Worship with the masses ?
In my last article ' a worship time or a time to worship' I wrote about the importance of walking out our daily worship, bringing all we are as an offering to God. So, I thought I'd share the flip side of this today. I've chosen to write about about coming together as a body of people 'the church' whatever diverse format this might take.
There's no doubt, our faith is a personal thing, of course it is, but it's definitely not just to be kept private. When God drew you to Himself. When He revealed the truth of himself to you through Jesus He meant it to transform you, absolutely!, but also to benefit others.
All through the bible we have examples of God's people joining together to worship. Psalm 95 verses 1-2 give us an example out of the Old Testament of gatherings to praise God
This suggests to me that it wasn't just one person being called to worship but a group, a gathering. What about what we find in the New Testament? Around Pentecost, the physical presence of Jesus had gone but, just as He promised, The Holy Spirit came and we read this in Acts 2 :42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.All the believers were together and had everything in common.They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Of course, there are bible passages that speak of living out our personal walk with God but there are examples too like this which teach us not only a spiritual importance and benefit of meeting together but also practical applications. It's not for me to define what 'church' looks like but it is definitely bigger than just you or I.
Revelation 5: 9-12 gives us a picture of an amazing gathering with many voices singing out and declaring to God 'honour and glory and praise!' When we come together we get a little taster of the eternal gathering where we're told every nation, every tongue will come together. There's something that strengthens, affirms and connects to His desire for His people to gather before Him when we make a choice to meet with others. I know we don't always find the style we agree with, the format that suits us or sometimes even the people we feel we 'gel' with, but, I think that this might even be part of the deal. It's a sacrifice to self, sometimes to serve others in supporting and standing alongside and a way of saying to God.. 'I understand that worship is bigger than just what I bring'. It's about diversity, creativity. About what I have to offer but also experiencing a broader spectrum of what you've put into and are releasing from others.
I love to worship..in the car, in my office, with my team, in Church all sorts of places in many different ways really, but I'm reminded of the blessing of being with others even when I might not feel like it! Here's a personal example:
A number of months ago I was planned in to lead worship at a retreat for local pastors, leaders and intercessors. A fantastic group, great to be with and always with plenty of space to share life together. I had a message from a friend that Bethel Worship team from California were due to be having a small conference about an hours drive from where I live. What was my reaction? As much as I love to worship, I'd have had two full days with others doing just that.. did I want to go straight from the last day of that into a weekend with hundreds of other people.. My answer was.. Not really.. What I wanted was to go home and rest, be with my family. Tracy, my wise wife sugested that I should go. She reckoned It could be an opportunity to receive rather than give. So, reluctantly, I agreed and set off with a few friends. There I was, stood outside the venue in a queue a bit tired but hopefully not too grumpy! I got into the hall with my friends (and over a thousand other people), took my place at the end of a row, so that I could slip out if I wanted too. Then God took me by surprise, caught me off guard, chose to use my obedience, whatever it was. What happened next wasn't what I'd planned for my friday night. Every time I opened my mouth to join in with the songs I broke down in tears! I have honestly never had such a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus and all this in a huge gathering !
I guess what I'm saying is that God loves us to meet with Him however and whenever we choose to, but there can be real blessings from doing that with others, wether it's in a church, homegroup, school, business. He's made us community and there's something special that can take place when that community comes together with the purpose of honouring Him. It's a place of heavenly exchange which sometimes flows straight to and from Him but often through others who love Him, just like you and I! If you've not tried it recently, why not give it a go!
One more week with the Stoke interchange group. Great discussion, creativity and friendships built. Equipping to serve.