ALL CHURCHED UP AND EVERYWHERE TO GO SERMON SERIES
UP, UP AND AWAY – THE WONDER OF WORSHIP
JANUARY 14, 1996
What if I told you that I know a way to reduce the stress, to increase intimacy with your spouse, family and friends and, also, to make you acutely aware of the presence of God like you have never experienced it before. In other words, what if I had something that would meet the deepest needs in your life? If you listen very carefully to what we are going to talk about this morning, the things I just mentioned can become a reality for you.
The Fellowship of Las Colinas has a purpose. We exist to reach up, that is worship, expressing love to God. We also exist to reach out, that is evangelism, sharing Christ with others. And we exist to reach in, that is discipleship, developing our relationship with Christ. Over the next three weeks we are going to talk about the purpose of our church. Today we are talking about the wonder of worship. If you apply and incorporate worship into your life, your deepest, that’s right, your deepest needs will be met.
Let’s jump right into worship and look at the definition of this subject. A lot of people have a muddy thought process regarding the implications of worship and what it really means. Worship can be defined as expressing love to God for who He is, for what He said and for what He is doing. I am going to break our session today into two parts. In the first part we will look at seven characteristics of our worship here at the Fellowship. In the next part we will look at the take home value of worship, how worship can impact your life today.
There is an outline included in your bulletin. Take it out. You will notice, first of all, that worship should be welcoming. Here in our church we do the triple team welcome. First, the parking crew, second, the greeters, third, the ushers, we triple team you. Why do we do that? To have some huge church. No. Why do we do that? To get more people involved. No. We do it because of this verse of scripture. Romans 15:7 says, “Warmly welcome each other into the church…” Warmly welcome each other. Believers, nonbelievers, seekers, saints, skeptics, warmly welcome them into the church. And how should we welcome them? The Bible tells us, “….just as Christ has warmly welcomed you.” The number one fear people have when they walk through the doors of a church is fear. That is the number one fear, fear! People are scared they will be put on the spot. You talk to individuals and hear them say, “Oh, I walked into that party and I didn’t know a soul. It was terrible” “Oh, I almost died, someone asked me to speak publicly.” We have these fears. The Bible says we are to warmly welcome each other into the church, just as Christ has welcomed you. In other words, Christ is our model.
And that leads us to this question. How has Christ welcomed us? He welcomes us just the way we are. I like that. Christ didn’t say to me, “Ed, before I welcome you into a relationship with Me, you have got some spiritual B.O. called sin. You take care of that first and then you can come in.” Jesus said He would meet us right where we are. He will warmly welcome us. Oftentimes we confuse acceptance with approval. Jesus never did. Jesus met the woman at the well who was involved in illicit sexual relationships. Jesus did not approve of her behavior, He accepted her and then told her to go and sin no more. When he had that power lunch with Zacchaeus, Jesus did not approve of his behavior, He did accept him as a person. That is our mission here at the church, acceptance without approval. At these four services this weekend we will have about 3,000 people. Numbers of the individuals here have questionable lifestyles, poor and bad reputations. Do we say, “We don’t accept you or approve of you?” No, no, no. We don’t say that. We accept you. We don’t approve of your behavior but we love you and we warmly welcome you just as Christ welcomes us. Worship has to have a welcoming aspect to it.
Also worship has an organizational aspect to it. Worship must be organized. We serve a God of order. God didn’t just say, “I think I will create the earth, a tree here, a mountain over there, man here, woman there.” Everything has a flow to it. There is a reason behind it all. Look at our human bodies. We discussed last week, how every member of our body works together to form a human being. We are made in the image of God by our transcendent Father. I Corinthians 14:40 is a verse that we take very seriously around here. “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” We believe that anything that connects and communicates the gospel of Jesus Christ or the nature and character of God should be done with excellence. It should be thought through. There should be a flow to it. That is why we spend so much time planning these worship services. We want the message to begin the moment you walk in the door. We write our drama from scratch every week. We cast the drama from scratch every week. The people you see acting are not paid talent. They are everyday people. You see the white haired guy. He is a judge here in Dallas. Just to show you who we have involved. Every week we have to write individual musical charts for the congos, for the synthesizers, for the electronic drums, for the piano, for the bass guitar, the lead guitar, all of that just for this service. The research that we do is extensive. The ushers, the greeters, the parkers, the teachers, the nursery workers are all in place to give glory to God. Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. Worship should be organized.
Also, worship should be relevant. I like Matthew 13:34-35, the Living Bible translation. “Jesus constantly used these illustrations when speaking to the crowds….” We don’t have to make the Bible relevant because it already is. We don’t say, I wonder how we will apply this. I wonder how this really makes sense. It already does. Circle the word crowds. Jesus attracted huge numbers of persons, believers and nonbelievers. Why? Because of the way He communicated. People hung on every word. He told stories, He used illustrations, the Bible says constantly. He was relevant. He was contemporary. He would pick a coin, everyone had a coin in their pocket. He would talk about a child. Everyone knew what a child acted like. He would talk about a sower in the field and everyone could communicate with that. He would talk about a tower falling on people and killing individuals. They knew what event He was referring to. He communicated from a boat or from a mountain top. We use 20th century technology. He used the common knowledge of the day. We use current events. He used word pictures. We might use drama or I might use a visual. If you want to attract people, communicate the way Christ did. He is the ultimate model. And notice that Jesus always started with a need and then once He addressed the need, He would show people the relevance of knowing Him personally.
That is why in today’s message I didn’t start by saying that we were going to talk about one of the deepest and most profound subjects in Christendom, something that our early church fathers, the matriarchs and the patriarchs discovered, the wonder of worship. Take your Bibles and turn to the book of Isaiah. I didn’t say that. Why? Because for many of us that would not be super relevant. What is relevant, though, is opening up with the benefits of worship. “You meant that Ed is going to talk about something that can reduce stress, increase intimacy in relationships and make me acutely aware of the presence of God? What is he going to say?” I communicate that way not because of some great idea that I came up with. That is the way Christ taught. Jesus was relevant. “He constantly used these illustrations when speaking to the crowd. In fact, He never spoke to them without at least one illustration.” He used an illustration to make a point. He also used the common language of the day. He had a choice. Christ could have used the classical Greek. He didn’t. He used Aramaic, the language of the street.
Question. Can something be true and also irrelevant? You better believe it. A year ago I dropped a 40 pound dumbbell on my big toe, broke it in twenty places. The bone was sticking out of the toe in four places. I kind of went into shock and was rushed to the emergency room of the local hospital. Lisa shows up to comfort me. There is blood everywhere. I am really freaking out. The doctors come in and they look at my toe. You know you are in trouble when the doctors roll their eyes. The doctors did not say this. “Mr. Young, I want to give you a brief word study on blood. Blood comes from the Greek term…” “Mr. Young, do you know how long this hospital has been here? Let me tell you about this hospital.” They didn’t do that. They started with my pain. They gave me twenty shots in the foot and in the toes to deaden the pain, to deal with the pain. Then they operated and now the toe is doing great. We want to start with your pain, with your needs. That is what is relevant. I can talk all day and all night about stuff that I learned in seminary, which is important. We have to have knowledge but let’s look at the life change aspect. Let’s teach like Christ taught. Seventy percent of His words were words of application, not information, application. We take small bite-size chunks of information and we are heavy on the application. We try to use the seventy-thirty principle. That is the way Christ taught. Some things I could share with you today could be true but irrelevant. I want to talk about things that are true and relevant.
Also, a worship service should be sensitive. The Bible says in Colossians 4:5, “Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers…” It takes some maturity to do this. Be wise in the way you act. “…making good use of every opportunity you have.” The needs of believers and nonbelievers overlap in most circumstances and situations. Every time we are thinking about a drama, a message, a song, we have two chairs in the frontal lobes of our minds, the chair of the believer and the chair of the nonbeliever. Believers and nonbelievers are asking these questions, “Who am I? What is the meaning of life? Where am I going? How can I get help in this relationship? How can I forgive this person? How can I have my deepest and most profound needs met?” There is some overlap there. There are also some unique things that are different for the believer and the nonbeliever but there are many things that bleed together.
I want to ask you a question here folks. How many of you like to cook? Do you enjoy cooking? Come on, guys, gals, OK. Now those of you who like to cook, I am sure, if you are like our family, you have had people into your home as guests. Right? When you cook food for your guests, usually you are more thoughtful and creative in the way you serve the food. Maybe you use a table decoration and place mats. In our home the burping level is kept at a minimum, food throwing discouraged. We change. The conversation is altered. Are we being hypocritical? No. We are being sensitive to the needs of our guests. When we plan these services every single weekend we are serving the food, the truth which is the Word of God, yet we are serving it in a more creative and thoughtful way. We are being sensitive to the needs of our guests, the seeker, the nonbeliever, as well as the saint. Worship must be sensitive.
Also, we believe, worship should be only an hour long. Our services last about fifty-five minutes due to a number of reasons. But the main reason is that we want to communicate in a most concise and compact way. Most of us do not have a very long attention span. So we want to plan a service that communicates the message in an insightful and creative and relevant way within about an hour. One of my favorite texts is Acts 20:7-9. One day I am going to do a series on lessor known personalities in the Bible. This Acts passage mentions Eutychus. Eutychus had an encounter with Paul. “On the first day of the week…Paul spoke to the people and…kept on talking until midnight…a young man named Eutychus was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on…” This is the first record we have of someone sleeping in church. If you have been on a plane and fallen to sleep, then all of a sudden you jerk awake, you will identify with this. I am sure that Eutychus did that because if you read on the Bible says that he fell out of the window and died from the fall. Paul runs down the steps and brings him back to life. I kind of identify with Paul there. I feel I have to bring some of you back to life every week. So we keep worship to an hour.
Also, worship should be inspiring. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” Worship should be exciting, stimulating, motivating. A guy stopped me as I was making my way into the nine o’clock service and with tears in his eyes he said this to me. “Ed, I want to tell you, I look forward to coming to church every single week.” And I can’t tell you what that did to me. That put a spring in my step. I feel the same way. I really, really do.
Folks, we have a special guest and we don’t have very much time to do this but, let me tell you what incredible thing happened last night. After the six o’clock Saturday night service, Lisa and I usually go out on a date. So we had a date and we ate at a hotel in Grapevine called the Grapevine Marriott. Guess who happened to be checking into the Grapevine Marriott. The Dallas Cowboys. I started talking to Troy Aikman a little bit and Troy agreed to come to our church at the ten o’clock service for just a couple of minutes to do something unprecedented, to talk to us a little bit about the Green Bay Packers game. So let’s show our appreciation to Troy Aikman. (There followed wild applause and much cheering.) Troy is not coming. I cannot believe some of you. The women in here about broke their necks looking for him. Troy is not going to show up today. He will be a Texas Stadium, but not here. Did you hear the applause? The sighs? Troy Aikman is not going to show up. But I will tell you of someone who is in the house. His name is Jesus and Troy can’t even tie His cleat. So we have to realize who is here.
Do you know what our mission is as leaders of this church? Our mission is to entertain you. “He said the word entertain in church?” Entertain. I will give you the definition of entertainment. “To capture and hold the attention of a person for an extended period of time.” Did Jesus entertain? You better believe it. Did Simon Peter entertain? No doubt about it. Did the Apostle Paul entertain? Yes. You don’t have to be boring. You can be entertaining. This book, the Bible, is that exciting. Gallop conducted a survey of the unchurched two years ago. He asked them what was the most boring place in their opinion. They said there was no doubt about it, it was the church. We have this misconception of worship. We see worship like a Broadway play, incorrectly. We see the pastor as the actor, the congregation as the audience and we see God as the director. That is incorrect. The Biblical model of worship, staying with the Broadway theme is this. The pastor is the director, the members of the congregation are the actors and God is the audience. We are performing, we are entertaining, we are showing up, we are singing, we are listening, we are reading, we are applying, we are meditating for God. It should be inspiring.
Also, it should be purposeful. Worship should be purposeful. And here is the purpose. Romans 16:6 LB says, “All of us can praise the Lord together with one voice.” There is not a correct style of worship. Jesus said there were only two qualifications and specifications for worship, “Worship Me in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24. That was it. The Holy Spirit must be present and the Word must be given in an uncompromising way. That is it. The style? There are thousands of styles to choose from.
The church I came from had an organ valued at 1.2 million dollars. The church had a 500 voice choir, a 6,000 seat worship center. Does that church worship God? Yes. I was in a church the other day that had about 25 members and a little guitar. Does that church worship God? Yes. Our church worships God. Many different churches do, as long as they are under the authority of God’s Word and are worshipping God in spirit and in truth. Travel to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean. There are different styles for different people. We have different styles here. We have one mode of worship on the weekend and a different mode of worship on Wednesday nights. Knowing that believers need an extended period of worship time, we have at least twenty to thirty minutes of worship on Wednesday. We have some worship here, five to ten minutes. I think that nonbelievers should see believers worshiping because it does something. It changes hearts. They see how we are experiencing God and reverencing God. All of us can praise the Lord together with one voice.
I want to talk to you about music. Seventeen times in the Bible it says sing to the Lord, not about the Lord. I hear people comment now and then that they wish we could get back to our musical roots. Now when I hear that I want to ask how far back do you want to go? Back to the Gregorian chant? Back to the Jewish melodies of the early church? Usually they meant going back about 100 or 50 years. What people don’t realize is that the “great hymns of the church” were really avant guard and chic and hip when they were first introduced. For example, Silent Night. People went nuts when that was first introduced saying that there was not enough gospel in it and that it was too secular. Have you ever heard of Handel’s Messiah? They said, study your church history, it is too repetitive. Have you ever heard the song, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God? The tune comes from a secular song. We choose contemporary music for the most part. Why? Because every time God moves in history, it is always accompanied by new music. We love the traditional hymns. But we want to connect with people where they are musically.
Now let’s do a change of gears and look at the take home value of worship because this is the important stuff. The other stuff is important but this is really, really big time. I want to give you several suggestions on how to experience worship today in your life like you have never known it before. First make worship a priority. Worship corporately. Attend church knowing that you have an opportunity to worship God with many people. But also, make it a priority to worship individually. Have a time of worship daily. Worship God corporately and individually.
The second suggestion. Make sure you are prepared for worship. How many of you are going to watch the Cowboys today? A lot of people. Now some of you are going to the game. Lisa and I got invited to the game a couple of days ago. We will be there. Some of you will sit at home and watch the game. I guarantee that you are already making plans concerning what you are going to do, the chips here, the dip here, the popcorn there. Everyone will sit around this television. Maybe you are going to the Spirit Grill to watch the game. Or maybe you are going to the game, itself, and have thought about what you were going to wear. Silver and blue. We have our game faces on. Big stuff. Big stuff. Are you prepared for worship? Do you have your game face on when you come to church? I challenge you. The night before church think about what you are going to wear, where you are going to eat, who you are going to meet, getting there early. Think about who will be showing up. Think about your expression. Sometimes you might be reading the Psalms and you will see something written below it identifying it as a Psalm of ascent. Take you Bible and turn to Psalm 130. Psalms of ascent were simply this. When the children of Israel were walking up the mountain to worship, it took them days to do so, they would sing songs. They were preparing for worship. They were ready. Psalm 130 says, “Out of the depths, I cry to You, O Lord. O Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of my sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, therefore You are feared.” They were ready. They had their worship face on before they got there. They were serious about worship.
My wife does something that has really spoken to me concerning going to church. She gets all the kids outfits ready the night before. She has a rule since we go to church separately. I am in a kind of PMS mode, a Pre-Message Syndrome. She doesn’t ride with me. When Lisa drives to church, though, she usually puts a praise tape in and listens to some great Christian music. And then she tells the children to play the quiet game. Let’s be honest here. Don’t we sometimes get into arguments on the way to church? Come on now. When we go together we sometimes argue in the car, then happily greet others when we get out. I am talking about worship today. Come prepared.
The third suggestion is to establish a place. Join a church locally. Also establish a place of worship in your life. It might be in your study, in your apartment, at your desk. Once you establish a place, that place can become like the Garden of Gethsemane was for Jesus, a place of worship with a special aura surrounding it.
The fourth suggestion. Put it into practice. Worship isn’t worship unless there is change. Put into practice what you have learned, how you have experienced God. Live it out. You can’t compartmentalize worship. You can’t say that you will worship God from 10:05am until 11:10am on Sunday and from 7:00pm to 8:00pm on Wednesday evenings. Worship must transcend every area of your life.
The wonder of worship. Apply it and you will never, ever be the same.