Every worship leader has stood before his or her congregation and wondered what it would be like if we all worshiped more throughout the week. What if our gathering on Sunday morning (or whatever day and time) comprised believers who loved and worshiped Jesus every day — not just for an hour once a week? Rory Noland says in his book Worship on Earth as It Is in Heaven that “private worshipers make the best corporate worshipers” and that “serious worshipers” come to church prepared to offer thanksgiving and praise.
Rory Noland is the author of several books, including The Heart of the Artist, which was a godsend to Christian artists everywhere and especially those who serve in the church. His latest book is written not for artists or even worship leaders but for believers who want to grow in the spiritual discipline of worship. His (and my) aim is not simply to get more people roused up for worship on Sunday morning but for us to live throughout the week in a conscious awareness of God’s presence, as we honor him with the meditations of our hearts.
Worship on Earth is broken up into two parts: (1) Growing as Private Worshiper and (2) Growing as a Corporate Worshiper. In the first part, Noland examines the worship life of David, who is associated with about half of the songs in the book of Psalms. Noland writes about how to make worship a priority and a habit (with wonderful tips on how to do this), and he calls us to turn from idolatry and also to worship amid adversity. In the second part, Noland points us to the book of Revelation and how we can here on earth emulate worship in heaven. He offers wonderful advice for those who struggle to worship corporately.
A Spectator Sport
There is a tendency, Noland acknowledges, for churchgoers to resort to spectatorship. (I’m not sure that’s a word; I may have just made it up.)
There’s nothing wrong with entertainment per se, but when it dominates our lives, it produces a bystander mentality, where we observe life from a distance without getting actively involved. Worship has become a spectator sport. –Rory Noland
I see this every week, and I definitely agree with Noland that no one can worship for anyone else. No one can offer thanksgiving for me, nor I for them. I may be the professional, in the sense that my job is to help people worship, but I am not a priest (or a cantor) assigned to worship for others.
I encourage believers everywhere to read Worship on Earth as It Is in Heaven for you to grow in the discipline of worship. Some of us, artists in particular, have a bent toward expression, but God has created everyone, not just the artists, for worship. And he has some directives in the manner he desires to be honored.
We too need to scour the Bible to learn how God wants to be worshiped. For it doesn’t matter how you and I want to praise God. It’s not ultimately important whether worship makes us feel good or if the music is to our liking. True worship must always be offered on God’s terms, not ours. So we need to learn how God wants to be worshiped. –Rory Noland
(Eaton COB folks, I’ll be preaching on the spiritual discipline of worship in a couple months, but get a jump on the others by reading this book.)