Now that phrase probably drums up certain images in your mind, perhaps like the photo you see above. We think of a worship service. We think of singing a worship song with great intensity and focus. Perhaps there is lifting of hands. Perhaps there are tears streaming down your face. Perhaps there is a sense of intimate communion with God. And you are thinking, “Now, that is passionate worship!”
I used to think that way. In fact, as a worship leader that was my goal – both for myself and for the congregations I led. I wanted all of us to get to that place. I thought that is what passionate worship is supposed to look like. But now I think differently.
Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy those deeply emotional experiences of connecting with God through music and devotion, both corporately and in my personal times. I still think they are a part of passionate worship. But if we think that is all of what passionate worship is supposed to be, we’re seriously missing the boat.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I’ll always go back to Romans 12:1-2 as the starting point of Biblical worship:
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I beseech you, in view of God’s mercies, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
“Worship” is responding to the mercies of God through the offering of whole lives to Him. It involves the process of renewing our minds, being transformed and doing the will of God.
“Passionate worship” is simply doing the above, passionately – with all our hearts.
It is more about surrender than song. It is more about doing God’s will than lifting my hands. It is more about the transformation of my soul than the shedding of my tears. It is more about how I live my life outside of the worship service than how I perform inside the worship service.
Now here’s the interesting dynamic of true passionate worship: the more we live out our passionate worship by communing with and obeying Christ during the week (through the other 5 Spiritual Habits), the more we can authentically worship God during the worship service. However, the more we confine worship to the activities that we perform during the worship service, the less we are able to authentically worship God in real life.
The sad part is that we see more of the latter in many churches. We see emotional worship in our services. We experience passion for an hour. We are assisted by fine music and great sermons. But it’s not “passionate worship” in the truest sense. We know that because something seems to lift off of us the moment we walk outside of the sanctuary, and we go back to life “as usual.” And I think that is one of the reasons why our churches lack credible witness to our broken, fallen world.
Passionate worship begins with understanding the mercies of God – God’s passion for you and me as evidenced by Creation, Incarnation, and Redemption. Passionate worship continues as we respond, not with lip-service, but with life-service. Passionate worship is stoked when we trust God and see God in real life situations. Passionate worship culminates with the genuine praise and thanksgiving for what He has done in our lives because we walked with Him every day. Passionate worship is Whole Life Worship lived passionately.