This post is from a dear friend Rob Hatchett. Rob is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and is currently President of Crye-Leike Franchises, Inc. He is married to the former Rachel Parker and they live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He and Rachel worship at Clear Creek Church of Christ in Hixson, Tennessee where he is their song leader. I believe you will grow from this lesson as it will draw you closer to understanding what intimacy in worship is like…or what it should be like.
Intimacy in Worship
I Samuel 16:7 – Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.
I believe 1 Samuel 16:7 can be applied correctly to many areas in our spiritual lives. I’m afraid one area where I haven’t let this verse apply is in worship to God. I’ve spent countless hours of my life critiquing how other people choose to worship God. I observed some people as being too emotional in my opinion. I observed others as being too unemotional in my opinion. But the fact is – while I’m busy looking at the person’s outward appearance, God is busy looking at their heart.
So I begin this blog by repenting for at times appointing myself the hall monitor of worship services. Whether you attend a church where your song service consists of the greatest hits from 1840-1940, or you attend a church where it resembles a high school pep rally – if God can see a heart of worship then it doesn’t matter what people like I used to be have to say.
I personally get a little nervous when I read about the Pharisees because I see so many verses about them that at times could apply to me. Take this verse for example from Mark 7:
6″This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7in vain do they worship me,.
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
My worship transformation from Pharisee to Intimacy started with my prayer closet. I had read about Daniel praying 3 times a day in his closet but I had never really done a lot of that private stuff by myself. I was much better at my public relationship with God (sounds like a Pharisee doesn’t it?).
One day I decided it was time to get in better physical shape. My plan was to run 3 miles each morning and then I thought I would try spending 20 minutes in prayer. This sounded like an insurmountable task! Not the running though. That was the easy part. I didn’t know if I could actually spend 20 minutes communicating with God. I really didn’t know what to say. My personal prayers usually consisted of me telling God the things that I needed him to do for me that day and that usually took less than a minute or two.
Truth is, it wasn’t easy when I started. I decided to start mixing in some scripture reading and worship music with my prayer time. That almost made it like God was talking to me and then I was talking back to Him. I started feeling a connection with God that I really hadn’t felt before. Strange how that works! When you spend quality time with someone you start feeling a lot closer to them. Plus – my prayers stopped being completely about what I needed God to do for me. I started looking for people each day that I could pray for and I actually started asking people if they needed me to pray for anything in their life. Even more, I started asking God to show me ways I could bring Him glory in my life.
In all my years of Christian high school, Christian college, and regular church attendance, this was the most intimate I had ever been with God.
This intimacy in prayer then changed my worship in song. I was the regular “song leader” at our church but I realized that my focus was simply trying to help people sing well. If I was going to lead, I wanted to be a “worship leader”. However, as I was losing my selfishness in my prayers, I could feel God tugging on me that I needed to lose my selfishness in worship as well. This meant I needed to stop leading and simply learn to worship with my heart in song.
Like my prayers, this was pretty tough at first. I decided one day to close my eyes in worship as I was singing. I know everyone is different but closing my eyes really helped my focus on God. I couldn’t see anyone else and though my eyes were closed, I could see myself sitting at the throne of God. Songs that I had sung all my life took on a new meaning as I was now singing them before the throne of God. As I lifted my hands in worship, it was now because I was reaching out to God and not because it was a standard act of worship.
My father-in-law described his worship in a way that really impacted me. He called it his “love fest” with God. That’s the best definition of worship I had ever heard. Worship has nothing to do with showing up to church to sing. Worship is about having an intimate connection with God and expressing our love, adoration, and praise in whatever way the Spirit leads you. I just wished it hadn’t taken me 28 years to figure this out.
So here’s the question for us now. How do we teach/train our younger generations to have an intimacy with God through worship? The main way they learn is by observing other Christians – not just in corporate worship settings but also in day-to-day life. Are these younger Christians observing a “love fest” with God through song, prayer, and mediation from us?