Practice, We're Talking Practice...

“Practice, we’re talking practice...” - a quote by Allen Iverson, NBA Sixers basketball star, and his irreverent response at a press conference over coach Larry Brown’s comment on the importance of being there for practice, and not just the game.

For every sports junkie out there (like myself), Iverson’s hauntingly repetitious and flippant quote seared the nerve endings of any of us who understands and lives by the team concept. Allen has always had a way to make it all about himself. “Who needs practice? I’m the great Allen Iverson!” I speculated after his trade to Denver that the Sixers would become a “better” team without the egotistical and self-centered superstar. And as proven this last year, they did. They not only got better, they made the playoffs without him. They simply got better and won games without the superstar! They reverted back to playing team ball, all the while listening to their coach Maurice Cheeks, a former “go to” NBA player himself, who in his day made everyone around him better on the court.

“Worship, we’re talking worship...”. Could it be in our walk with Christ, that we do the same sort of glib thing, as if to say, “Worship...who needs worship? Aren’t I the great child of God? Don’t I deserve to be in His presence without all the work? What’s the big deal? Just let me in the game.”

Worship is not something we want or desire to do instinctively. Most of us didn’t exit our mother’s womb, clapping our hands, raising our songs of praise - ready for the discipline of sacrifice. If anything, we squirmed, squealed, and laid there helpless, waiting for our first feeding. The act of worship is a choice. It is not about style, comfort, luxury, fashion, opulence, lavishness, trend, vogue, or mode. It is however, a way of life; a lifestyle, a habit, a culture form - that proves itself in every aspect of living. Worship is the very thing that prepares us for the throne room of God, His inner sanctuary. But many of us would rather just skip the process and rigors of daily worship and just “get in the game.”

Brother Lawrence writes from his famed work, “The Practice of the Presence of God” - “I walk before God simply, in faith, with humility and with love; and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him."

It really does boil down to that: THE act of worship is to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him.

Now since I am a singer/songwriter and worship leader (you probably knew I’d get to this sooner or later...), I’d like to express my thoughts concerning music and the art of worship. I’m believing myself to be a bridge at this point in time. Since I’m a baby boomer and former Jesus freak, I can speak from the world of those first, fresh, early praise songs - the very first ones that were written in the late 60s, early 70s. Writers like Chuck Girard, Larry Norman, 2nd Chapter of Acts, the list goes on. We were in rock ‘n roll heaven for sure. The coffee houses, the “One Way” Bibles, wearing jeans to church. Yes, if you’re a millennial, you’re saying, “SO, what’s your point? You sound like my mother!” You gotta know, we were the early formation of liberation in the church back then!

But along with that liberation came huge responsibility. Every generation feels like they are the “first” in releasing the church from bondage of stagnant, irrelevant worship music. Ironically, Martin Luther was one of the pioneer radicals who believed you could take the tunes of bar songs and turn them into great hymns of the faith. And they did just that, adapting to the culture.

I choose to be a bridge. Strong at both ends; a bridge between the old AND the new. And when it comes to worship leading, my passion is to do this - bridge the musical gap by sensing the dynamic and diversity of the corporate body of believers that assemble on any given Sunday. Musically, a bridge should be strong on both sides of the shore. It has to be in order to transport worshippers from one side to the other. A bridge also is the word of the Lord. Scripturally and doctrinally sound lyrics within the songs we sing for worship should transcend the test of time, regardless of the venue or style.
To prove my point, a thirteen year old comes up to me at the end of the service. Here’s what he says, “Ms. Sue, I like your music, although it’s not exactly what I listen to. I like it because the words challenge me. I see Jesus and not you.”

He was word-smart. And he was expressing the true essence of what I want most: That we would see Jesus and not the worship leader. That the focus would be on the words we express to our Lord and Savior.

I challenge all musicians, singers, would-be worship leaders, and anyone who finds themselves in a leadership role:

1. Trade away “Allen Iverson” - you won’t win with him.

2. Spend as much time practicing the presence of God as you do practicing or rehearsing your music or stage presence.

3. Listen to your “coach” and be aware of your teammates and their needs.

4. Make everyone around you better, because of your worship.

One more thought: Become Spirit-led and Spirit-filled. It makes a huge difference in worship as a lifestyle when you lead others to the throne room of God. I want to shout this from every church steeple or every corporate building/warehouse-turned-church! Be Spirit driven instead of music driven!

Ephesians 5:18-20 says, “Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.”

The game is about to begin. You’ll do well because you’ve practiced to make worship your lifestyle.

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