There is a song called “Here I Am to Worship” that I occasionally hear in church. I would not call it one of my favorites, but it works. It’s a pretty simple song, so I’ve had a lot of youth praise bands/guitar players use the song over the years. It’s also simple to pick up and sing, so it’s a helpful tool when introducing some “contemporary” stuff to a congregation.
I read a blog this week, posted by a church member, that made me reconsider the meaning of the words of that song.
I don’t know Jason Todd (or his work) at all, but he writes a pretty mean blog about our ignorance of the sin of gluttony, and our unwillingness to chase after God the way that we chase after so many other things (money, fame, sex, food, whatever). We come to God not as producers, but as consumers. We will take in whatever He offers that we can easily purchase, as long as the price is right.
This is part of our problem, and the reason we ignore the sinfulness of gluttony. We crave everything that God has to offer to us, we desire the benefits that our religion can have, and seek to satisfy our appetites even in worship. What are we offering to Him, and the community that shares in worshipping Him? Do we desire to be entertained, pacified, and forgiven without also desiring to know and follow God?
When we think about our reasons to worship, we often talk in terms of what the worship does for us. I got a lot out of that today! Or, if the preacher/musicians/etc. have an “off-day” in our minds, I didn’t get anything out of that today!
In so many ways, these are legitimate observations. I’ve been in churches where, even as a staff member, everything had a feel of simply fulfilling the obligation to be present. There was no challenge to the worship, the message, or the general direction of the church.
In spite of this, we also have to look at this issue from our side of the coin. What am I BRINGING to worship? This doesn’t mean you have to give a sermon or sing a solo; in fact, if you can’t sing, then PLEASE don’t try to sing a solo! (More on that later this week).
But you can bring an attitude, a heart, and a demeanor that craves God and the Word. You can bring a positive expression and engaging mind that isn’t simply sitting and waiting to be entertained in some way. You can bring an attitude that is a little less critical if the choir special is off, the pastor is a little dry or the person offering the prayer is too quiet.
Perhaps we should be more mindful that these are heartfelt expressions of worship, offered by those who are willing, perhaps because we are not willing to put ourselves under the spotlight as they do.
Those of us who take on the mantra of “worship leader” are not off the hook, either. We should be just as positive and eager, with a heart that chases after God rather than the approval of others. While I’m a firm believer that we need to listen to the congregation and even those outside the church to take our cues on worship, I know that there is someone I’d better listen to a lot more closely as I prepare.
I am guilty of falling into that same consumeristic trap that Todd warns us to avoid. We need more members. We need more offerings. We need to grow to cover the costs of our building that is way too big for us. And in a moment of pure honesty, I need to hear how interesting or entertaining my preaching is. Here I Am to Worship can easily de-volve into Here I Am to Build Up the Physical Resources and Simultaneously My Own Ego.
If we truly approach the feet of God in a desire to worship, then we have to offer something far more critical than physical resources or a spirit that is daring the Holy Spirit to keep us engaged while we sit like lumps on a pew…or while we walk around preaching a message that maybe we haven’t taken completely to heart. The thing that we need to bring is a heart that is open to giving and receiving love, a Spirit that is looking to uplift, and a mind that fully desires to know and engage the Scriptures, the message, the teaching, the music and the Spirit of God.
Some would say that Here I Am to Worship is too simple and shallow as a worship song; and on the surface, perhaps it is. But it is no more shallow than we are if we approach worship–as leaders or participants–with a desire for something other than engaging Jesus as fully as we possibly can. When we worship with our own entertainment, comfort, or personal goals in mind, then we miss the point of even this very simple song.
Worship is a corporate event, a community activity that requires the efforts of many. If we are not getting anything out of it, then perhaps we’re not putting much into it. And if that’s the case, we need to re-evaluate if we are really there to worship or not. Bringing a heart that hungers and thirsts for more of Jesus in our lives is the only way to be a full participant in the worship experience, and our perspective on the entire matter might change if we change what we’re chasing on Sunday mornings.
Here I Am to Worship may sound simple and a little corny and slightly cliched. It’s not the depth of the words that give the song it’s meaning, but the heart, mind and spirit of the worshippers who sing it that makes the difference.