Some weeks ago, I was attending a worship service that was alive and engaging, wonderfully honest and authentic. The whole congregation seemed connected and focused, even the children. Everyone seemed to lean into the service with great anticipation, and you could tell that people were attentive as the worship leader read the scriptures, the pastor preached the sermon, and the musicians led the singing.
I keep searching for new language to describe what Passionate Worship means. As I watched this particular pastor and music leader, a new thought occurred to me: what I was seeing was pleasure! They seemed to really take extraordinary delight in what they were doing. There was a sense of amazement, surprise, and joy that pervaded the message and the way they presented it, and all of us in the congregation were witnesses to what they were discovering. Itís as if the excitement they found in their spiritual journeys invited us into deeper movement forward on our spiritual journeys.
Now please understandÖ.the sermon was not a happy, upbeat, everythingís-all-right, mushy pabulum. But as the pastor preached, you could see how discovery had worked in her life as she had struggled with the truths of the scripture. The stories she told (not self-indulgent and about real-life people other than herself) exhibited a love for honest conversation, a note of surprise, a real feeling of her own growth in understanding. And it was clear she took great pleasure in her learning and in her sharing! Her honest amazement invited us in and made the truth she was expressing more interesting.
I realize that this seems pretty subjective, but hereís a simple check. Pastors, do you enjoy your own preaching? How much pleasure do you find in exploring the truth of scripture, crafting a sermon, working on creative communication through preaching? Is there a satisfaction you discover, even when soul-work is hard? Do you thrive in this task, or is it a burden to be borne, a have-to requirement for doing this job? And how does your sense of amazement, pleasure, discovery, and learning come through? The same questions could be asked of other worship leaders – readers, musicians, childrenís teachers. For churches that practice Passionate Worship, there seems to be a pervasive subscript to the whole service: ìWeíre on a spiritual journey together that is challenging, important, life-giving and full of surprises and wonder, and youíre invited along with us!î
Sometimes when Iím leading worship, I can hardly wait to get to the sermon. Iím eager to get into it, to tell some of the stories Iíve thought through after immersion in the scripture, to share my amazement at what Iíve discovered.
I donít think this is principally about putting myself in the spot-light or drawing attention to myself. Itís more like the feeling I had a few weeks ago when I looked up into the bright crisp winter night and saw an eclipse of the moon in clear sight. I hadnít known one was expected that night and so I was completely caught by surprise and delight. I reached for my cell phone and immediately called several of my family members to tell them about what I was seeing and to push them out their doors to see it for themselves. Long distance, they shared in my delight and awe. Sometimes preaching involves that same kind of excited and eager desire to share in the pleasure of discovery.
Even with heavy and hard topics that challenge everyone present, including myself, there are times I picture in my mind a particular person who is struggling in the congregation, and I find myself looking forward with eagerness to sharing what God seems to be prompting me to tell. Like our friends in the fourth chapter of Acts, ìwe cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard.î
I havenít heard many people use the word pleasure to describe their experience of the task of worship leadership. On our best days, people see in us the pleasure of our calling. How can we expect people to look forward with eagerness to what we have to say if we ourselves are not filled with some level of eagerness and delight to share it?
Yours in Christ,