Mankind has been grappling to understand the nature of worship for thousands of years. As we take a spin through the Old Testament we see the elaborate formal rituals of the temple, the joyous celebration of Israel as God moves on her behalf, and the spontaneity of Davidic worship. In the New Testament, we find people meeting together to share, and eat, and drink. Each person brings an encouragement, a song, a prayer, or a testimony.
Many theologians tend to describe worship as something along the lines of being "the response of the created to the creator." I definitely believe this is correct. But it seems somehow incomplete, and even--dare I say it?--unfulfilling.
And before you hit the "comment" button, I'm not a heretic! I know that worship is not about man, but about God. The purpose and point of worship, from our point of view, is to magnify the creator of the universe, and please him with our offerings of praise and our whole hearts devoted to him. But is that all there is to it?
We're all probably familiar with James 4:8, "Come near to God and he will come near to you." In the Amplified Bible, we see a bit more clearly the beauty of this and surrounding verses: "Come close to God and He will come close to you. Recognize that you are sinners, get your soiled hands clean...and purify your hearts...Humble yourselves, feeling very insignificant in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you; He will lift you up and make your lives significant."
There is a transactional aspect, a conversational nature, to worship. Our part of the bargain is to draw near to the Lord, to repent, to purify our hearts, and to be humble and bow before him. He will then draw near to us, raising us up, giving us purpose, and speaking with us. He does this because he loves to be with his children; the bible is filled to the brim with examples of the Lord speaking--both metaphorically and literally!--to those who seek him.
Worship, as it is intended, is a conversation; a two-way street. We speak to God and God speaks to us. We see this as early as Adam and Eve in the Garden ("And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden...the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you?...Adam said, I heard the sound of You walking in the garden..." [Genesis 3]); it's always been part of the plan.
For worship leaders, this means that we must give time for this conversation to happen. Regardless of whether you are constrained by a tight timeline during a Sunday morning service, or in a casual time of worship where no one is looking at the clock, there are many ways to make room for us to speak to God, and for God to speak to us. Let's linger a bit more in the conversation, and make time to listen to the soft, wonderful, righteous voice of the Father.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from theAmplified Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.