“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
We are creatures of habit. If we don’t find ways to remind ourselves why we do what we do, we’re prone to just go through the motions, if not adopt some new underlying motivation altogether. Which can be especially dangerous in worship.
For songwriter and worship-leader Matt Redman, this lesson came in a remarkable experience that was both personal and corporate. In the late 1990s, the preaching pastor at Redman’s church in Watford, England, sensed that their worship gatherings were going flat spiritually, that the congregation was going through the motions, and worship wasn’t flowing from the heart, like true Christian worship must.
“There was a dynamic missing,” says Redman, “so the pastor did a pretty brave thing. He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”
More Than a Song
During this season, the pastor challenged the congregation to be participants in worship, not consumers. To come ready to engage with God for themselves, from the heart, not just watch with their eyes. He wanted them to come as worshipers, not as concert-goers. With the band and sound system gone, it made for an unforgettable time in the life of the church as they sang a cappella only, and an unforgettable lesson about worship.
“Before long,” say Redman, “we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and he commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”
All About Jesus
Imagine that experience as you sing, “When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come...You search much deeper within...You’re looking into my heart.” Good music, catchy beats, talented musicians, even the friends and loved ones with whom we worship — these are all good things, and wonderful in the context of corporate worship. And yet when we focus on them, rather than Jesus, we are losing the heart in our worship.
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The essence of worship is not the many good externals, but heart and head. Spirit and truth. Our spirit, stirred by the Holy Spirit, in worship over true things about God, his Son, and his gospel.
The heart of worship is our heart, delighting in Jesus and expressing praise to him for the true things the Scriptures teach us about who he is and what he has accomplished for us. It is all about Jesus, not about us. It involves us, but we’re at the periphery. He’s at the center. He’s the focus. It’s his preferences we consider first, not our own. This is a song about refocusing, and re-centering, and reminding ourselves why we worship — and who we worship.
Back to the Heart
This is also a song of repentance and re-consecration, not just in worship, but all of life. Periodically, we all need a soul check. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). We’re so easily distracted from the main things — especially from the main person, Jesus. Sing these words in a spirit of worship and with a heart of repentance for how prone we are to wander and how often this has been not just Matt Redman’s story, but our own story.
Jesus is greatly honored when we bring ourselves, with the Holy Spirit’s help, back to the heart of worship again and again.