Everyday Christian: Returning to the heart of worship

As a born-and-bred Christian, I have grown up with great exposure to the potential of powerful worship. Ironically, growing up as a Christian meant I unknowingly slipped into a cycle in which I lacked any personal conviction about the words I was singing or why I was singing them. That is, until last week, when God intervened and bluntly challenged me to change my attitude towards worship. And it was just the wake-up call I needed.

During our recent COVID lockdowns, churches everywhere transitioned to online services for months at a time as we adapted to virtual platforms and relearned how to ‘do church’. There were perks to online church that I loved. All of a sudden, I could attend in my pyjamas on the lounge. I could eat breakfast during the sermon and wake up at 8.59 am for a 9 am service (don’t try to tell me you didn’t love doing this too). This novel church experience definitely had its advantages. However, it was during this season that I began to adopt a spirit of laziness around my praise and worship.

I’ve attended an ‘arms-raised’ Pentecostal church my entire life, where the worship is expressive, with a ‘do whatever you need to do to get in an atmosphere of worship,’ type of approach. However, during online church, I stopped engaging as much as I sat in the comfort of my living room.

I first stopped raising my arms. Then my singing became mumbles and then hums and then silence, as I often ate breakfast during worship. Eventually, I was fighting the urge to fall back asleep. By this point, some months had gone by, and I had become a passive member of my church, sitting at home with crazy bed hair every Sunday.

I was struggling to find a faith-centred conviction within my church experience.

And then the COVID restrictions eased, and we returned to church in-person. I had to wake up much earlier than 8.59 am to make it to the 9 am service. I had to dress, eat and prepare to go to church. This was all quite uncomfortable at first. It took me a few weeks to feel comfortable raising my hands in worship again, and I found it easy to become distracted by the overwhelm of physical church, so that I missed the heart of worship. I was thriving in the social aspect of congregating and connecting with others, but I was struggling to find a faith-centred conviction within my church experience.

And then God intervened to wake me up. I was in a service last week and I had a sense of great expectation within my spirit. This expectation wasn’t premeditated, but there was an atmosphere of possibility that was too strong to ignore. I felt urged to lean into the worship, and so I did, unsure of where I might be led. I sang with my eyes closed – I’ve known these songs since I was little (another situation in which I think I was too comfortable).

I can’t remember which song was playing, but the lyrics “bring me to my knees” stopped me dead in my tracks. With arms outstretched, I suddenly felt alone in the room and I felt God nudge me: “How long since you have been on your knees? And if I stirred you to do so, would you even be willing?”

Every lyric spoke a new depth that just left me more and more in awe of the truths I had taken for granted for so long.

It felt like a bit of a dig, a valid dig but uncomfortable nonetheless. I was reminded that God is aware of our comings and goings through all seasons, and he was aware of my season of laziness. I don’t mean this to judge anyone else who might be in a season of disconnection or passivity, but I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me, “Come on, let’s go”. So I dropped to my knees in worship and remained there, unsure of how it looked to anyone else or what to do next, but convinced that I was exactly where I needed to be.

During that session of worship, I felt as though I was hearing each song for the first time. Every lyric spoke a new depth that just left me more and more in awe of the truths I had taken for granted for so long. One lyric stayed on my heart, and it has lingered with me this week. It says, “Break my heart for what breaks yours. Everything I am for your Kingdom’s cause.”

I have been meditating on this lyric that was inspired by the Psalms, and I have felt inspired to reignite an authentic passion for worship, fostering opportunities for God to speak to me and challenge me in areas where I need correction. It feels like another challenge from the Holy Spirit. I’ve realised that he is well aware of the accountability that I need in my current season of busyness.

While I became complacent during the season of online church, this week I feel humbled and refreshed by this new revelation of the power of authentic worship. Now I’m committed to rekindling what I imagine a ‘child-like awe’ of our Heavenly Father might look like.