Today, was my first day back at school following my last exam at uni and after 12 years of working life. It was quite a surreal experience. I almost felt like I should have packed a piece of fruit and a muesli bar and 15% juice in a tetrapak. I also wondered whether the cool kids would want to sit with me.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but I was glad to be back studying again, even if it was just for one week at the Worship Module of Arrows College with Pastor Ray Badham of Hillsong College teaching on worship and songwriting.
The first thing that really amazed me was just how many students had set aside 10 weeks of their life to complete the Arrows course. There were people from all generations and all walks of life. I was really impressed by a young worship leader from Faith Community Church who decided to step out of the comfort zone of his job as an accountant in a Big 4 firm to pursue God’s call for his life in church ministry.
During the morning chapel time, Pastor Benny Ho shared an insight from John Maxwell about three zones that we can live in: the challenge zone; the comfort zone and the cruising zone. When we operate in the challenge zone, this is where we are stretched and stimulated, ultimately leading to our growth. When we are in our comfort zone, all we are doing is something we already know. The worst is when we fall into the complacency of the cruising zone. This essentially leads to stagnancy and death. Pastor Benny encouraged us to always reinvent ourselves and put ourselves back on the shelf of the challenge zone.
I feel that this year, God has really challenged me beyond the things I am used to – particularly in the context of ministry where I am stepping out to do more things within the city itself. I feel completely out of my depth but at the same time needing to rely on God all the more.
So there I was, sitting in a class of 30 or so students, hoping that God would somehow speak to me about this next phase of my journey. I didn’t come with much of an agenda, except perhaps that I was getting a bit tired of my day job and hoping that this will be a week of refreshing and re-firing and being receptive to whatever God would say to me.
Today was also about going back to school on the basics of worship.
Pastor Ray shared about what worship is: essentially making the point that it is a lot more than just what we do on Sunday.
I have in two previous posts, Defining Worship and Defining Worship Part 2 sought to define worship. Looking at worship in contrast to idolatry, Pastor Ray adopted Timothy Keller’s definition: “worship is ascribing ultimate value to something in a way that engages the whole being.” And Pastor Ray shared that the primal design and direction of our lives is to worship God. When idolatry comes in, it distorts our lives.
Martin Lloyd-Jones says this:
An idol is anything in my life that occupies a place that should be occupied by God alone… An idol is something holds such a controlling position in my life that it moves and rouses and attracts me so easily that I give my time, attention and money to it effortlessly.
The psalmist observes in Psalm 135:15-18:
The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them
We become like what or who we worship. And that is why Paul says in Romans 1:18ff that as a result of idolatry, God gave humanity over to futile and foolish thoughts and to the degradation of their bodies.
True worship on the other hand transforms us into the image of God. So worship transforms us in an upward spiral towards becoming more and more like Christ, from glory to glory, strength to strength. As Christ-followers, we don’t always engage in true worship, but when we do, transformation is always the result.
We often equate worship with music and singing, but it was great to be reminded about this foundational truth: Worship is much more than what happens on a Sunday. It is about ascribing God his true worth and in the process being changed to be more like HIm.