This blog and journaling are from Pastor Shawna M. Diehl, a doctoral student at Christian Leadership University.
Worship is a high priority at the church where I pastor. In fact, I served for many years as a worship leader before planting Church on Fire. We have been blessed as a church to feel a strong sense of the presence of God as we gather for worship. However, lately something has seemed off. I thought it was just me until one of our leaders brought it up at a meeting. I know that the people in our congregation love the Lord and were worshipping Him, but maybe the Lord was trying to lead us to a deeper understanding of worship. So I asked Him about it, “Papa, something seems off in our worship experience. Can You help me to understand what we are missing?”
And, as He often does, the Father asked me a question in response. “Do you worship for an experience? If so, are you worshipping the experience or Me? I know that you love My presence and worship can help you be more aware of My presence. However, judging the success of a worship service by whether or not you have an experience is not the way to go about it. How do you connect with My presence?”
“I just turn my heart to You,” I replied, “I don’t have to sing or dance or anything to feel Your presence. I just say, ‘Hey Papa!’ ”
“That’s right! So worship from that place of connection. That is the experience you are seeking anyways. Worshipping to earn an experience of My presence is servant mentality and I want you to behave like My daughter.”
At this point I knew I had to repent. I had been treating the Father like a drug dealer. I gave Him worship and He gave me the high of His presence. I also repented to my church for judging our worship services based on what people were experiencing.
In his book On Loving God, 12th century monk, Bernard of Clairvaux wrote about the difference between loving God for what we could get from Him and loving Him for Himself. What the Lord described to me as a servant mentality, Bernard describes as a mercenary mentality. The irony of loving God because of what it gets me is that, “where there is self-interest there is isolation.” Maybe this was what I was beginning to feel in the worship setting where I wanted to have an experience rather then being satisfied with simply loving God.
Bernard also writes that reward of love is the object that one loves. If my affection is turned towards an experience all I will ever have is an experience. But if my affection is turned towards God then the reward will be intimacy with the one my heart desires. Isn’t this the way God is with us? He doesn’t love us because of what we can do for Him or even because we worship Him. He is simply head over heels in love with us!
There was one more thing the Father wanted me to know. He reminded me of Ephesians 5:18-19 which says, “...be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit…” (NIV). The place of connection in worship isn’t just vertical. The Father wants His children to feel connected to, loved and accepted by those they are worshipping with. Worship is to include speaking to one another and encouraging each other in our connection with the Father. When we connect first with God and each other then we begin worship as sons and daughters already living from the experience of intimacy with our loving Father.