Maintaining a Vibrant Worship Lifestyle

I’ve recently finished rereading A.W. Tozer’s book, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship, a short but excellent book on worship, both public and private, as the goal of the Christian’s life.  Though Tozer died in 1963, his writing is still relevant for the church today.  Today, I’d like just to give a “Reader’s Digest” presentation of Tozer’s final chapter, Maintaining a Vibrant Worship Lifestyle. I find this both refreshing and challenging, and pray that his writing may inspire and encourage you in your life of worship before our Lord.

… Worship is not an event but a lifestyle. The more we treat worship as an event, the more it becomes a caricature of God’s intention, and is unacceptable to Him.  To maintain a lifestyle of worship, we must attend to it on a daily basis. If you regulate worship to a once-a-week event, you really do not understand it, and it will take a low priority in your life.

By nature, worship is not some performance we do, but a Presence we experience.  Unless in our worship we have experienced the Presence of God, it cannot rightly be called Christian worship… It is my contention that once we experience the actual presence of God, we will lose all interest in cheap Christianity with all its bells and whistles vainly trying to compete with the world.

For worship to be a vital part of everyday life, it must be systematically and carefully nurtured.  These are a few things that have helped me in my journey along the way with God.

Quiet: I firmly believe it is important to get still and wait on God. Noise is the enemy of the soul… Cultivating quietness is a missing discipline in today’s Christian church. There seems to be a wretched conspiracy in many churches to rob the saints of the quietness necessary to nature their inner life, which is hind in Christ in God.

Scripture:  All worship should begin with the Bible. This divine roadmap leads us to God. Put the Bible in a prominent place in your daily life and allow nothing to interfere with reading it and meditating on it. Our reading here should not be a marathon, but a slow, deliberate soaking in of its message. Bible reading calendars are no help here.  Often we regiment ourselves to a daily Bible reading schedule and hurry on in our reading to keep up. The importance of reading the Bible is not reading but fellowship with the Author.

Prayer: In your prayer life, quickly move beyond the idea of “getting things” from God. Prayer is not a monologue where we tell God what we think or want. Rather, it is a dialogue between two friends; an intimate fellowship that more often than not surpasses words.

Hymns: Let any new Christian spend a year prayerfully meditating on the hymns of Watts and Wesley alone, and he will become a fine theologian. It has been a successful ploy of the enemy to separate us from those lofty souls who reveled in the rarified atmosphere of God’s presence. I suggest you find a hymnbook and learn how to use it.

Devotional Reading: The devotional works of bygone saints can help us on our way. I am not thinking of those daily devotionals popular today. They have value for those just beginning their spiritual pilgrimage, but the growing Christian needs strong meat.

Simplify Your Life: The average Christian’s life is cluttered with all sorts of activities.  Too many things in our life just suck the life out of us and are not essential to wholesome living. We find ourselves rushing through the devotional aspects of our life to give predominance to mere activities.

Friendships: It is easy for our friends to distract us from our walk with Christ and from maintaining a vibrant life of worship. Cultivate friendships with this who have made He who is the Friend of sinners their constant companion.

Adapted from: Tozer, A. W. The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship. (Bethany House; Bloomington, MN. 2009) pages 177-185.

Readings from the Pastor’s Desk – Here are a few of the interesting articles I’ve come upon this week:

3 Things Not to Say at the Start of Worship: This one caught me short – do I say any of these things when we come together for worship?  Sometimes, as a worship leader, it’s difficult to know what to say, and you don’t wan to fall into a routine of saying the same thing every time you come together.  Just some food for thought.

Who is Richard Rohr?  I was recently asked this, and while I had heard the name, and was leery of his teachings, I wasn’t sure why?  Here is an article looking into the teachings of Richard Rohr that may be helpful.

What is the Emerging Church?  This is another question I was asked this week, and I wasn’t really prepared to answer.  While the Emerging/Emergent Church Movement was all the talk more than 10 years ago, you don’t read much of it today, though it still has left lasting effects on the church.

More Recommended Reading

Every now and then I like to share with you the books that I have read.  I do this not to say, “Hey look at how much I read,” but, rather, to encourage you with some of the resources that have been an encouragement to me and to my ministry.  I hope that these resources will be a blessing to your faith.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxes.  ”In Hitler’s Germany, a Lutheran pastor chooses resistance and pays with his life… Eric Metaxas tells Bonhoeffer’s story with passion and theological sophistication, often challenging revisionist accounts that make Bonhoeffer out to be a ‘humanist’ or ethicist for whom religious doctrine was easily disposable… Metaxas reminds us that there are forms of religion — respectable, domesticated, timid — that may end up doing the devil’s work for him.” — Wall Street Journal

One of the hardest things for a biography is making the written account of a life seem worthwhile reading, but that is precisely where Metaxes’ book excels.  Giving a comprehensive view of Bonhoeffer’s life, theology, work, and passion, the book makes you feel a part of the story more than a distant observer.  And while you know how the story ends, you find yourself praying for the impossible, for escape, release, for freedom and love to triumph (which, in some ways, truly does).

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Tim Keller.  I have really come to enjoy Tim Keller’s writing.  In books like The Prodigal God, and Counterfeit Gods Keller applies great perspective and insight from Scripture to our lives today.  King’s Cross is not different.  Walking through the Gospel of Mark, Keller shows how Christ has come to cut through all the layers we have used to insulate our broken and dying souls, so that he might bring us to new life.  “Keller shows how the story of Jesus is at once cosmic, historical, and personal, calling each of us to look anew at our relationship with God.”

 The Purpose of Man: Designed for Worship, by A.W. Tozer.  We all can recite the first answer of the Westminster Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  But what does it really mean that our purpose in life is to live for God’s glory?  Tozer, a minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance from 1919 to 1963, argues that in the Garden, man did not have to ask what it meant to worship God, because he lived with and communed with the very presence of God.  But since the fall, this sweet communion has been lost, and with it, we have also lost our very purpose in life.  Tozer suggests that Christ overcame “death and rose again from the grave… that he might make worshipers out of rebels.”  A powerful yet easy read, I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in regaining a passion for worshiping God.

 Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person who ever Lived, by Rob Bell.  Okay, a disclaimer first.  I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book.  As a matter of fact, I pretty much disagreed with everything written in it.  I did not appreciate Bell’s use of Scripture (taking things grossly out of context, or basing an entire argument on one verse while ignoring other passages that might contradict his conclusions), neither do I think that his “deconstructionist” (my term, not his) view of the Church, the Faith, or the Bible is at all helpful to the Kingdom of God.  I do not recommend this book to those who are not well versed in Scripture or secure in their reformed faith.

Still, I pass it along to you for this one reason: often times we who think we know what we believe and why need to be challenged out of our complacency (which was one of the reasons I attended Princeton Theological Seminary).  Being confronted by something that goes against everything you believe can sometimes help you come to articulate and reform your faith.  Bell’s book on Hell has done that for me.  There were times I couldn’t stand the book.  I’ve highlighted and written my comments throughout his pages.  But, praise the Lord, Bell caused me to go back to the Bible and reread what I thought it said, discover what it doesn’t say, and reevaluate my beliefs accordingly.  In that regard, I cautiously recommend this book (just don’t let your evangelical friends catch you reading it).

Good Reading!