Worship within the context of the small, intimate, simple church gathering is one of my favorite subjects. I love the type of worship I have come to experience within simple church.
Don't get me wrong. I love the awesome, live music that sometimes accompanies the more performance-oriented big worship events. I still enjoy, on rare occasions, the excitement and, yes, even depth of corporate worship, that can accompany the large worship setting. But my appetite for this type of worship experience has dwindled to almost nil compared to the fulfillment I experience when worshiping with a handful of close allies, friends, confidants. When these folk open their hearts with an expression of worship, I am able to connect with their deepest cries and honest hearts. It is as though I am worshiping soul to soul. We touch God together and he becomes incarnate, in our midst, through the flesh and blood awe and longings of people I know well.
I believe the "art" of house church worship is still developing. We have become music-dependent, overall, as worshipers. I do not mean that music does not have its place. As I have already indicated, I am a music lover. But music itself is not worship nor does it automatically release music. Most of us are familiar with Matt Redman's story when he wrote these words to his now-familiar worship song:
I´ll bring You more than a song,
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear;
You´re looking into my heart.
Matt's church had discovered that they had become dependent on externals (particularly great music) and had lost some of the fire of worship--something that can only come from hearts that are simply and purely hungry for God. Sometimes, maybe often, we need to strip away all externals and allow our hearts to re-engage with the process of raw, non-externally-supported worship. Obviously, when combined with the intimacy of house church, this can be a powerful experience.
The churches I am involved in do, in fact, often make use of music: guitars, other instruments, and Cd's. But we soon realize that we are not seeking to bring the "big church" worship experience into our simple church gatherings. Most of our churches usually begin to explore other forms of non-supported worship expressions that can be so personal, real, authentic, and meaningful.
Here is a short list of what I call "unsupported worship expressions." This is not meant to be in any way complete nor definitive, rather just some ideas to work with that might lead a group to more personal, intimate worship times:
- Simple, spoken praise or worship. Not horizontal prayers but vertical adoration, appreciation, thanksgiving, acknowledgment of who God is
- Read a psalm or passage of scripture slowly and meditatively. Leave time for reflection and then, perhaps, more spoken worship
- Spontaneous song without music
- Read a psalm or passage of scripture and leave time for some journaling... then perhaps share the journaling or return to worship
- Suggest that each person declare one of God's names and then speak worship to him based on that name
- Use a psalm as a guideline to speak your own worship to God
- Try more meditative music during times of reflection on a scripture or on the characteristics of God
- Silence and waiting on God's presence and voice
- Put up a poster for people to draw on during worship or time of reflection
I would suggest that it takes some patience for a group that is used to more externally-expressed forms of worship to grasp the significance of what can take place within simpler, intimate settings. But once people become accustomed to the personal-ness of this and can engage their hearts, they inevitably become hooked. This style of worship has indeed become my staple diet and a powerful part of the sustenance for my spiritual life.