallest circumstances? This hunger for God’s presence is the root of the worshiping relationship with him.

“(After the resurrection), the eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16–20, HCSB

Worship is first a constant lifestyle of living in the love relationship with God through Christ. Then when we gather as the body of Christ in the church, our personal worship will overflow into our corporate worship service. But a worship service is not a service to us, it is our service to God. Paul proclaimed this in Romans 12:1, translated into classic King James language, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” In the corporate worship service, the children of God gather to connect with and adore their loving heavenly Father. In a worship seminar that I attended, Robert Webber shared how worship in the family of God is like a family reunion: we greet each other on the front porch and re-establish family connection, we adore our father and celebrate our family heritage, we share stories of great moments in the life of our family, we talk of our future, we may even share a meal before we affirm our plans to stay connected with each other and our father, then we depart to represent our family name in the world.

After his resurrection, Jesus gathered his new family of believers. Before Jesus commissioned them to go make disciples and win the world for him, they fell down and worshiped him (Mt 28:16). A heart of worship will always be the ignition key for missional discipleship in the family of God. Jesus’ disciples had followed him for three amazing years of ministry and then experienced the agony of his crucifixion and the joy of his resurrection. It must have been an emotional roller-coaster ride for them. There were so many things they didn’t know. Now they had been summoned by Jesus to this mountain to meet with him face to face. Just as with everyone else who encountered the risen Christ, they fell down and worshiped him.

This is the first example in the New Testament of the disciples demonstrating an act of worship toward Jesus. Yes, others had worshiped Jesus during his ministry. The blind, the lame, even the lepers, had demonstrated their adoration of Jesus after he healed them. But until this moment, the New Testament has no account of his own disciples bowing in worship. Peter had made the confession of Jesus’ lordship verbally, but even this confession did not lead to an act of worship on their part.

Isn’t it strange that the very ones who were closest to Jesus had trouble believing on a level that led to acts of personal worship? Even as they fell down and worshiped on that mountain, some of them doubted.

Disciples and worship leaders can be like that. We are so busy as a steward of the church club car that we sometimes forget to worship him ourselves. We desperately need to hear a fresh call to authentic corporate worship that ignites discipleship and mission. I challenge you, worship leaders, make worship your lifestyle, not just a weekly event!





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Ever Tried to Define Worship? Here’s my attempt!

Businessman Balancing Something“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”- Matthew 22:37, NIV

Our English word “worship” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term meaning “worth-ship.” Worship is actions and attitudes that show how much we value someone or something. The simplest definition of worship is to ascribe ultimate worth. Bruce H. Leafblad reminds us, “In true worship, love is the supreme affection, and God is the exclusive object of our greatest love. At its center, this divine-human encounter we call worship is a love affair of the highest and holiest order.”

How do you show your spouse or loved ones that you value them highly, that they are worth everything to you? Do you listen intently when they talk, engage them in conversation, lavish them with gifts, serve them, love them unconditionally, and build your relationship daily? Those are the same elements of worship which we shower upon our Lord. A.W. Tozer said: “The whole personality has to worship God. Faith, love, obedience, loyalty, high conduct and life all must be taken as burnt offerings and offered to God.”6

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers stated: “Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing of blessing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded [Exodus 16]. God will never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself, it has to be given back to Him that he may make it a blessing to others.”7

Because worship means “worth-ship,” worship is a continual lifestyle of showing God’s ultimate worth 24/7, all day every day. Worship begins every morning when we present the day before us to God for his use. In my first waking moments, before I even get out of bed, I say to God, “Father, this day is yours. Take it and use it however you choose. Transform me in your image. Walk with me through every moment today and use me for your mission and your glory.” This prescription for daybreak worship will ignite you to discipleship and mission as you walk in his presence throughout your day. And it will overflow into your corporate worship in church each week, too.

If we do not redefine worship as a minute-by-minute hunger for God’s presence, we may think worship is all about us. How often have you heard someone say they left a church because they “just weren’t being fed”? A true worshiper feeds on the presence of God 24/7 in trust and obedience. Then when we gather for corporate worship with the body of Christ, our worship together is powered by our personal lifestyles of daily worship. How can I do any less if I truly accept the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for me?

So the derivation of the word “worship” helps us start to understand it. But there is more to true worship than our English word signifies. The biblical words for worship are far more descriptive and hold more meaning. Let’s look at them.

         “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” — Psalm 95:6, NIV

The Old Testament word for worship is the Hebrew word shachach (pronounced “shaw-kawh”). This word means to bow down, to fall prostrate in subjection before the one you worship. When I shachach, I expose my neck in unguarded vulnerability. In Old Testament times the weapon of choice was the sword. If I was walking down the road and encountered a soldier in the conquering army that ruled my land, I might bow down before him. This act of submission puts my life in the hands of the approaching soldier. As I expose the nape of my neck, he can use his sword to cut off my head or stab me in the back. But on the other hand, he can turn the sword blade sideways and lay it on my shoulder to bless me, saying, “Your subjection to me has earned my favor. Rise and walk along with me. I will protect you and guide you.”

In the New Testament, the word used for worship is the Greek word proskuneo, which means to “prostrate one’s self in subjection.” When we understand worship as falling before God in complete subjection, we draw closer to the heart of worship. Subjection presupposes the attitude of sacrifice, of giving up my right to myself.

In the Old Testament, sacrifice and worship were inseparable terms. King David himself once approached the altar with no sacrifice because he was at war. A bystander offered to give David his own sacrificial offering since the king did not have one himself. But David replied, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24, NIV). This attitude of personal sacrifice is too often missing in our worship. Can our acts even be called worship if they cost us little or nothing? The foundation of worship is always sacrifice—God sacrificing his Son for us, us sacrificing our lives for God, and the church sacrificing personal agendas for the good of the kingdom of God.  We cannot allow church members to think of themselves as customers or spectators!

A.W. Tozer wrote, “It is certainly true that hardly anything is missing from our churches these days—except the most important thing. We are missing the genuine and sacred offering of ourselves and our worship to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Harold Best, dean of Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, wrote: “Worship this, worship that, conferences here, symposia there; source books, methodologies, cue sheets and, sadly enough, worship styles as litmus tests for spirituality. It just may be that, instead of worshiping, we have come to the dangerous condition of worshiping about worship or even worshiping worship.”

Shachach and proskuneo paint a poignant picture of surrender and subjection to God. The primary goal of worship is not passion but surrender. In their article “We Were Made to Worship Him,” Regi and Kimberlee Stone wrote: “God is simply looking for the kind of obedience that says, ‘Take my finances, my abilities, my children, my home, my prayers. Use them to bless others.’”

So… by definition… are you TRULY WORSHIPING???    — Mark Powers


Leafblad, Worship 101: Recovering the Priority of God, http://www.ozcorners.net/ worship/19-worshiparticles/30-worship-101-recovering-the-priority-of-god.

Snyder, Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, 4.

Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, January 6: “Worship.”

Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

Snyder, Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, 15.

Best, “When Is Worship Worship?” http://www.leaderu.com, (accessed October 8, 2008).

 Stone and Stone, “We Were Made to Worship Him,” Perspectives on Worship: Vol 1, 203.

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You Think God Can’t Make It Without You as His Worship Leader?

nature 20

The psalmist looked to the heavens and marveled at the miracle of life on this blue planet in the midst of a barren universe.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8: 3–4, NIV.

God, the master artist, chose one single planet. Earth became the canvas for his greatest work of artistic creation—the human race. But his creative power did not stop there. God craved relationship with the people he created. When we became separated from him by our rebellious nature, he sent his son Jesus to die for our sin. Through Jesus we are eternally restored to relationship with our master creator. What a wonder!

Thomas Carlyle said, “Wonder is the basis of worship.”2 When we begin to grasp just how big God is, and how big his act of love for us, we will begin to grasp the wonder of worship. He cannot be measured, nor can he be contained. Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz wrote, “I don’t think there is any better worship than wonder.”3 When we conclude that God needs us, we lose our wonder for God and replace it with familiarity. Our sinful pride causes us to act like we are the parent and God is a helpless child. What would he ever do without us?

There was a time in my life when I imagined God looking down on my constant effort on his behalf and proclaiming, “I sure am glad Mark Powers is on my team because he is my MVP! I don’t know what I would ever do without him.” What a pitiful joke I was. How misguided and ignorant of God could I have been to think such a thing? God had to break me of my ego and replace my self-worship with constant wonder for him and his awesome power.

On the other hand, God is not some self-centered, egotistical deity demanding that we constantly tell him how great he is. God does not call us to worship because he craves our adoration. He is the one true God as defined in Scripture and revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It’s you and I who have the need to adore him. Our worship is the expression of our relationship with him. C.S. Lewis said, “It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men.”4 A living, growing relationship is what he wants most of all from us. Only in the context of relationship with God can we grasp the meaning of worship.

The essence of the gospel is that our father God, who does not need us, truly does want us. He desires us not because there is any good in us, but because he is supremely good. While we were slaves of sin, God stepped up and paid the price to buy us for himself. God sent his son, Jesus, to live perfectly, die for my sin, and conquer death in his resurrection. He constantly pursues the relationship of father and child with us. This is the main teaching of Christianity that sets it apart from every other world religion: instead of humankind trying desperately to reach God, God is reaching out to us in love through Christ! How can we not respond with worship?


http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes /t/thomascarl380708.html.

Miller, Blue Like Jazz, 206.

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God Created Worship for Himself

 communion cross picture    You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. Exodus 20:3-5, NIV

God created worship for himself! We don’t need to look any further than the first of the Ten Commandments to realize this truth. Here is almighty God telling us in no uncertain terms that he expects worship to be his and only his. You’ve heard it said, and may have said it yourself, “I didn’t get anything out of that worship service today.” But worship is not primarily for us to “get something.” Instead, true worship happens when we present ourselves to God. It is all about what we bring to him.

Experiencing true worship does not result from the church building, the band, the choir, the organ, the musical style, the performers or the ministers, or any other packaging or personalities. True worship is not dependent on whether our worship is expressed in a liturgical service, an evangelical service or any other particular form or format. Worship is all about God and for God. This truth must saturate our minds and hearts to flush out any self-centeredness God finds in our worship. In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren wrote, “True worship—bringing God pleasure— happens when you give yourself completely to God. Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about.”

What is the core of Christian worship that is non-negotiable? What is the essence of true worship that transcends all our styles, cultures, and traditions? Is there a common worship theology that holds true regardless of denomination or local church affiliation? If we expect to embrace true worship that will power our Church Train back to our original destination (making disciples who make disciples), we must answer these questions. We must discover God’s definition of worship that will effectively empower us as worshiping disciples on mission.  We will delve into the answers to these questions in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned!

“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.” 1 Chronicles 16:25, NIV

Here is the main thing we need to understand if we are going to truly worship God. God does not need us. We need God. God is complete, in and of himself. His glory is not dependent on us glorifying him. He was almighty and all-glorious before creation. He was Alpha and Omega before he created us to have relationship with him. And our worship can’t add one ounce to his completeness. My greatest performance does not bring value to my supremely worthy God.

Do you have the unstated assumption that your worship or your worship leading is crucial to God?  Get over it!  Become an instrument in HIS HAND.  — Mark Powers