16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:16-20 NIV.
I was reading the Great Commission again tonight and noticed something I had never seen before. While I had read the Great Commission many times before, I had not recognized the significance of two verses. Verses 16 and 17 are ones we don't include a lot in the Great Commission, but they are critical to understanding the nature and atmosphere of Jesus' instructions of the Great Commission. In verse 16, the disciples (only 11 since Judas was dead) obeyed Christ's command to go to Galilee to the mountain he told them to go to. Now, when they saw Him after His resurrection (verse 17) THEY WORSHIPED HIM! It says some doubted, but look at the significance of this - the church was commissioned to make disciples in the middle of a worship service! In the midst of the disciples hearts of worship Jesus proceeded with His plans of commissioning the church to make disciples. Doubt was present, but it didn't disqualify them. They worshiped in the middle of their doubt (what a message to us). Soon, the disciples would soon receive power (Acts 1:8) to be witnesses, but now was the time of their commissioning.
While the Gospel is central to everything, presenting it was not the first step to building the first church. Yes, Peter preached the words to repent and 3,000 souls were saved, baptized, and added that day. But before that happened, the worship by the disciples created an atmosphere where God could send His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This power was given to be witnesses. Worshiping Jesus before Peter even preached (Acts 2) ushered in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The church as it was (a few disciples) grew closer to God ( in worship), presented the word (evangelism), and then it grew (saved, baptized, and added). Did you see the pattern? Few-worship-evangelize-many. We wonder why sometimes our outreach is stale and evangelism efforts are lacking. Where is the worship that prepares the way? If you don't worship Him in private, you won't profess Him in public! If your countenance, attitude, and character do not reflect Him in the secret, don't be surprised when they don't produce results in public! You can't work up what He is not working in. It is not enough to sit under the word in public - you have to be IN the word in private!
We forget all too soon what worship is really all about. God's glory! We get so technical sometimes. Now, don't get me wrong - we should plan, prepare, study, practice, etc. so we create a worship service pleasing to the Lord. We should put in blood, sweat, and tears to create the best worship environment possible for those we are leading. We should take leading seriously, not loosely. God works in order, not chaos. We should give Him our best during our service preparation. But if it turns into mere mechanics and methods, we have lost focus. We can get so strategic that we worship ONLY so our local church will grow. Yes, our church must grow in worship, but worship, foremost, is meant for His pleasure, not for just the pleasure of those in the congregation. Yes, some in the congregation may or may not like the style, song selection, or service order. But have we stopped to consider, "How does this sound to You, Oh Lord? Master, are you pleased with my heart and actions? Is this pleasing to You?" Here's another example. We sometimes worship the perfect transition, getting a bigger rush when it goes smooth rather than getting excited that God is honored. Another thing we do is "worship" the emotions and reactions of those in the congregation more than the thought of Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father because He is pleased with our worship. We forget the main thing - He is worthy and desires our worship. Worship expresses worthship. What our focus, attention, and resources are directed towards is what we worship.
Worship happens before we ever pick up an instrument. It doesn't even begin with the voice - it begins with the heart. It begins in the Word. We don't read the Word - it reads us! We don't worship Him for our benefit, that is selfishness. We worship Him first for His benefit, that is sacrifice! We do what makes Him happy, not what makes us happy. When you strip away everything - lights, video, just about anything powered by electricity, buildings, ambiance, technique, transition, musicality, atmosphere, environment, style, preference, etc. and all you have left is your spirit and soul, naked before the Lord - worship is in its purest form. How wonderful it is to embellish and accentuate worship with all the things I just listed. We should try and incorporate as many things and senses possible in the worship experience. But you can have all of those and not worship. It is in the secret place where worship takes place. Behind closed doors, the heart of the worshipper and the Lord must unite. We should be romancing Him, surrendering our will and desire to His. The Bride of Christ must become so intimate with Christ that she is ready to receive her Lover uninhibited, becoming vulnerable and open in a passionate expression of devotion so that He, in turn, can impart to her the power of the Holy Spirit to be the church and bear witness of His glory. Here, is where the two become one. Here is where Bride and Groom consummate the holy union of marriage - in worship. It is here where He and we are most satisfied.