When the Lord asked me to help shepherd a 100-year old church, I left a long-term position in an influential, California mega-church and moved my family to the very foreign land of Smyrna, TN. Here, God began to change my life.
I found myself tasked with moving our congregation forward into a new season of passionate worship, despite its 100 years of history. The real challenge was seeing the heart of the church break without breaking its spirit. How is that done? Or should its spirit break? Should I encourage it even? Don’t we sometimes need to be broken open?
For LifePoint to worship with a tender heart and an eager spirit, I've learned that I must first be broken - broken of my pretense and pride, broken of my expectations and fear of failure, broken of my own rigidity and schedule, broken of my self-dependence and comfort zone, broken of my need to control. I must break into laughter, break into dancing, break into song, break into other’s lives, and let them break into mine. I must break, through the breaking may be awkward. I cannot lead where I will not go.
Why is there difficulty in breaking into authentic worship with the saints of God? How is it that I can sing until my voice is gone about the greatness of Jesus and sometimes feel like rocks are blankly staring at me? Don't they feel something deeper inside themselves?
Their frenzied praise and shouting at a sporting event is the proof that they do. How many millions rush to stand in a star-struck ovation over the winning touch-down? If you go to a U2 concert, you'll find non-singers straining after every note. Normal restrained self-awareness is replaced by wild self-abandonment. How is that? Why will everyone break open to sing with Bono - even at the risk of pulling something? I realize the church does not possess a Bono or a championship team to lead us out of our Sunday morning mundane. But is that the problem?
Over the past year, I've read blogs that blame the Church’s lack of participation on pitch, tempo, theme, taste and offer a wide variety of non-answers about song when asked, “why doesn’t the Church sing?” Isn't the real issue that we are blind to the River and can’t see it for the water and the rocks?
When we gather, do we overlook the Holy Spirit? Are we nonchalant about Him? Or do we warmly welcome Him and give Him the right of way? Do we give Him respect? Do we defer to Him? Do we spotlight Him? Do we let Him lead us beyond our agenda? Or do we treat the Holy Spirit like the family member at the reunion that has to be there but makes the room feel awkward? Do we attempt to placate, pacify and polish Him up?
I believe that we have hardened ourselves to the Holy Spirit and that we’ve earned calloused eyes; I believe we’ve become blind to the River. We are not thirsty anymore; and somewhere we forgot we have God with us.
We do not celebrate and sing because we do not see. It’s not a singing issue. It’s a seeing issue. It’s a satiated issue. We can’t celebrate Who we don’t know, forgot that we wanted, and have become too familiar with. We have become so accustomed to good that we have lost our ability to be provoked by its awesome beauty.
Unrelenting, passion-filled worship is not bound to highness of note. It is bound to the free-flowing, infinite supply of the boundlessness of God. What if we opened up to the Holy Spirit and decided to let our worship on earth rush out like it does in heaven? Like there will always be more. Because there will always be more. He is always and forever more, on repeat. How could we refuse to sing? How could we not forever sing!? There are no bounds to the free-flowing unrestricted rushing praise of God’s people. According to scripture, it is like the sound of many waters, in other words, it sounds like life and life to the full!!
My prayer is that we would all rush to break. That we would break like the rock that held in the water meant to satisfy the multitude. “There is a River whose streams make glad the city of our God.” Do we need to be prodded with a rod, or can we rush to break open at His Word, at the mere sight of Him drawing close? My prayer myself, for LifePoint, and for all of us has been that “when we’ve exhausted every single way; with our bodies weak and with our voices strained” we would still say, Lord, “You are still the song in us that never ends! We can’t help but stand and start it all again!”