A slight interruption in our discussion on Suffering …
I experienced something amazing on Friday night. I was at our church’s worship service (we have “Friday Night Church”; one of the coolest things we have done for the past 30 years). This weekend our young people were leading the worship service. My son, Jonathan, was the worship leader and the worship team consisted of mostly high school students. They had worked hard to put together this service and as they started – the lights went out!
Actually, the electricity went out. Apparently there was a traffic accident down the street from the church – a car had knocked out a power pole.
So there they were – no lights, no mics, no video, no song slides, no amps. Nothing but a couple hundred people in the dark. What were they going to do? How would they respond?
What happened over the next hour was one of the most remarkable things I have seen in the history of our church:
They worshipped God.
The students put away their instruments, walked up forward and formed a line. Jon started playing the guitar (he was quickly joined by Tyler, our Worship Director). And they sang their hearts out to God: Loudly, boldly, without reservation, without hesitation.
(a clip from the service)
And then something equally phenomenal happened: the congregation joined them in worship. Yeah, we didn’t know all the words to the songs, but we sang anyway. The kids inspired us with their worship of God; so much so that we had to join in.
People who normally don’t sing with a full-on worship band, were singing!
People who normally don’t clap their hands, were clapping!
People who don’t lift up their hands, were lifting up their hands! Some people were actually dancing!
This was not the typical “people on the stage vs. people in the audience” dynamic. We were worshiping God as …. the church, as a congregation, as God’s “called out ones.”
God had turned off the lights. God had turned off the sound. God had taken away all the props.
It was just God and just His people.
And it was one of the best corporate experiences of worship that I ever had. Better than a Hillsong Conferece with the best musicians in the world. Better than PromiseKeepers gathering with 70,000 men in the stadium. Just a bunch of teenagers and Friday night congregation, stumbling together in the dark and adoring their God and Savior – the precious jewel of worship.
The whole service was amazing! My friend, Brad (our Youth Pastor), preached his heart out. Pastor Rob (our Senior Pastor) gave a powerful challenge to support our Children and Youth programs. And during the very last song the lights popped on! It was as if God had scripted it (maybe He did). I turned to my friends in the congregation and we looked at each other and said, “Wasn’t that one of the most amazing things we’ve ever experienced!”
Earlier in the week, I had a discussion with Pastor Brad about worship, in anticipation for this service. One of the great temptations in corporate worship is to “worship the worship.” It’s so easy to get sucked into worshiping the song or the experience that we forget that we’re worshiping God. While we batted around a few ideas that might help correct this issue, we came to the conclusion that only way we can get back to authentic worship of God is for the people of God to stop seeing themselves as an “audience” or “consumers” and to start seeing themselves as a “congregation,” as a people who love and experience their awesome God together. To that, Brad said, “Well, we should pray for that to happen!”
And so God turned off the lights. He took away the props. Just God and his children. Literally.
When the music plays and all is stripped away and I simply come… I’m coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about You, Jesus.