Series: The New Humanity
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Tim Gillespie
Live Wonder: Verity Were
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Moe Stiles
Live Purpose: Vanessa Rivera
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: John 4:1-26 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Did you grow up singing songs that were great but never changed in terms of their meaning, or can you remember a time when songs began to become something different for you, something more than catchy tunes? Maybe that hasn’t happened for you yet. Ask yourself: what is the difference between song service and worship?
If you grew up in the church, you grew up singing songs but you didn’t necessarily grow up in a culture of praise and worship. What is the difference between worship and song service? And when we say that the new humanity are “worshippers,” what do we mean?
I can remember being at the Willow Creek leadership summit for youth ministry back in the early 1990s, and as we all filed into this huge worship center (it probably sat 3,000 people) I noticed that there was just one piano, a spotlight, and nothing else on the stage. This was not what I was expecting at all. I was sure we were going to a megachurch where the drums, lights, and sound would be so amazing that I would feel like I was at a great concert.
However, that is not what happened. One guy walked out on stage, smiled at the audience, and sat down at the piano. He simply started playing, and as he did so, a kind of focus settled on the room that I had not experienced in all my lifelong church attendance. People were prepared to submit to the Holy Spirit, and I would say that they fully expected the Holy Spirit to be there. This was new to me.
I grew up in great churches with amazing music, but it was always of the very traditional organ/classical variety. The music at Willow Creek was in a language much closer to my native tongue. Singing songs—even songs I had never heard— with the help of lyrics presented on screens did a couple of things: 1) It freed me from the hymnal. With nothing in my hands, they were free to move a bit, and 2) It allowed me to focus just on the words, not on trying to read the music.
Now, 25 years later, it seems somewhat silly that this experience would have changed my perspective on musical worship, but it really was a watershed moment. It changed everything for me. I am not sure if I ever saw worship the same way in church again. I have spent the last 25 years working tirelessly to engage people in worship in the way that I was engaged that day.
Worship begins when we drop our preconceived ideas about what is appropriate, what is holy, and when we allow God to speak to us in our own language, in our own hearts. Through that process, there is a submission to the will of God for our worship and as the Holy Spirit inhabits our praise, the individual worship elements come to mean something more than they have before.
Recalibrate: Have you had a transformative experience in worship? What happened that made it so meaningful? Have you been able to have that experience again?
Respond: Try your hand at writing a praise song today, or at the very least a chorus or a verse. It can come out of scripture or your own heart. Sing it into your phone. This is just for you, so don’t worry about how it sounds or how it “should” be. Whatever comes from your heart is enough!
Research: Read Desiring the Kingdom (Cultural Liturgies): Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith.
Remember: “God is spirit. Those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, ICB).
Dr. Timothy Gillespie is lead pastor of Crosswalk Church in Redlands, CA. He also teaches at several universities and consults on mission integration for Adventist Health.
What is it that your little one loves to do? Do that activity together with them. Notice how your child is so focused on the activity. Often if they have to stop they cry and cling to what they love, not wanting to stop ever. Let’s love Jesus like that—with everything we have and with all that we are.
Have you ever tried to run and hold your breath at the same time? Try it and see how it goes. How far did you get? Our body needs our arms and legs and our heart and lungs to all work together so we can run. Our Words to Remember are telling us the same thing. Those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth. With every breath we are to worship God, knowing that He gave us breath to do just that.
My father is an early riser. Not just any early riser, not the quiet “let’s not wake up the whole household” kind. When my father wakes, he ensures the whole household wakes with him.
I grew up in a home where worship was the thing you did in the early hours of the day regardless of whether you were fully alive. Question: Do you like staying up late at night and waking up late or, do you prefer to go to bed early and rise early? If you are a late-to-bed person, you’re said to be a “night owl.” Early risers are usually called, “morning people.” I am a night owl. I have a tendency to get a lot of things done in the late hours of the night (well, usually), but once I am asleep, I love to sleep! I wish I could say I wake up late but unfortunately this has never been an option in my household, not then nor now. My father, being an early riser, loved to “do worship” before the worms wake up. He normally gets up at 4:00 a.m. (when I have my best sleep), and would wake us up, I kid you not, at 5:30 a.m. Sometimes he would be kind enough to wake us up at 6:00 a.m. to have family worship. I was not a happy camper—I was a grumpy worshiper at 6:00 a.m. and even worse at 5:30 a.m.—especially when forced to not only wake up but stay awake for worship. My siblings and I now joke about those times and how nuts our dad was for torturing us like that.
Here’s the thing: My father is a faithful worshipper and that time of the morning was his best time to talk to God. He still, to this day, wakes up early and prays for each of his children by name, his grandchildren by name, and his great grandchildren by name. I used to get so grumpy with him for waking us up, but now I am thankful to be blessed by his faithful prayer and worship. I have not passed on that ritual to my own family for various reasons. Worship is a response and an act from one’s being to God. It is not confined to one particular time of day nor space. God is awake all night and day, according to the Psalmist. He does not sleep nor slumber! God can be worshiped anytime, anywhere. This idea took me a long time to experience. I was so conditioned to only ever “do worship” at a certain time behind closed doors— but once I realized the fact that God can be worshipped anytime, anywhere my road trips became the most amazing worshipful experiences ever. My family will testify to this—I’m a happy clappy hand raising groovin’ worshipper! What are your thoughts on worship? Is worship for you day-based or based in time or space or place? Do you only worship standing up, sitting down, kneeling? Have you ever had a worshipful experience where you felt like you were truly giving God all of your attention and time, and your heart burst with gratefulness?
Have you ever heard someone say that they’re hangry? You probably think they’re saying hungry in a weird way but then later realize the person is a hungry angry person—hangry. At some point I think we are all guilty of being hangry. Once, I was touring around the city of Chicago with my now fiancé Ricky and we hadn’t eaten for hours. We had walked pretty far out in an area with places to eat. I hadn’t eaten in hours and didn’t have any snacks with me. Ricky offered to buy me a pretzel from a food stand and I snapped at him and said, “Wow, that isn’t even real food. No thanks!” He was so surprised at how I reacted that he started laughing because he had never seen me so angry. I didn’t think it was funny in that moment but now I think how ridiculous I was being. When our physical needs aren’t met, we don’t tend to be happy. Read through the text. How was Jesus feeling at the beginning of the passage? How tired was He? How thirsty do you think He was?
Verity Were is a registered nurse at the largest pediatric intensive care unit in Sydney, Australia. She attends Kellyville Adventist church with her husband and two toddlers.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Moe Stiles is lead pastor at Oasis Church in Vancouver, WA. She is married to Adrian and is mother to Caleb and Johnny.
Vanessa Rivera is a therapist at a community mental health center in Denver, CO, and serves as the faith engagement pastor at Boulder Church.