What will the landscape of worship look like in five years? 10 years? 25 years? For me, these are important questions. And although I claim no special insight regarding my own questions, I remain intensely interested in the directions our stewardship of worship might go.
But beyond such futurist reflections, I remain captured, perhaps even captivated, by a personal commitment to discovering and encouraging what I call a “sustainable models of biblical worshipâ€ in the local church.
In this regard, three questions regularly tease my thinking.Â First, “Will anything in the present worship renewal endure after all the worship wars and conferences have ceased?”Â A second question is this â€“ â€œin regards to biblical worship, how do those of us who lead worship learn to faithfully keep the ‘main thing,’ the main thing?”Â My final and perhaps most important question follows: “What is the Lord really after in this amazing renewal of worship?”
Whenever I mentally process these questions, I almost always return to one biblical concept, what I call â€the amazing power of gratitude” in the life of a believer, regardless of their role in the church. Now I know that gratitude as a worship concept is not new, and it’s probably not as flashy as say, the â€œpostmodern” dilemma. Â But I’ve come to believe that gratitude is, in fact, the ” true north” of what I call “sustainable biblical worship.”Â So while the word itself may not have a lot of pizzazz, the truth it carries continues to have transformative power in the life of the worshiper.
Gratitude itself is multi-faceted:
Gratitude is GRACE DEPENDENT: At the root of the Greek word for “thanksgiving” (eucharistia) lies the oft-noted Greek word for grace (charis). From the very word itself, it appears that authentic God-honoring worship should be “grace-dependent,” that is, responsive to the magnitude of grace revealed in Jesus Christ. In worship, we express our thanksgiving as a delight over God’s grace, not as a duty to be endured or as a musical pattern to be championed. Gratitude thrives best in the hearts of those regularly stirred by the “good news” that, in Christ, they have freely received a love they could have never earned. Such grace-dependent worship has the power to continually astonish us even as it humbles us before the Christ we serve.
Gratitude REALIGNS VISION: Gratitude, I’ve discovered, is also the main root of a positive attitude. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus teaches us that the “eye is the lamp of the body.” He then goes on to make a distinction between the person who is “full of light” and the person who is “filled with darkness.” His remedy? Â A clear, focused, healthy eye! Â Since Jesus is probably alluding to how one views the world about them, I’d like to suggest that gratitude has the power to help us focus and align our spiritual vision on the Lord and His sovereign purposes in the midst of all kinds of circumstances.
Gratitude impacts ALTITUDE: Clearly, God’s grace should humble us; His grace does keep our vision focused on what really matters. But I further believe that gratitude singularly affects our “altitude” in worship. If I am correct to describe gratitude as “grace-infused thanksgiving,” then any act of thanksgiving that fails to acknowledge or revel in God’s grace is no worship at all. Â In my opinion, the state of our hearts maximizes or minimizes the effectiveness of our “art.â€ While multi-sensory worship may enrich our contemporary worship climates, gratitude alone has the power to elevate our worship above styles and personal preferences.
Gratitude opens us to GOD-ENCOUNTERS: Have you ever wondered why God seems to bless some people and not others? Perhaps there is power in how we respond to God’s gracious provision in our lives. I’ve watched as God repeatedly moves towards those who acknowledge Him for His grace, His salvation, His Word, His gifts and His lavish love towards them. Such people are not always the most talented, educated, prominent or spiritually mature. But because they are still amazed by God’s grace, God meets them in powerful ways. Perhaps gratitude then is more than a “warm fuzzy feeling towards deity.”Â Perhaps gratitude is the invitation God listens for in order to show Himself strong on our behalf.
THE POWER OF INGRATITUDE
So far we’ve seen that gratitudeâ€”grace-infused thanksgivingâ€”is a powerful response to God’s unfailing love. But, sadly, ingratitude also has power. Â I see ingratitude as the cancer of sustainable biblical worship. The record in Deuteronomy (chapters 8, 10) reminds us that ingratitude has the power to infect us, not only in tough times but also in times of plenty. Â Ingratitude, the Psalmist asserts, even has the power to infuriate God (Psalm 78). Â Ingratitude also has the power to cloud our vision, leave us blindly wandering in a spiritual wilderness, and rob us of our destiny. The Biblical narratives give compelling but tragic witness to the unenviable fate of the ungrateful. Â Clearly, ingratitude has power.
So, here’s my question for you: do you have gratitude? Or better, does gratitude have you? Â Biblical gratitude empowers us to respond to the incredible grace of God in Jesus Christ. Gratitude is the password into God’s presence (Psalm 100:4). Gratitude accompanied the supernatural activities of God in the life and ministry of Jesus (see John 6, 11). Finally, gratitude can help create an attitude of infectious influence in our churches, a natural bridge of witness to people living in a self-promoting, ungrateful world.
In my reading of the Apostle Paul’s writings, I find that he never seemed to fully recover from his amazement over God’s extension of grace towards him in Jesus Christ. Â I fear that far too many of us may have already recovered from our initial awe over God’s grace. Â But listen carefully to Paul’s own words, “But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul later writes these grace-infused words of worship: “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”Â His conclusion? “To Him be the glory forever.”Â In response, I’ve come to define gratitude as “the redeemed heart’s inability to easily recover from a deep sense of personal amazement at the grace of God in Jesus Christ.”
At this point, I return to my opening question: what will the landscape of worship look like in the future? Despite our best intentions, we just can’t know for certain. But perhaps a better question may be this one: how will our children and grandchildren remember our lives, our response to His activities in our generation? Will our worship legacy be one marked by gratitude or ingratitude, astonishment or indifference?
Someone once wrote that “faith is hearing the music and hope is dancing to it.”Â Similarly, I believe grace hears the music of heaven and gratitude dances to it. David concurs when he writes these passionate words to the God who chose Him to be king, confronted his sin, forgave Him, and established him as Israel’s premier songwriter: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing. You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. So that my soul may sing praise to you and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (Psalm 30).Â Saints, sinners, and psalmists exhort us towards gratitude. Paul oozes with gratitude even as he calls us to “grace-infused” thanksgiving. So, I leave you with this most important question: Got gratitude?
Â© Pete Sanchez, Jr.,. A Teaching Resource of WorshipCentralâ„¢ All Rights Reserved.
About the author:
Dr. Pete Sanchez, Jr. is Director of Worship Training for The Integrity Worship Institute. Used by permission, Â© Pete Sanchez, Jr.