Churches have divided and Christians have not been very Christ like when it comes to the topic of worship. Most American Christians think of music and singing songs when they hear the term worship. So when pastors and church goers are asked “What style is your churches worship?” What they are being asked is, “Do you have loud guitars and banging drums and worship leaders with tight pants and tattoos? Or do you have organs and robed choirs and hymn books?”
God cut to the chase to show us what real worship looks like when He spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening…Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless….learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
Real worship is when our lives and churches reflect the work that God has called us to do. This is the music God loves to listen to. This is true worship.
When someone asks me “What style of worship do you have at Green Valley” I tell them, “Our style of worship is to work for justice, stand up for the homeless, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, fight for the defenseless, encourage the oppressed, father the fatherless and care for the widows.” As they look puzzled I will say, “Oh, you mean what style of music do we have at our church?” And I will tell them, “Well, we don’t have robes or hymnals, but we do have loud guitars and banging drums and worship leaders with tight pants, but we also have some pretty cool sounding keyboards and an inspiring choir.” They either look at me like I have some issues(which I do). Or they say, “Let’s talk about that worship style again, I am intrigued.”
I was sitting in a coffee shop a while ago and I was eavesdropping on some women who had gathered around their tables with their mochas, lattes, frapps and scones to discuss what was missing from their church.
They went on to complain about the music, the preaching and how unfulfilling and shallow the bible studies were that they were in. I didn’t say anything but I wanted to slip them this note from the Prophet Amos, “I can’t stand your religious meetings…I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”
When the church is participating in “true worship”, people find hope, healing, grace, redemption, dignity, transformation. People find Jesus.
When the church is participating in “true worship” you experiences stories like this:
From the ages of 16 to 25, Lucy was a drug addict, an alcoholic and a prostitute. She spent many of those years sharing a small apartment with several other prostitutes who sold themselves again and again to get money for drugs.
One day an older woman moved in to the same apartment building and took it upon herself to treat the prostitutes with the love of Jesus. At first Lucy and her friends just laughed at the woman and her crazy religion. But as Lucy’s lifestyle pulled her deeper into despair, the older woman’s message began to have more impact.
“When I was 25 years old, the woman told me that Jesus Christ loved me and wanted more for me than a life of prostitution and drug addiction, and you know what? She was right. I gave my soul to Jesus, moved out of my apartment and into hers, and began getting cleaned up. I ain’t ever been the same since.”
Within a year she had a job and had fallen in love with a good man. But when they married, she told him she knew where they were supposed to live—right back on the same street she used to walk looking for drugs and male customers. This time, though, she wanted to help the girls who were in the same place she once was.
And that’s what she and her husband have been doing for the last 40 years. “My door is always open,” Lucy says, “Every one of those girls knows that if they need a safe place, they can come to Lucy’s, and they’ll never be turned away. Same with the homeless. Some winter nights we’ve had 30 people sleeping on our floors.”
After 40 years of redeeming people this is what Lucy says today. “You know what? I ain’t never grown tired of this neither. Some people told me generosity can’t last. Eventually, you run out, they said. But they were wrong. After 40 years, I’m filled up inside. When you help someone in the name of Jesus, His very power comes within you and fills you up the way drugs, alcohol, sex, money, nothin’ can. That’s why Jesus said, “It’s better to give than to receive.”
That, my friends, is “true worship” and the only music God listens to.