- On April 23, 2013
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Be the ball Danny, be the ball.
I am a golfer. I love the game and I truly enjoy playing. My Grandfather taught me to play when I was only three or four years old and I have been playing “religiously” ever since. I even love golf movies, from the funny like Caddyshack and Tin Cup to the inspirational like The Greatest Game Ever Played,The Legend of Bagger Vance and especially the newer Christian movie, Seven Days in Utopia. However, there are some circumstances where I just don’t like playing golf as much. Like when it is rainy, or windy, or cold, or crowded, or soggy, or a not so great course, or . . . You get the picture? And I have been playing this game my whole life! Played on the varsity team in High School (4 year letterman, thank you very much!). But compared to golfers who carry a passion for the game that supersedes everything else I don’t match up. These people have a burning desire to be on the course, no matter what, filling the longing to hit the ball into the hole. As Ty tells Danny, if you want to be great you have to be the ball. Or as Johnny teaches Luke in Seven Days, true passion for the game doesn’t start with the game, it starts in the heart.
Passionate Worship. Not my term, but a popular term that has made the rounds of church and congregational thinking. There is a lot of talk in the last several years about Bishop Robert Schnase’s book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. His terms for these practices have caught on around the country. His term describing worship practice is Passionate Worship.
On its face this term seems to be very much on target. After all, who wouldn’t want to worship in a church that displays passionate worship, done passionately, by passionate people? I embraced this term when I first heard about it back in 2007. It seemed to be an exact description of how I thought worship should look and feel. I got behind it, I even used it to describe activities that I designed for worship renewal. It became a goal; a target to reach for in worship planning. However, after several years of working with this term and seeing its results, I recently realized that it does not really hit at the heart of the worship issue. Churches do not need passionate worship as much as they need to be filled with people who have a passion for worship.
I spoke to many people about what they think passionate worship is? What does it mean? Inevitably the responses center around what it looks like. Respondents typically list events that they see as demonstrating passionate behavior. Songs that have energy and drive, regardless of style. Sermons that stir their souls and challenge them to examine their hearts. All of these “things” fail to guarantee that they reveal a desire for the relational qualities of being in the presence of God and demonstrating to God our honor for God’s story in worship. They may simply be a sign that people are excited by the actions of worship.
This really hit home when I asked a particular church member who set himself apart from others because of two things: he always came to worship seemingly without fail and he always seemed to be satisfied when he left. I asked him one day if he felt like we had passionate worship in our church. He said, “in all honesty, Craig, I am not too concerned with what we sing or what the pastor preaches. I come to church to be with God and my brothers and sisters in Christ. If we happen to sing a song I like or I hear a particularly inspirational sermon, then that is great. But, no offence, I am not coming here to see you. I am coming here to see God and God never fails to show up. I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than spend time with God building our relationship and sharing that experience with others around me. I am passionate for worship and I guess that means my worship is passionate.”
I know a lot of people who are passionate about worship. I am one of those, constantly reading and studying and practicing to make the worship event all that it can be. I know a lot of people who can get passionate in worship. When the music is going (regardless of style) or the preacher is “bringin it” or maybe the Spirit is just filling the room, they can step up and passionately praise God. But being passionate for worship means your heart and mind are set on God before you ever arrive. You allow God to fire your passion, not the music or the sermon. Those actions become mere expressions of a passion that you brought with you. You don’t need a worship leader or a pastor to inspire you; to raise you to the level of passion for God. You were already there.
1. Take a look at why you go to worship. What is at the center of that decision every week? If not every week, what are you more passionate about that takes you away?
2. How can you develop a passion for worship that puts it in the right place in your life? Try prayer and scripture reading, or perhaps talking to someone who either has that passion you are missing or even someone else who is struggling in the same way so that you can support and encourage each other.
3. Try every week to come to worship passionate about meeting God and then see if that changes your perspective about the events in worship. I think you will find it easier to engage with the presence of God and be less concerned with your personal satisfaction with the events of worship.
4. Ask God to reveal to you where you need to work on your passion for worship.