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The Audience of Worship

The picture you see here was captured by my best friend Bill Coleman. I was not aware he was taking the shot at the time, but I am glad that he took it upon himself to do so. It captured a moment in time for me with my youngest son Baylon that I will never forget. The context of the picture is the Summer of 2021 at Student Beach Camp in Myrtle Beach, SC. We had taken the youth and students of our church to this event that assembled thousands of other Youth Ministries from other Churches all over the Southeast. This picture is from one of the corporate worship times in one of the large group gatherings.

I had just stood Baylon up on a chair so that he could see over the crowd. We sang together, clapped together, jumped together, praised God together…and then this moment. To be clear, lifting up hands in worship is not foreign or abnormal to me. It is a regular occurrence as Scripture commands believers to do so in many places of its pages (Psalm 28:2, Psalm 63:4, etc). It would be reasonable to suggest that lifting up hands in worship is not a common occurrence for my 12 year-old, at least not yet. In this moment, I did not verbally or physically prompt him to lift up his hands, nor did anyone from the stage.

I am inclined to say that part of it was as it should be, prompted by the Spirit of God moving in the room. I will also be honest in saying that part of it was prompted by what other teens and students were doing in the room in lifting up their hands also. I am hopeful that the other part of it was because he was watching his daddy worship his Heavenly Father and Savior with passion and love. In any situation, I would want the Spirit of God to be the dominant source of influence for his worship to Jesus. But I also believe the other two sources (peer influence & parents/family) have biblical footing and validity as well. At this point of his life, regardless of how it happened, I’m just thankful that it happened, as it marks one chapter in his faith journey of learning to worship God with joy and passion.

The Bible says in 2 Samuel 6:14-15, that in a moment of worship, King David “danced before the Lord with all his might.” Did you notice the “with all his might” part? Any form of worship should require all of our effort in response to God. But more specifically, it is here that we find the source and inspiration for David’s passion in worship. The reason David was dancing “with all his might” is because he was doing so, “before the Lord.” The Scriptures do not state that David is dancing before the assembly, which has gathered for this occasion. Nor is he dancing for his wife Michal, or the priests, or any of the soldiers and warriors in the audience. He is dancing “before the Lord.” In other words, David’s worship is inspired by and directed to the Lord. He understands that God is his primary audience in worship. This is the case with all worship. It understands its audience, and that audience is the Lord Almighty.

However, in corporate worship, there is also a secondary audience, which is the family of God, fellow believers and church members who have gathered to worship TOGETHER. The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:19, “…be filled with the Holy Spirit.” This part acknowledges the primary influence for worship, which is God’s Spirit. But Paul goes on to say in that verse, “…be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.” Notice again the phrase here, “to the Lord.” God is always the primary audience in worship. But here, Paul also recognizes a secondary audience, which is the Body of Christ. This means our worship will be a horizontal witness and instruction to each other and inspire us to offer passionate vertical worship to the Lord, that pleases Him and gives Him glory. Make no mistake, the Spirit is the primary influence in worship, but peer influences have a place in the corporate gathering as well.

That hot Summer day at Student Beach Camp, in a corporate worship gathering, my youngest son was influenced by both, and it was a beautiful thing. It mattered what the Spirit was doing in his life and in the room that day. It mattered that the other students were going after God in worship. And it also mattered that he watched his daddy setting the pace for him in worship by going after God with all that he had in worship as well. My hands were lifted to the Lord. But those lifted hands also helped a little 12-year-old boy feel more comfortable about lifting up his hands to the Lord.

In a corporate setting, worship is not just about you. Your hands lifted and clapping inspires others. Your dancing, jumping, and rejoicing releases others and sets them free. Your singing changes the atmosphere.

If you are a parent or a grandparent, I assure you that your kids are watching and learning from your worship. What are they learning from you in the corporate worship arena? Does it match your private life at home? What does your worship say and teach about God to them? I assure you they are watching. Sadly, for many children, they are learning from their parents and grandparents all too well how to make corporate worship secondary to everything else, or every other desire in life.

For everyone else, I assure you that your corporate worship affects more than just you. It affects the people around you, and ultimately it speaks to God. What does your worship say about the greatness of God to the desperate and broken people around you? Are they learning anything from you or being inspired by your worship? What does it say to your other family members beside you?

Whatever the response, I assure you that your worship inspires others. The people around us need our passion in worship more than we need our self-imposed dignity that we refuse to give up. In that same passage of 2 Samuel 6, David’s wife Michal chastised him for his passion in worship because she felt it reflected on her dignity and status in the community. David responded in v. 22 of that same chapter by saying, “I will become even more undignified than this.” God had already called David “a man after his own heart” in 1 Samuel 13.

Sadly, the last verse of 2 Samuel 6 states of Michal that “she remained barren the rest of her life.” Though the direct context speaks to her inability to have children, I believe the statement also reflects on the rest of her barren life as well. This was a life void of any willingness to join in the passionate worship of the people in the street as David did. Sadly, it led to a life of barrenness in the window as a spectator.

Look at the picture again. Spoken from one daddy about his experience with his little boy in worship, the moment that boy decided to come out from the behind the window of spectatorship and become a participant, was the same moment we both got a small glimpse of Heaven colliding with earth, and we were better for it, and changed by it forever…as it should be. Perhaps God is waiting on you to do the same.


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