‘The heart of worship’
Chris Cartwright reflects on a life of worship, and in the life to come.
For any teenager in the 1970s attending an Elim church, Sunday worship service meant hymns from the red Redemption Hymnal and choruses from the yellow Elim Chorus Book.
In many ways, the two provided the train tracks for every gathering. The Pentecostal Movement in general and Elim, in particular, had been birthed in meetings with passionate singing and worship.
Sung worship was indeed one of the defining features of any Pentecostal meeting and I vividly recall the power of an Elim congregation singing some of the great hymns of the historic church alongside the vast number of ‘choruses’, new songs, many of which had been written by Elim people out of the overflow of their own experience of the gospel.
By the mid-1970s new songs were also beginning to appear in our churches from a move of God over in California where millions of hippies, surfers and generally alternative types came to faith in Jesus.
From Maranatha Music to Keith Green and Larry Norman, a new generation of disciples of Jesus with their long hair and guitars began to write songs of praise to express their newfound love for Jesus.
In the midst of all this, I bought an album that caught my eye in the local Christian bookstall. It changed my experience of worship. Little did I know that Andraé Crouch and the Disciples’ ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ would have a deep impact on my life that would last to this very day.
Andraé was a pastor’s kid from Los Angeles. His father led a small church with no musicians but an old piano.
At 11 years of age, Andraé sat at the piano as his dad laid hands on him asking God to give him the ability to play so they could worship the Lord more fully.
And that’s exactly what happened.
God gave Andraé a gift of music and songwriting that would go way beyond his local church to bless and encourage believers worldwide.
We had an old radiogram at home, and I can still remember putting the vinyl record on the turntable as song after song swept me, it seemed, from my front room into the presence of thousands of others praising Jesus with passion and joy.I can probably still sing the entire album from memory.
What I discovered that day was that worship is not merely formal but something that is to engage and impact our whole being.
In the years to come the UK church would see fresh waves of worship songs and expressions which would bless and strengthen the church for a fresh season.
What’s more, as pastors and teachers engaged with the Bible’s teaching on living a life of worship, we would also see a deepening of our understanding of worship as one of the primary callings for every believer.
At times we became distracted by the song and the music over the object and focus we were singing about. At times we got caught up in the performance rather than the miracle and mystery of being able to participate together in blessing God with our infant praises.
Yet I thank God for the blessing of those years and pray that every generation will be renewed in their worship of Jesus.
Our worship really matters to God. It is for him and him only. He has called us all to be worshippers in spirit and in truth. That’s not just a one-hour-a-week obligation. It’s a daily invitation.
There will come a time when every evangelist will stop evangelising.
There will come a time when the prophets will no longer prophesy.
There will come a time when the pastors will stop pastoring in the very presence of the great Shepherd of the sheep.
There will come a time when the counsellors will stop counselling.
In Glory, in the presence of God, all other ministries will be laid down at his feet. But worshippers will never stop worshipping. We will worship him for all eternity.
In the meantime, in the words of Matt Redman’s beautiful song and prayer: “I’m coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it when it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus.”
This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered directly to your home.
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