Inside Out Worship

As a minister, one of the questions that tend to flutter through my mind is the credibility of my worship, public and private. I am wondering if what I call to be an act of worship reflects my personal worship experience. Lately, I am beginning to realize the importance of having an authentic personal relationship with God in relation to the meaning of worship. The more I continue my journey back to the heart of worship, the more I understand the importance of making it part of a lifestyle and not just a Sabbath morning service.

The saddest reality I am finding in our churches today are worship leaders who are wolves in sheepskins. They may be singing songs about God, but narcissism is consuming their hearts. They are not glorifying God but themselves. It is hard to discern it in the worship services, even if you are singing with some of these individuals, side by side.

A true worship leader encourages the congregation by leading them to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. They invite the congregation to join them to invite the presence of God in their worship services. They encourage the congregation to express their love and devotion to God in any way each feels comfortable in responding to the praise and worship, whether standing, clapping, lifting their hands, singing, shouting, or even sitting down and deeply meditating on the words of each song.

Therefore, they do not try to cause a spirit of rebellion by guilt-tripping people to stand up and clap while they lead out in song services. (This is one of my greatest pet peeves in praise and worship services as it has the tendency to give attention to the singers and not to God. I do believe that there are some times when the congregation is to stand, but once again it depends on the intent.) They lead the congregation by example, not just on stage, but mainly offstage. They do not wait until a worship service to have an encounter with God; they encounter God during the week. They strive to live a life that is pleasing to God. They are not perfect; they admit that they are broken and will embrace character growth. When somebody who has known me for years tells me that I have matured from the first time they met me – this is something I do not take for granted.

Every day, I am thankful for character growth. I praise God that I am not the same person I was before Christ. Character growth can even show when one is ministering during the worship service. The songs you choose to sing can be a reflection of your spiritual journey that gives someone sitting in the back pew a touch of hope and points them to their Creator.

This is why my prayer is that my public worship directs others to God and not to myself. They do not need to see me singing while dancing and waving my hands; they do not need to see me break out shouting just for shouting’s sake; they need to see Christ and His crucifixion. They need to see the Jesus in me that saved me from myself. They need to see the Jesus that has given me hope despite an emotionally and physically draining week. They need to see the Jesus that has called me to live for Him. They need to see the Jesus who has taught me how to love others, especially those who might have plotted to mess up my life, family, and ministry.

Someone once told me, "You can never mess up worship." I would like to also add, "as long as it's authentic, you can never mess up worship." Worship God in a way that you are comfortable with, whether it be singing, drawing, dancing, writing, etc. Make sure that the recipient of your worship is your Creator and Lover of your soul. Let your worship be for real.

Darnisha Thomas is currently serving as the pastor for Student Ministries and Volunteer Engagement at New Hope Adventist Church in Fulton, MD. She also blogs on where she frequently discusses practical theology and life with a touch of pink. This article first appeared there as part of a series entitled, “Journey Back to the Heart of Worship.”

Image Credit: / Amy Burton

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I assume you are most likely familiar Ellen White’s views on the matter of holiness and character building. Without doing extensive research, I seem to remember something about our perception being that “the closer we get to Christ, the more we are aware of our sinful condition”. So, if our attention is constantly on our own progress in becoming “like Christ”, we may be focusd on the wrong thing.

[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:12915”]
Every day, I am thankful for character growth. I praise God that I am not the same person I was before Christ. [/quote]

There is a fine line between being thankful for our own character growth, and the prayer recorded in Luke - God, I thank you that I am not like other people… Like the SS lesson commentary about holiness, we seem to be very attentive to our own progress. The truth is, we can never have an objective evaluation of ourselves, nor should we try.

Worship, like prayer, is a state of being, rather than something we schedule to do.


My keenest Sense of worship. Has been and remain the great hymns of the church. From the last worship service The hymn “There is A Balm In Gilead” persists in my mind. (If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the world of Jesus who died to save us all) No Sermon should Neglect that theme. But true worship includes service as well as praise. The American church has almost lost that objective to service to the anointed. The Prosperity Gospel is the most obvious. It ha penetrated the political agenda. To a devastating level. t Z


Quite the declaration.

So if somebody praises the Lord with more gusto than another, the quieter one is holy and the other is a narcissist?

The first mistake we make in worship, is to invite God into His own House .We have an attitude problem that makes us think and feel that worship evolves around us , but it really is all about God. He is selfish when it comes to His Glory . He will not share it with anyone or anything else .David says ," Come into His house with thanksgiving and praise ." Great Controversy pg.427 says, " that the church makes up the invited guests, if so she cannot also be the bride .We are taking too much upon ourselves." Truth worship is a heart expression of our love for God, and His watchful care over us His children. It is expressed during corporate worship , because that is the greatest sign of church unity .And this worship, takes place on the Sabbath Day for a specific reason . God is one. Husband and wife are one. And the greatest sign of the Sabbath worship service is when both God and man meet in oneness, That is our Sabbath Rest . That’s why we worship . That’s is why we sing praises to His holy name. Because He is Worthy . He has given up His life that we might be welcomed back into the family of God .Again, While it is popular to celebrate worship , in the beginning, God instituted the confessional. i.e. In the story of Cain and Abel , we suppose God rejected Cain’s offering because it was not a blood sacrifice . But a closer look at the story reveals something altogether different .Non blood offerings /peace offerings have always been accepted by God . But here, as it relates to worship , GOD CANNOT ACCEPT OUR THANKS,BEFORE WE FIRST ADMIT THAT WE ARE SINNERS .If you miss that, than you have missed the true meaning of WORSHIP.

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i don’t think this phenomenon is confined to song leaders…i think a lot of ministers are in this boat…it’s relatively rare now to hear a sermon that’s truly from the heart, and that packs any conviction…people are saying the right things, but it’s falling flat…there isn’t the impression that the speaker has spent as much time on his knees, imploring god for his spirit, as he has in proof reading texts, and writing out something that he essentially reads to the congregation - and ditto for many pastoral prayers…

i think this is key…our services are boring because not enough of us are engaged in real sanctification…we don’t have tangible evidence that the holy spirit is with us…

Apparently you can, as Jesus was looking for a certain kind of worshiper, on who did it in spirit and truth.

I, too, have thought about this subject, because if we are not worshipping, we are defiling.

Worship implies a subordinate relationship. If I am not acknowledging the superiority of the worsihpee, then it is not worship. I see it more as a submission to the one worshipped. Thus obedience is its epitome. One need not then make a great show, but only quietly obey. One worships when one recognizes their inferiority, or lack or insufficiency, and falls at the feet of the one worshipped in humble obeisance and obedience. It is a frame of mind rather than so much an action, though actions follow. If you are not obeying, you are not worshipping.

Pride is the opposite of worship.


Perhaps we should reflect on this and learn a thing or two from quantum theory. One of the oddest predictions of quantum theory is that a system can’t change while you’re watching. Can the same apply when worshipping God? That we cannot change ourselves while worshipping and seeing others as “leaders who are wolves in sheepskins” simply because the dynamics behind this form of behavior include feeling superior only at the expense of externalizing our own faults unto others? Isn’t this the same reason behind the rite of the lamb sacrifice in the Old Testament now transformed in the 21st century setting?

I do believe that God sacrificed His son to rid ourselves of this excuse.

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I believe that the reason for worship is for human edification, that is to build human awareness of ethics and morals without which we are no better than lower animals , and will soon use the most effective weapons of destruction available to fight among ourselves leading to extinction. God is not megalomaniac. he does not exist to hear our constant paens of praise. He set up religions for OUR benefit The commandments and the sabbath day of rest and spiritual renewal were set up for our benefit. As to format, that is best chosen by the particular congregation. Personally I feel very spiritually receptive to the message of the day when singing the old Protestant hymns, such as found in the Episcopalian HYMNS ANCIENT AND MODERN. For example “Come thou long awaited Jesus” with a skilled organist varying the harmonic progressions which can make one feel very contemplative. The Cambridge University Choir has made several DVD’s featuring this type of hymnody. I feel the Hymn selection committee of the GC should buy more hymns of this type from those who own the copyright, for inclusion in the SDA Hymnal. I also can be “transported” mentally by the musical elements of the so-called Gospel Music as often heard on DVD’s or even in the worship of the BLACK CHURCH. The beat, the harmonic progression, the timbre, thechordal inventions and so on . No wonder so many of even pop music stars (naughtily, hahaha) dropped out of the black church and found instant fame on the national pop music charts. This genre is very attractive also. As a black myself, the thing I find that does not work for me is a mixture of both the old European protestant style of hymnody and really “go down” gospel at one and the same worship service.God can be worshiped in many styles of music

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Speaking of “great hymns of the church” there are major Adventist congregations in North America, where not one congregational hymn appears in the worship liturgy.

Instead we have SEVEN ELEVEN MUSIC – seven words repeated eleven times, so called PRAISE MUSIC. The words are sung to tuneless, repetitive, non melodic accompaniment with strumming guitars, ukuleles and even drums.

This tuneless garbage can sometimes occupy one third to half of the worship hour.

Many congregations possessing fine pipe or electronic organs, have even dispensed with the classic postludes and preludes.

Another complaint of mine: Adventist sermons which ramble on repetitively for 50-60 minutes are soporific, non memorable, and clearly not well prepared nor thought out.

I value the Methodist/Episcopalian, short, succinct, twenty minute homilies, which most hearers can recite over lunch that day.

Also the A Capella choirs, bell choirs, soloists and virtuoso organists which embellish and enhance so many of our Protestant competitor’ liturgies.

I like to leave a worship hour exalted, exulted, joyous and jubilant!


I wonder about the ability to read the heart that seems to have surfaced in this article. Between the charge of narcissism and the trumpeting of one’s own character growth, I’m left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

With that said, I think of Paul, who when confronted with those who preached Christ out of all kinds of wrong motives, and with questionable intentions, said, " What do I care, as long as Christ is preached?" It seems he trusted that God could take the efforts of broken, and even less than honest individuals (and in some way that includes all of us), and still bring people back to himself through them.

Maybe we should take a cue, and just focus on the fact that we and others who lift up Christ are about God’s business. That’s a good thing! Let God sort out the motives and hearts involved. He can do a far better job than any of us.




There are so many things that I am reading here that are just so right but me fears we are fossils of the faith. One of my blessings in life was education in a Lutheran University. In worship and liturgy class, I was at sea. I came to realize that liturgy provided a well ordered and structured approach to worship of the Almighty. God as Creator is a God of order. Traditional liturgical form begins with confession – recognizing our sins of commission and omission. It establishes the I-THOU relationship, not the Guy upstairs or Good Buddy. A carefully planned liturgy does not hamper the work of the Holy Spirit. Nor does it have to be boring. “Good liturgy is good drama, and good drama is good liturgy. Remember if you take nothing else away from this time: this is the TV and video game generation and liturgists have to meet this challenge head on” (Helen Kemp, Westminster Choir College, youth choir workshop). The other indispensable tool for well-ordered worship (and personal devotions as well) is the Lectionary – a resource bringing similar thoughts together as found in the Psalms, OT, NT, epistle, and gospel. The Book of Common Prayer is my go to resource. The best part of the Lectionary is that each book of the Bible will be presented within a one- or three year cycle. Combined with the seasons of the Christian faith, these “externals” become a yearly reminder of all that is important to the Christian faith. I also couldn’t help but be highly amused by Robin Vandermolen’s observation about sermon vs. homily. I dared ask my professor why sermons seemed to be shorter in the Lutheran tradition. His response (with a stern German countenance): “The mind can only remember what the fanny can endure.” And when to stand, kneel, or sit? We stand for participation, we kneel for prayer, we sit for instruction – another antidote for fanny fatigue. In this same liturgy class, there was a study block on how architecture affects worship. White I can’t cite source, I seem recall that Frank Lloyd Wright never wanted the ceilings in his churches/synogogues to be more than 20 feet high. A ceiling too high would make the individual feel more and more insignificant. Make time to step into a worship space where there is a soaring roofline. Stop. First reaction: forced to look up. I am forced to look outside of myself. It seems to bring the most important things back to my consciousness. It is then, with this collective experience, I seem to be better prepared for the ever increasing challenges of life and fuel to serve others.


Keith –
About 10 years ago I began attending a Sunday evening service at a local Episcopalian church for “the entertainment” of the music, scripture readings. Got invited to join some of the out-reach programs on other days. Ended up going to day services on sunday mornings and sunday school class where questions were asked and no “canned” answers. Thinking was shared. Have been in the choir for 6 years. Have played for services twice this summer.
On Sabbaths I DO miss the liturgy. The singing of Great Hymns, 6 hymns, not just 2. I miss the Prayer of the People on Sabbath. I miss the Bible readings on Sabbath from the Lectionary. Sabbath is usually just one or two verses. One of our Sunday School classes is re-reading the lectionary selections and free flowing commentary by whoever attends… Each one gets 15 minutes. It is great learning. I enjoy the Homily based on the 4 Scriptures for the day.
I enjoy the Seasons of the church. Advent, Lent, Pentecost day, Easter, All Saints day [making mockery of the Devil over death in the decorations].
I enjoy my Book of Common Prayer.
Sabbath is very meaningful. But where I get fed is on Sunday and community Compline on Wed evenings for 30 minutes.
On Sundays I am challenged to "Behold who you are, become what you received."
A number of weeks ago a banner with a small round mirror in it was installed near the communion rail, so we could do just that.
“Life is short and we don’t have much time to gladden the hearts of those who journey with us. So be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord.”


Shortly after my sister passed in 1992, I lit a candle for her in the Frank Lloyd Wright Chapel of the Holy Cross, in the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.

The video shows the breathtaking panorama from that viewpoint.

Worship may be from the inside out, but the Catholics certainly understand the importance of aesthetics in worship.

Do evangelical Protestants have a blind spot when it comes to beauty? Do we, in fact, treat beauty as interjecting a dangerous and foreign element into our theologizing?

So, I ask, are we even capable of “worship from the inside out” if we are insensitive to Beauty?

I said in the Lounge this morning:

So, to me, aesthetics appears to be the common denominator of spirituality and science, and both, I suggest spring from the creative impulse.


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