Five years ago my friend Mike Breen tought me about two dominant themes which run throughout scripture: Covenant and Kingdom. On every page, in every story, in some way we see God making a conscious choice to adopt us into a covenantal relationship with Him through his son Jesus, and then He gives us a responsibility to manifest the Good News of his Kingdom through our lives.
Worship, according to the Bible, is the outworking of covenantal relationship and kingdom responsibility.
If your church is like most in America, you probably sing predominantly on one side of this story, the covenantal side. Read the lyrics on the screen the next time you are singing at church. Most of the content of our songs is about how much we love God, and how much He loves us - and this is an AWESOME thing. We would be hopeless without the love of God!
Still, what’s worth noting is the overwhelming omission of confessions that help us grow more aware of the universal reign of the Kingdom of God. Our music, and therefore our thoughts, mostly dwell on our personal relationship with God. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just not God’s holistic definition of worship. God wants more from our worship than our confessions of love to Him. I’ll be so bold to say worship is not worship to God if it’s only confessions of love to Him. Not by his definition of worship, anyhow.
An old testament passage, Amos 5 tells it like it is:
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals....I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it." (Message version)
Isaiah 58 isn’t far behind this passage. Look that one up. God means for our song (our love) to match our life. He means for our love to become fruitful justice bearing images of his Kingdom.
I believe an awakening of a kind of apostolic worship is about to explode in America. I realize the jargon I use to describe it might be weird, but I have to use it, nonetheless.
What I mean by apostolic worship is this: worship that sees our personal love for God and justice come together in ways that make sense in our rhythms of life.
What I mean by that is this: We could live our lives inside recognizable American cultural norms in ways which allow us to enjoy what we know as worship in the temple (covenant) while we regularly do justice making mission in the real context of our daily lives (kingdom).