I just returned from a trip to New York where I was privileged to attend a Hillsong conference. Upon return, the questions are very similar:
“Wasn’t the worship just amazing?”
“That was a completely different experience, wasn’t it?”
“It’s hard to go back to ‘normal’ church after that, isn’t it?”
They aren’t necessarily bad questions. I understand the intent. I would ask the same. But I think it tends to mask an inherent misunderstanding of how worship works.
First of all, I should mention the obvious, and the reason for the questions. It was amazing. It was in the Brooklyn Barclays Center. So several thousand voices were lifted in unison to our God. How could that not be awesome? With such an arena comes logistical niceties. The sound was impressive.
Each time the drums kicked I could feel it in my chest. With a steady beat, it felt like I had an involuntary pacemaker keeping me going. I wondered if, when the next song ended, would my heart continue on its own, or would it just give up and let the sound system do the work for it?
Seeing people throw off man-made divisions in both humanity and in the scriptures and rally behind the name of Jesus alone was something I wont soon forget.
But there is a temptation to think that worship, actual worship… was better, or different, or deeper than it was at any other location in the world at that given time.
The Spirit of God was there. But He didn’t ride on the subway all by Himself. He didn’t hail a taxi. He didn’t descend through the rafters into the midst of a special venue. He wasn’t there waiting on believers to show up.
He walked in through the doors wearing bluejeans, leather jackets, baseball caps, and monogrammed t shirts.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)
All over the world the Spirit entered sanctuaries, synagogues, churches, living rooms, coffee shops, and with the voice of man praised God the Father and Jesus Christ, our victorious sacrifice. Did it mean more in one location? Was the price of salvation less in Texas? Did the Prince of Peace suffer less for Canadians? Do Egyptians have less to be thankful for?
There is one God. There is one King. There is one Savior. There is one Christ.
He is worthy of honor, glory and praise. It might sound different. It might look different. But the power behind the worship… The impact of the lowering of ourselves while lifting Him up… That happens on another level, and everyone, everywhere has access to that.
Crying out, “God I need you!” means the same in Brooklyn, Nashville, Albuquerque, or on your knees in the closet of your home. It involves the heart. It includes the soul. It’s communication to God bypassing all third parties. The power behind prayer… The awe of worship… the humility of self reflection… the honoring of God… those are tied to the cross.
The cross happened once. It is finished. It does not happen again in Detroit on a Tuesday because someone planned for it to. It’s eternal. It’s all reaching. It’s for everyone. And it means the same everyday. It’s power is not diminishing, nor is it enhanced by the works of man. And how that affects you, is not based on your location or your event, or your titles. It’s only impact is a direct result of your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Was the conference amazing? Yes it was. Will worship be any less next Sunday? Not a chance. The same God, made the same sacrifice with the same Son, and even though I’m a sinful and unworthy person, I will call on that same trinity to accept the gift of forgiveness, adoption, and eternal life with a living God.
It was awesome to see thousands of believers singing to God. In truth, millions do it every day. I love to imagine the angels roaring in cheers over baptisms and souls gained. What I can’t wait for is the worship with all believers united in song. All of us. Together. The whole world over. We don’t need to travel to a sports arena to make this happen. It happens every moment when we reject the flesh and tune in to the Spirit.
It’s nice to have New York experiences. It’s nice to have mega churches. It’s nice to have thumping sound systems. It’s nice to have tons of space for lots of seats. But none of that changes worship. The Spirit doesn’t change with your budget. The Spirit doesn’t change with location. The Spirit doesn’t change to be what we want. The Spirit is ready for worship. Any time you are ready. And the magic… the miracle… the awesome… That already happened. Our thankfulness for it, our praise, it should reflect the gifts received the same every morning day and evening.
The enemy wants you to wait for the right song. He will tell you the building isn’t ready. He is known to whisper about quality, volume, people sitting near you, leadership issues, tittles, and all manor of reasons to not worship. Excuses. Delays. Lies. We have a direct connection to God and a life changing eternal experience awaits our choice to properly use it. Bluntly put, if coming before the Lord and worshiping is a ‘downer’, or it isn’t ‘fun’, or it’s not quite ‘awesome’ enough… you haven’t been worshiping.
Thinking of worship in terms of quality is like thinking of God in terms of quality. It’s our direct praise to Him. It’s our level of appreciation for Him. It’s positioning ourselves in the correct place in direct relation to His place. So can He waver in terms of God-likeness? Is God in HD one day and SD the next? Does God sour? Was the cross an 8 out of 10 because it was cloudy and too many people showed up? Very, very bluntly put… worship is either everything we have from us to God all of the time… or its sacrilege.
You want a New York experience? Do you want a Jordan River experience? Do you long for something powerful and life-changing? For most of us, its about 3 feet lower than we stand. Those things happen on our knees… and nothing challenges their ‘amazing’.