Learning To Worship
Texas Stadium. The home of the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. A classic stadium that has witnessed its share of exciting games and championship-caliber football teams. A roof covers most of the stands, but there’s a hole over the playing field, which the local fans will tell you is designed to allow God to watch his favorite team play. Every Sunday that the Cowboys play at home, thousands of screaming fans jam the stadium to cheer on their hometown heroes. But on one particular day so vivid in my memory, football wasn’t on the schedule, though God definitely came to visit Texas Stadium. More than 60,000 men from Texas and across the Southwest packed every available seat in the stadium for a Promise Keepers rally. Some men came merely out of curiosity. Others came at the invitation of a friend. Some were there because their wives had given them a Father’s Day gift that they dared not refuse.
When the gates opened at 4 P.M., I stood to watch as God answered a prayer I had prayed many times. I had long desired to see the day when men would rush to get a good seat in anticipation of an opportunity to worship together. Promise Keepers began with a dream of thousands of men filling a football stadium singing “Amazing Grace.” I remember Coach Bill McCartney’s words in those early days: “Something happens when God’s men get together; it’s off the charts.” Now here they were, as in zany other cities around the nation. They’d come to celebrate; they’d come to see Lid hear; they’d come to fellowship. Boys and men joyfully gathered as one to sing loudly —and with attitude.
For some, this event was like attending their first professional sports game. Others experienced the thrill of looking around at thousands of other men who were ready to declare their commitment to Jesus Christ. Seeing so many Christians in one place was a joyous revelation for some who had thought they were standing alone.
As a board member and vice president of Promise Keepers, I had already par¬ticipated in nearly forty of these stadium events, but from the opening note of the first explosive song, I knew that this would not be just another night. As the worship continued with great, swelling enthusiasm, the men I watched were connecting with God—many for the first time. This was a sovereign moment in time. I sensed that God was pleased with his sons. I knew that we were standing on holy ground.
The men began to sing the great hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” with hands uplifted, hearts engaged, and tears streaming. Overcome with joy, I cried out as loudly as I could (although only God could hear me above the praise), “God, this is what it’s all about! You’ve brought your sons, as in the Old Testament, to appear before you and worship you as King and Lord.” The men responded to the worship with thunderous applause, as though releasing their joy and adoration for the Lord with a shout was the only appropriate action. That scene is indelibly etched in my heart.
If you have experienced the thrill I’ve described or have enjoyed the heartfelt worship of a retreat campfire where God’s presence was hotter than the heat of the flame, you know that God is up to something in the lives of men in our generation, calling them to worship him. Throughout our land, churches are experiencing revival and renewal. Dr. Jack Hayford, no stranger to the importance and reality of worship says, “We are due for another reformation—a reformation of worship. We need a ref¬ormation to sweep through Christian worship today, providing spiritual food for a relationally disintegrating and spiritually thirsty society.”
I believe that worship holds the key for the renewal of the church. Worship and praise encourage a heightened activity of the Holy Spirit as men give greater glory to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Sincere worship creates an awareness of the presence of God that is desperately needed by today’s confused generation.
EXPLODING THE MYTHS ABOUT MEN
What we have witnessed over the past few years has blown away a major myth in the church: that today’s men can’t be encouraged to worship. Promise Keepers, Man in the Mirror, the National Center for Fathering, Point Man Ministries, and a host of other men’s ministries involved in the National Coalition of Men’s Ministries are proving that men will worship God with great passion and intensity when given an atmosphere of freedom to express who they are. The struggle we have is providing them with that environment of openness and encouraging them to praise God as only men can. But a new sound is being heard across the land. By the millions, men are taking up the command given in Revelation 19:5: “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great” (NASB).
For the most part, worship doesn’t exist in every church or men’s fellowship like it does in a stadium full of men intent on forgetting everything else and focusing on God. The awesome experience of the huge gatherings is not the experience of most men on a regular basis. While serving with Promise Keepers, I received many letters asking how we could help churches to experience the level of worship found at the stadium events. Some of that excitement comes naturally from the size of the event, but don’t believe that you cannot enjoy the same passion in a smaller, local gather¬ing. The size of the crowd might be considerably smaller, but the passion doesn’t have to be less. There are things we can do to enhance our worship and to create a culture and environment of openness in our churches that will allow men—and women—to express their love and passion for God to its fullest measure. Worship cannot be forced, but it most certainly can be encouraged.
The first thing we must do is to establish the truth that men don’t sacrifice their masculinity by lifting praise to God. That’s a childish notion left over from junior high school, when most guys gravitated toward wood shop, drafting, and athletics, while few applied their talents to band, choir, and drama. We must affirm in our churches that praising God with reckless abandon is a very manly pursuit. Look at King David, the “Sweet Psalmist of Israel.” He was no wimp. As a young shepherd, he killed a lion, a bear, and a giant. He also grew up playing his harp and singing beau¬tiful melodies to the Lord.
As leaders, we must understand our importance as role models. I’ve watched men in their church groups at a stadium event look to see if their pastor was partici¬pating before they felt that it was okay to clap, shout, or raise their hands in honor to God. Don’t underestimate the value of giving permission, even though it may not be verbally communicated. Those of us who lead men must encourage them to sing with all their hearts and ability. This may not seem all that important, but over the years. I’ve heard from enough men to make me believe that it is. Unfortunately, the pattern in many churches on Sunday morning is that the worship leader stands up front endeavoring to get everyone to join in, while the pastor stands off to the side failing to participate.
Not everyone can sing with equal ability, but together we can passionately praise our God. Early in the development of Promise Keepers worship philosophy, a choice as made to value passion over perfection. Though we were joined by some of the best musicians and singers around the nation through Maranatha! Music, we didn’t trive for perfection over passion. When an atmosphere is created that allows men to make a joyful noise together, they really get noisy. Pastors and music directors, who for the most part are trained in music, can hinder the worship of men by over¬emphasizing perfection. Set your men free to passionately praise God, even if it doesn’t sound like Take 6 or the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
Passion doesn’t always look very dignified. But God is looking for a generation of men who are not so self-absorbed that they worry what everyone around them thinks. The guys at the stadium events feel free to express themselves because they know that they have an audience of one. Many of them clap, shout, laugh, cry, dance, and raise their hands. Some of them do these things in spite of their traditions or comfort zones.
If your church becomes a place of worship where men can be less self-conscious, it will only take a little encouragement to get them to express it. Again, King David is an excellent example. First Chronicles 15:25-29 tells the story of when he brought the Ark of the Covenant back to the city of Jerusalem after its long absence. Great shouts and rejoicing accompanied this symbol of the presence of God as it was restored to the people.
As the glory of the Lord returned, David removed his ephod and danced and cel¬ebrated. His lack of concern for what anyone thought is remarkable. He gleefully twirled, shouted, and rejoiced. His explosive joy could not be contained. His passion for God spilled over like a young boy who shakes a soda-pop bottle and lets it spray freely. At that moment, David was modeling the joy that God expresses over his people.
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” ( Zeph. 3:17 NASB).
God rejoices over us with singing. With intense emotion coming from his entire being, he pours out his love, affection, grace, and joy. David could do nothing less than imitate God’s explosive, passionate joy. Neither can we.
First Chronicles 15:29 also tells us that when we celebrate, not everyone will like it. David’s wife Michal surely didn’t. She despised him for his extravagance. Perhaps she had learned from her father, Saul—who was always concerned about what other people might think—to value dignity over worship and appearance over praise. When men begin to radically worship God in our churches, there will inevitably be those who will criticize and admonish us to contain our joyful celebra¬tion. Don’t pour water on the fire of God’s Spirit out of concern for how things look. Let’s be more concerned with what God desires than with what other people think.
RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS RELEASE WORSHIP
Right relationships are the key to releasing men to worship joyfully, passionately, and radically. Jesus himself highlighted this truth in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (NASB).
It is clear that if we want our worship to excel, we cannot detach it from the way we relate to others. A lack of freedom and joy that inhibits our worship may be caused by our poor relationships with God and others. Clearing the way for God to manifest his presence in our churches may entail reconciling relationships with our brothers. I’ve heard countless stories about the freedom and joy that is released when hearts are open, pure, and united.
“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever” (Ps. 133:1-3 NASB).
God is clearly moving mightily among the men of our day. He is calling us to come and worship him. Under the proper leadership, all men will sing and praise God—loudly. And when the Lord looks down and sees his sons singing with passion and bringing him pleasure, he’ll favor us and our churches with joy.
THE PASSIONATE PURSUIT OF GOD
True worship of God involves more than our emotional response or physical movement. It springs from our hunger for intimacy with God. The church must encourage meaningful encounters with God, or we’ve missed our calling. Enjoying God through our worship is neither excessive nor abusive. In fact, it should be the normal experience for all believers.
The way worship is modeled in the church can hinder rather than encourage men to worship. Our leaders must be men who enjoy intimacy with God and exhibit a freedom in Christ that will draw men into active participation. Sadly, most leaders do not possess a personal theology of worship or model a lifestyle that reflects a hunger for God.
One of the essential dynamics of the stadium events I’ve attended is a flexible environment that allows for freedom of expression. Because of the diversity of men who attend these events, from a broad range of the body of Christ, one style, tempo. or liturgy is not given preference over another. Likewise, our churches should not aban¬don one style for another just because they want a more contemporary approach. The men’s gatherings of the last ten years have shown us that we can experience the historical substance of hymns and the freedom of praise choruses together in balance. The leaders of men’s ministries in the local church would do well to learn that lesson.
0 Breath of Life, come sweeping through us
Revive Thy Church with life and power
O Breath of Life come cleanse, renew us
And fit Thy church to meet this hour.
BUILDING AN ATMOSPHERE OF WORSHIP IN THE LOCAL CHURCH
When men believe that they can encounter the risen Lord in the midst of their local congregations, they will be encouraged to worship with all their hearts. The following practical steps will help you encourage men to worship.
1. Pray for the men of your church. Pray that the Spirit of God will draw their hearts into worship. God honors prayer that is in accordance with his will, and he clearly desires for us to worship. Don’t keep your desire for greater worship to your¬self. Express your heart to God.
2. Make worship a topic of discussion and study. Your men’s small groups, Bible studies, and prayer breakfasts are good opportunities to discuss and study worship. Most men have very little knowledge and experience when it comes to a Biblical explanation of worship. Because they lack a personal theology of worship, they have no basis upon which to build. A great place to start is with a study of the forms of wor¬ship found in the Psalms.
3. Teach men to worship as a way of life. Too many men have accepted less than God’s best for them in experiencing him. Worship has been isolated to the time when we gather together on Sunday morning instead of describing the fullness of what we Jo in honor of God before his throne. Bring men to a place where they can live a lifestyle of worship. Help them to understand the value of prayer, solitude, disciplined study, confession, and singing to the Lord.
4. Create opportunities for men to worship in a safe environment. Men need space. If you walk into a room of men, you’ll see them spread out all over, because men func¬tion best when given room. Space is more than a physical principle. Provide a safe environment, time to adjust, and an opportunity to grow before asking too much of them. Too many leaders have failed or become discouraged because they forgot that not everyone is as comfortable as they are with singing loudly and participating expressively.
5. Use music designed for men. Don’t expect your men to sing songs that are writ¬ten for someone with a high range. Men love to hear themselves sing in big, bravado tones. Get the music down in a range where they can get to it.
6. Identify men in your church who have musical talent and give them opportunities to use their gifts. Nothing is more encouraging than hearing another man use his voice to the glory of God. Singing is not the only form of public worship, of course. Those who read Scripture, take the offering, preach, and pray are also participating in wor¬ship. The goal is for every person in church to participate in some way, even if they are sitting in a pew. Learn to use the men of your church to assist in the worship serv¬ice, and therefore enhance their participation in the worship of our God.
7. Challenge the men who have caught the vision for worship to encourage other men to participate. Something happens when men worship together. Men like to know that others are involved. It is good if they are asked to participate by someone other than the leader.
8. Make worship tapes and resources available to your men. Let the men of your church catch the vision for worship by experiencing it in their car, home, or office. Organizations that minister to men have learned how valuable music is to the fam¬ily. Many times, the same songs the men like have become the favorite music in the home. Consider picking up some of the Promise Keepers music on CD or finding some music that lifts your spirit and playing it in your home, your office, and your car.
9. Don’t get discouraged. Men don’t change quickly. You won’t develop a dynamic atmosphere overnight, but it will happen as you establish a consistent, inspiring, open environment in which God can be glorified.
The above article, “Learning To Worship” was written by Rick Kingham. The article was excerpted from chapter 14 in Patrick Morley’s book, Effective Men’s Ministry.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”