KEEP IN TOUCH
BY MARK MILLARD
FOCUS ON JESUS
(AKA Sing about who God is) (AKA Magnify God)
When people met Jesus, no matter who they were they went away impacted by the encounter. Think of the Samaritan woman at the well, the paralytic by the pool of Bethesda, the boy who offered his lunch and saw it multiply thousands of times over, the despised tax collector Zacchaeus who ended up giving away half of everything he owned. Each of these people had their lives forever changed when they met with Jesus. In a similar way, when we encounter God through worship it can have a similar transforming effect on our lives and in the lives of our young people. The fact is though, that transformation doesn’t always happen in our programs. Why is that?
To understand what’s happening we need to look at ‘what worship really is’ and how worshipping God effects us.
HOW WORSHIP CHANGES US
We worship because God deserves all our honor and praise, when we look at who God is it also changes us. Here’s an example:
Have you ever been worried about a money situation and met a friend for coffee and shared your troubles? Perhaps your friend then identifies and shares their own worries. When it’s time to leave you walk away thinking ‘good chat’ but still feeling that same burden of your circumstances plus the burden of your friend’s circumstances.
Compare to another time when you were worried about a money situation and spent time praying or reading the bible or you were in a worship time at church? During that time perhaps your thoughts were drawn to the fact that God is our Provider. Perhaps you thought about Jesus’ teaching on worry (Matthew 6) and that our heavenly Father knows what we need (Matthew 6:32) and as we seek him He will provide (Matthew 6:33). Suddenly without realizing it your worry has turned into peace. Your spirit feels lighter and you are able to really turn your mind to Jesus and hope rises in you. This is what happens in worship. When we look at who God is, when we are able to focus on Him and off of our problems and worries, we are changed. The circumstance may not change, but WE have changed.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.
2 CORINTHIANS 3:17-18 (AMPLIFIED)
Focusing our eyes and our minds on Jesus transforms us from the inside out.
Remember the old chorus:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Now please know, I am NOT saying that problems and worries and fears are not real and do not matter. Of course they do and they need to be acknowledged and listened to individually, but an important part of ministering to those needs is to allow truth to penetrate and for kids to have the space to focus on Jesus and allow Him to be God in their circumstances.
One time the disciples were in a boat and Jesus came walking to them across the water (Matthew 14:22). Despite the wind and the waves Peter called out to Jesus ‘Can I have a turn?’ (paraphrase) and Jesus replied ‘oh yeah!’ (also paraphrase). Peter stepped out onto the waters and walked, but when he drew his attention away from Jesus and towards the wind and the waves he began to sink. We’ve all heard the story and many of us have probably tried unsuccessfully to emulate this miracle (or is it just me?). Hidden in this story is a key to worship.
Look at Jesus --> walk on water
Look at Jesus --> worries are cast aside
Look at Jesus --> extraordinary things happen
Look at Jesus --> we change
Look at storm/worries/circumstances --> sink
Look at the storm --> weighed down by burdens
Look at the storm --> focused on ourselves and our inadequacies and limitations
When we look at ourselves and our circumstances it does not change us and if anything it increases our fears and anxiety and heaviness. We can begin to feel like we are alone and hopeless. We reflect on our inadequacies and lack.
When we focus our minds and our worship on the nature and character of the living God it changes us. It changes our perspective. God speaks truth into our hearts. Our faith is built up. We see Him for who He really is in our situation. We magnify Him and He gets bigger in our minds and hearts than our problem is.
Now, I know which outcome you would like to see for yourself and for your young people!! Here are some practical ideas of how to engage your kids in this kind of worship experience.
WHEN WE SING
Sing about who God is. Powerful, Loving, Good, Just, Merciful, Kind, Awesome, Creator, Provider, King, Father, Savior, Our Hope, Our Peace, Our Freedom. Don’t you already feel encouraged just reading that list?!
Sing songs that give God His true worth. As an example look at these lyrics by Chris Tomlin and notice who they are about, who is the focus.
The splendor of a king
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice
He wraps Himself in light,
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice
How Great is our God…
This song is all about GOD. The focus is GOD.
Songs are not amazing. Some work in certain situations better than others, but songs are not amazing. What ‘IS’ amazing is the name of Jesus
If you want to see life transforming worship... use songs that speak about who God is and what he is like.
If you want to see life transforming worship avoid songs that focus on us, our problems and our behavior (we purposefully didn’t give examples here - but there are plenty). Use songs that speak about who God is and what He is like.
Reality is that God IS already Big, magnified, glorified in ALL the earth, but when we sing and speak this truth out it makes Him bigger and more glorified in OUR eyes and in OUR minds. He eclipses everything else and we get those moments of really beholding Him and lifting our eyes to Him and WE are changed from glory to glory. What a beautiful and simple way to honor Him in your programs and see lives changed.
WHEN WE TEACH
The same principle is true for our teaching. Just in the same way that there’s a tendency in worship to sing about ourselves and our circumstances instead of who God is. There’s a natural tendency in teaching to focus on ‘what we must do’ (focus on self) instead of first setting a foundation on ‘who God is’ (focus on God).
Ironically, the more you teach on the ‘types of good behavior you’d like to see’ the worse the general level of behavior becomes. Paul described this in Romans 5:20 by saying ‘The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase’ or in other words what’s the first thing we do when we see a sign that says ‘Don’t touch - Wet Paint’? We touch, to see if it’s really wet. The more we teach on rules and behavior the less change we will see. The more we focus on the nature and character of God - the more life transformation we’ll see.
But wait - Paul spent plenty of time talking about behavior and how a Christian should act! He did - and there is definitely a time and a place for that, but He always pre-cursored it with; This is who God is / This is who you are in Christ (eg. 1 Cor. 1 ‘you are called by God, you are sanctified, you are saints’) followed by ‘now stop doing that dumb stuff’ (1 Cor. 6:18 ‘flee immorality’).
To see kid’s lives transformed through teaching, focus on who God is first and foremost. Let that be the building blocks of everything you do. Build a rich and deep foundation for them in the reality of God and His great love for them. Then they are not behaving well just to please you or God or to escape punishment, but they are responding to a loving God and are being changed from the inside out by that love.
This blog covers part of the story. In Part 2 of ‘How Worship transforms lives’ (coming soon) we’ll be looking at how speaking the truth about 'who we are in Christ', renews our minds and transforms our lives. But before we look at that we need to lay the foundation of worship. Focus on Jesus. Stop singing about ourselves and put the focus on who is God.
PART 2 OF BLOG IS COMING SOON: IF YOU’D LIKE TO BE NOTIFIED WHEN NEW TRAINING BLOGS AND PRODUCTS ARE RELEASED SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAIL BLASTS.
Mark Millard has served in ministry to young people for more than 20 years. When he's not performing as a member of The Lads band, he's writes songs, scripts, curriculum and is part of Big Big Productions, the creators of two different kids TV series (The Lads TV and TuneTime) which broadcast to over 180 countries around the world. Based in Franklin, TN he's married to Andrea Millard and together they have 4 kids.
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