Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Worship Is All About

Tonight I watched something that brought tears to my eyes. If you know me, that rarely happens. But it is not every day that you see an act of sincere worship. Worship for no reason other than to say, "God, I love you. We love you. And we hope this pleases you."

Debbie and I attended worship at Saddleback Church tonight in Lake Forest, California. I've always been curious about Saddleback. Not curious enough to fly 1,800 miles to check it out, but since we are hoteling about 30 miles from them we decided that this would be a fitting way to end our L.A. vacation.

It's an amazing little facility they have there. Unlike most mega-churches, most of it is outside. It's a weather-friendly area. We made our way into the worship center about 30 minutes before the service began. The place began to slowly fill up. I honestly don't know how full it got. As the worship band began playing and the singing began I found myself half participating and half observing. Honestly, it was an awesome experience. You could feel the energy from the worship leaders. They seemed, even early on, to be into it. Deeply.

Eventually Rick Warren spoke. I had never heard him deliver a sermon before but this one nailed me. I mean, dead in the heart. But never mind.

At the end of the evening we were invited to participate in communion as we left the room. The worship band began playing in earnest. After a few minutes Debbie and I made our way to the rear of the auditorium and found one of the tables where the communion elements were prepared. Each person served themselves and spent as much time as they desired in doing so. Debbie and I finished our private time with God and we turned back toward the stage. The room had emptied out. The worship band played on. They played as though the room were full. I stood amazed as I watched their leader dismiss most of them, one group at a time. Eventually there were about 10 musicians left on the stage. They began playing "Grace Greater Than All Our Sin." Rick Muchow, the worship leader sang quietly. I looked around the center ... the worship center that holds 3,800 people. I turned and counted. There were 30 people left in seats. Thirty. This would be the end. Everybody had gone on and were on their way to homes and restaurants. And then I saw Rick look at the 10 musicians and pat the top of his head. I'm not a musician but I knew what he meant. "Take it from the top." And they did. The soothing strings of the violins. The beauty of the flute. The single acoustic guitar. Each of them looked upward, not focused on any human being. Lost in reverence and awe. And I realized ... there is only one reason for them to still be playing. There are 30 people here. Less than one seat in every one hundred was filled. And yet they played with more heart than they had all evening. You see, they ... the worship leaders ... were worshipping. They were not leading others in worshipping. They were worshipping themselves. The could be no other reason. They played through two more worship songs before wrapping it up. They played every note and every verse to God alone. And you know what? In twenty minutes the worship center would fill again and they would start all over. They didn't seem to mind. Their spirits were connecting with The Eternal.

It was not a job for them tonight. It was not really even a ministry for them tonight. Tonight I saw raw worship. Musicians playing, singers singing, for the simple purpose of making God smile.

That touched me far more deeply than any act of service I have seen in a long, long time. Thank you, Saddleback, for reminding me of what it is all about.


Anonymous said...

You CANNOT worship God enough. Sometimes we get into a rut and feel our normal worship is not as good as other worship. You go on vacation you worship in a different way and when you come home your normal worship seems new. Worship is good when you are worshipping God. Wish I was there with you.

Dennis Dawson said...

dude...had a similar experience at Saddleback some years ago when they were still meeting in a big tent...great reminder!