In his book Common Sense Preaching Dee Bowman writes, “Preaching that does not storm the will is not good preaching.” In other words, preaching ought to stir up the hearer to do something – it ought to be life changing. How about our worship? Is our worship ministry bearing fruit? I am convinced that, more than merely preaching on biblical worship, church leaders need to pour energy and effort into creating worship experiences that stir the heart and storm the will. People need to experience worship that brings them into a spiritual encounter with God in a powerful way resulting in profound life change. What I am describing is exactly what the church expects of its preacher, thus the priority placed on extensive college training and years of experience. The preacher’s work is daunting; it seems more and more difficult to reach an increasingly busy and distracted populace. Preachers pull out all the stops to reach hearts with the good news. Is their diligent effort helped or hindered by the worship? In this short series of blog posts, let us explore worship that stirs the heart and storms the will, to the exaltation of His excellent name.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24
God is Spirit and must be worshiped in spirit. The intellectual mind and physical body alone cannot reach beyond the ceiling to worship our spirit God in heavenly realms. The scripture teaches that the intellect and the body are necessary in worship as is the spirit. Yet in our churches it seems to be either the intellect or the spirit, ne’er the twain shall meet. Our division does our God a disservice and sends a mixed message to the world. To worship in spirit, our hearts must be after His, rightly motivated, and fully engaged in devotion. In his classic hymn Robert Robinson has well said “Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace.”
Worship is the only natural response when creature encounters Creator. When man is blessed to gain a glimpse of the glory of God, he cannot help but fall down and worship. Because of the very nature of who He is, we stand in awe; compelled by the immensity of His incomprehensible love, we yield our all (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). Whether by witness of the wonder of theophany, or by hearing of His great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4), our response to His call is to worship. Matt Boswell writes, “Worship, in the rhythm of revelation and praise, begins with God making Himself known, and is followed by our response of remembrance and praise. Our theology [gives way] to doxology.”
“Praise the Lord, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!” Psalm 117
God is an artist and a giver of beautiful gifts such as the heart, voice, musical harmony, and poetic lyric that coalesce in song.
“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11a
When we develop our gifts toward excellence and use them passionately to worship, we honor the giver – we honor God. The notion that the heart is the only thing that matters to God and thus mediocrity and apathy are acceptable is misguided. David selected men who were trained and skillful to conduct the worship in song (1 Chronicles 25:1-7). We ought to be compelled to pursue excellence in our worship rightly motivated by the spirit to our Lord who does all things well (Mark 7:37).
“Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!” Psalm 150:2