Saturday, March 28, 2020

Stripped-Down Worship (The Presence-Driven Church)

Image result for john piippo quiet
Sterling State Park, Monroe

Tomorrow morning (Sunday) we will live-video stream our Redeemer worship service, led by Holly Collins, Tim Curry, and myself. For worship, Holly will play keyboard, and I will accompany with guitar. It will be a two-instrument band, with Linda joining us on vocals. (To watch the live service, at 10:30 AM EST, go HERE.)

It will be more than enough to lead our people into worship. 

In fact, you don't even have to have a band to worship. Thank God for musical instruments, but even they are not necessary for true worshipers. 

I've had many beautiful, touching worship experiences in my life. Sometimes it's happened when I've been alone, sometimes with a small group of people, sometimes in large group settings. The real worship thing happens, which is 100% about God and his presence. For me this never has to do with how good the worship musicians are, or even if there are worship musicians.

One example was when I was preaching in Kurnool, in central India, in an old church building on the Deccan plateau, before a thousand people. There was no worship band. I am not against worship bands. It's just that they are unnecessary for worship to happen. In this falling-apart church building in India, one man was leading the people, a capella, in a worship song. It was in the Telegu dialect. The singing was repetitive. It went on for a long time. Then, in the middle of the singing, it happened. God happened. And in my heart, I was worshiping. I was caught up in God's presence, 100%.

David Platt writes: “What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for his people to come together?”  (Radical. Francis Chan writes about this too - see Letters to the Church.)

In some churches it might not be. When all is stripped away, few would simply come.

How in the world did the early church make it, being not only without awesome media, but lacking funds for whatever the latest post-flannel-graph technology was? The answer would be: the early church thrived because God was with them. They had God and His presence and His power and His voice and His love and His guidance and His correction and His grace and mercy, experientially

This is stripped-down worship, the heart inside the body, the core within the container, the engine in the framework, the software driven by the hard drive.

It's Saturday evening. The sanctuary is empty. I'm at home, and it's quiet.

When the music fades,
and all is stripped away,
and I simply come.

Matt Redman

Francis Chan's book Letters to the Church says a lot about church and worship. Reading it ignites me. 

Here are some fire-starting Chan quotes about worship.
  • "Too often we add in our own voices, thinking if we offer just the right services or package the gospel in just the right way so no one gets offended, we can convince people to stay. By catering our worship to the worshippers and not to the Object of our worship, I fear we have created human-centered churches." (53)
  • "In the book of Malachi, God’s people had become bored with worship. God’s response was not mild. As the prophet Malachi called them back to the passion, devotion, and sacrifice of true worship, the people responded by saying, “What a weariness this is” (Mal. 1:13). They saw worship not as an honor but as an obligation. Today we’d respond to this by saying, “Look at how bored they are! Let’s make worship more exciting; then people will really get something out of it!” But God’s response was much different. He was so offended by it all that He would rather they simply shut the whole thing down." (66)
  • "Years ago, my friend from India drove me to a speaking engagement in Dallas. When he heard the music and saw the lights, he said, “You Americans are funny. You won’t show up unless there’s a good speaker or band. In India, people get excited just to pray.”" (67)

  • "We want to be people who are committed to worshipping God, people who can’t get enough of Him, not people who worship only when it is convenient or when the right people are leading. It must be the Object of our worship that makes worshipping exciting to us." (176)

  • ***

    My two books are:

    Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

    Leading the Presence-Driven Church

    My current writing projects are...

    How God Changes the Human Heart

    Technology and Spiritual Formation

    Linda and I will then co-write our book on Relationships