Every Sunday, Christians gather and create an expression of corporate worship. We pour out our hearts, giving everything we have, if we’re present in the moment. We tell Jesus how much we’re thankful for everything he did on the cross. We ask the Holy Spirit to renew us and guide us.
Does it count for anything? Yes, but what we do in private is as important as anything we can do in public when it comes to following God.
I’ve been searching for greater fulfilment in my daily life – trying to figure out what makes something worth doing. I realised that I’ve been rating my success or worth based on what happens in front of others, or what I can prove. Humanity’s existence in general – at least in Western society – has become this way.
Think about it: we share our highlights with each other, in connected virtual environments that we call social media. We get a secret high when 167 people ‘liked’ that photo of our day at the beach. We hope others will cherish our moment as we share. Sometimes the highlights aren’t even our own. We feed the culture by picking moments shared by others as standouts, which we will never revisit or ask them about.
Round and round we go, doing life like that. We learn that if we look good in front of someone, we’ll feel great about who we are. Being vulnerable and real about how we’re doing, makes us look weak. Then we end up feeling alienated or depressed.
It’s hard to be ourselves, let’s admit it.
This causes us to share anything we can to make it all about how awesome we are, or what we’ve achieved. Then we fall into the habit of looking good, even when we don’t feel like it. It’s incredibly narcissistic, and unfortunately, it affects how we relate to God.
This is killing our worship life.
If you go to church, you might have heard a preacher use this analogy before: ‘ministry’ is like a stage. What people see is the front stage – all the lights, smoke and sound. But what powers it all is the backstage – all the amps, wiring and effort that no-one sees. The point is, if your back stage isn’t in check, your front stage will fail.
The problem with this illustration is that it makes out like the front stage is the best, exciting part. It fails to acknowledge that a private, personal relationship with God is the greatest form of success we’ll ever have. That blows any kind of ministry out of the water.
Jesus, in Matthew 6:5-7 (ESV) said: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
This tells us that our private life of devotion is far more important to God than anything we do in front of others.
Jesus called us to be an authentic people that live in relationship with God – like children. We can’t enjoy talking and listening to God if, at some point in the day, we’re not completely ourselves at some point in the day. We also can’t hide anything from Him, so if we want relationship with God, it’s got to be authentic. There’s no other way.
Jesus called us to be authentic behind closed doors – or, if you’re a fan of acronyms, ABCD. It’s important that we spend time being ourselves with God in private.
With practice and hard work, anyone can be a great worship leader. But it’s the sound of an authentic heart behind closed doors pouring out devotion to God that makes a great worshipper. This is what matters to God more than anything.
We need to be real about what this looks like for the Church, in our worship teams and with those we entrust to preach and teach God’s word, because that matters far more than anything we do on a stage.
If you want to know God and have a relationship with Him, you’ve got to be real about the way you do that in private.