Summary: Why is worship supposed to be an encounter with God and not just going through the motions? How can you better encounter God each time you gather corporately as a church? The answer is in your appetite!
ENCOUNTERING GOD – Part One - Hunger
Listen to this story, “I had my first experience with the presence of God when I was 5 years old. Arriving home from my ½ day of kindergarten, I usually ate lunch with my mom and then hurried off to play. When I would run out of things to do, I would resort to my favorite game of all, spying on my mom. I crept outside her shut bedroom door and pressed my ear to the door. I heard a familiar sound, the voice of my mother, talking to God in prayer. Suddenly I felt as if “something” had reached underneath that door and wrapped itself around me while she prayed. I felt the hair on my arm and my spine begin to tingle. I had an acute awareness that something good was happening all around me as my mother worshipped God with tender words of prayer and adoration. “What happened? There was something going on in that room that was not of this world. Something that was impossible to express with words. There was a conversation being conducted between heaven and earth.”
Perhaps you have been a witness to a conversation or a meeting between heaven and earth. Perhaps it was the result of seeing a meeting like this that led you to seek and respond to God.
Perhaps you have had such a divine encounter with God, that awareness that you were in Another Presence, the presence of perfect and holy love.
How did that affect you?
How did that shape the way you viewed worship and the God who you meet in worship?
Let me share how it affected me:
As a young Christian I was taught that people that worshipped with their hands raised or that got exuberant were weird and unbiblical, and emotional people. But I knew many of these people outside of their church settings and didn’t see much difference between them and the Christians who said we should be reverent and reserved and quiet in worship.
So I went to one of these “emotional worship services and found something that I didn’t experience in the quiet church. It was there that I experienced what I believed to be the presence of God – not just as an emotion, but in a deep and soulful way. Here is why:
They sang songs TO GOD in the first person.
In the quiet church, they only sang songs ABOUT God and His love.
Though they were sincere, it always seemed that they were looking backward and not at the present tense person of God.
And then I realized that the freer, emotional, so called weird people weren’t encountering the Presence of God because they were emotional, but they had gotten emotional BECAUSE they had encountered the Presence of God.
I was ruined by what I tasted in those worship services.
I wanted to experience God personally and not just go through the motions on Sunday mornings. And being a part of a church that merely went through a ritual or through the motions would never satisfy me again. I hungered for an encounter with the Living God. Nothing else would ever satisfy.
When we moved to Ft. Worth, we were a part of a fairly traditional SBC church, that was starting a mission. A core value of that new church plant was, “to do church differently” and to “experience God.” They found a pastor who was willing to go outside the box, whose passion it was to encounter God.
They were not “charismatic”, but some people raised their hands, a few people danced quietly in the back of the worship center in an undistracting way.
This church, called The Church in Cityview, was a fairly unique Southern Baptist Church, that invited us to worship God with our whole beings and not just with our lips. That was new to me.
I can’t dance before the Lord, but I now know better than to stop you if you want to!
I don’t have the gift of prophecy, but I know better than to suppress it in a congregation!
I have also learned that worship is not about the wonderful time you had last week or last year, but it is about the now and present face-to-face encounter with God you are having.
And so, you can see where I have come from.
I want you know that no matter how much I like my comfort zone, I want to take you to the very Presence of God, who smashes our comfort zones.
Are you willing to go on this journey to encounter God? (Say Amen if you are).
Lets look at a practical, working definition of worship instead of a technical one:
Worship is the both the goal and the result of the relationship between God and His people.