Tough statement. I think I might actually hate it.
I mean, don’t get me wrong; this statement is unequivocally true. What happens in your private life matters if you stand on a stage and lead worship. What happens in your private life will “overflow” into the thing you do to help people experience the presence of God. Depending on what your private life looks like, that’s good news. Or bad news.
I suppose I hate this statement because it places a burden on you. On me. On every single person that leads worship for their churches every weekend. It’s a good weight, but it can feel awfully hard to bear sometimes.
Because, in the age we live in, in the age of technics, access, and the obliteration of privacy by technology, ceaseless information, push notifications and digital disruption, being alone, much less alone with God, is hard.
The dark side of “Worship Is Overflow” is that if we allow worship to be something other than the overflow of our private, relentless pursuit of God, then we can end up hollow husks standing on stage, muscle protein leaking into our voices, and soon enough, shipwrecked.
So, with as much humility as I can muster, I would like to offer a few thoughts about how worship can be the good kind of overflow for you and how I try to cultivate that daily.
Private worship is about a person and about being in the presence of that person. I definitely get this when it comes to singing in the church. But for some reason, it’s hard for me to remember this about my private devotional life. I think much more in terms of the functional requirements of a “quiet time” than I do about being in the presence of Jesus and responding to what He’s doing. It really helps me to use the word “conversation” instead of “devotions”: “I’m going to carve out some time this morning to have a conversation with Jesus” instead of “Time for devotions!”
Rattle the cages. My friend, Mark Tindall, and I recently had a conversation about the aim of corporate musical worship. We agree that we don’t want worship to “deflect off of us” but to engage with it, to allow it to rattle around inside of us. When I think about reading the Bible, I think about it this way - I’m going to read the Scriptures until I stumble on something that starts to rattle around inside of me. And then I’ll sit with it for awhile, thinking about it, savoring it, and allowing it to speak to me.
God is at work all the time. My spiritual director always asks me, “What was God doing when you were playing with your kids?” Or “How did you see God at work while you were having that conversation?” It’s so easy to overlook the truth that God is always with us! “Pray continually” does not mean that we’re to spend the entire day with our hands folded, and heads bowed, but means that everything we do is with an awareness that it’s in the presence of the One who loves us. Almost like, as a preacher said once, we have a conversation in the morning with God on the phone and then we forget to hang up. And then go about the rest of our day.
In the end, worship is ALWAYS overflow. Embracing these mindsets may make this overflow something good. If our aim is to lead worship well, we have to pay attention to our interior life.
How will you pay attention to yours? Which one of these three mindsets could you embrace over the next weeks?