Whole Life Worship

‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.’ – Romans 12:1 (The Message)

It’s Sunday morning.  Maybe we’ve struggled to drag ourselves out of bed after a late shift, arrived at church in a hurry and the minister is saying the words of welcome as we wonder whether we remembered to shut the bathroom window.  Maybe we’ve been up since 5am, entertaining a child that has developed an aversion to sleeping and we’ve just been waiting for the moment we can hand them to a friendly face at church and have Just.  One.  Moment.  Of.  Peace.  Or maybe we’re simply sat there, half distracted by the busyness of the rest of our lives, already thinking about the meeting we have tomorrow, the fact that we still need to get the dog booked into kennels next weekend and we can’t work out how to respond to that colleague who sent a snippy email last Wednesday and whom we’ve successfully avoided since then.

How do we worship from these places?  How do we bring our busy, messy, awkward lives as an offering to God that is authentic, heart-felt and invites him to meet us as we are?

The nature and purpose of worship is to bring “worth” to God.  To respond to his goodness and mercy from a place of gratitude, adoration and honesty.  It is a sacrificial offering of our time, talents, priorities and focus, in honour of the God who loves us.  Why do we worship?  Because the Bible tells us to.  Because we were created to.  Because if we don’t, then the rocks and mountains will cry out on our behalf.  Because God deserves it.

But God also knows us.  He knows when we’re coming to church slightly late and frustrated with the parking.  He knows when we’re praying with our eyes open to stop us nodding off in intercession (I speak from personal experience here…), he knows when we’re sat there in the church building but when our mind is in the office, the school, the Doctor’s surgery, the supermarket or the football stadium…  And God is available for worship in all of those places too.

The concept of “whole-life worship” is that we need to stop compartmentalising our lives into “holy” and “un-holy”, “sacred” and “profane”, “church” and “normal” life.  We need to learn to recognise all aspects of our lives as being part of God’s interaction with us and learn to worship him in the “gathered” fellowship of Sunday services and the “scattered” elements of our Monday – Saturday life.  He cares about those too.

By bringing in recognition of the dual nature of our lives as Christians to our Sunday services, we empower, equip, commission and disciple one another to be 24/7 followers of God.

How do we do it?

  • Maybe our words of welcome could reflect the events of the previous week in the church, community or country as a whole, drawing people from work and leisure in the outside world and into God’s presence.
  • Maybe our closing prayer or words of dismissal could more clearly commission people to live out lives of service and worship in the other 6 days of the week – making specific reference to the lives and experiences of our congregations.
  • Maybe the songs we sing could have a specific relevance to a current situation we are facing as a church, the images on the projected slides could be of our local community or the hymn introduced by a member of the congregation for whom it has a wider “whole life” significance.
  • Maybe we could invite a different person each week to share what they will be doing “This Time Tomorrow” and commit to praying for them (and others in similar situations) supporting them and celebrating the fact that God will be with them in that meeting/exam/hospital appointment/playgroup/interview/conversation.
  • Maybe we could have people offering thanksgiving for something specific that God has done that week (I have used Psalm 136: 1-4 as the starting point for this and had some wonderful spontaneous examples of God’s love at work in ordinary life, with the whole congregation responding “his love endures forever” after each one).
  • Maybe we could adapt our language so, instead of saying “we will now have a time of worship…”, as if what we were doing before was irrelevant, we recognise the “gathered” nature, with words like “as we meet together in God’s presence to bring our worship into his church today…” or “let’s continue our living worship of God by…(singing, reading, listening, receiving etc.…”)
  • Maybe we could acknowledge the fact that everyone is coming from different places, recognising the light and shade in our congregation’s livesFather God, as we gather today from our scattered lives, we bring joys and frustrations, hopes and disappointments, celebration and sadness and lay them all before you…”

We don’t need to make radical changes or upset the stalwarts on whom the church has been faithfully built.  We simply need to recognise that our Sunday worship should be a rekindling of our spirits and a re-commissioning to do what we should be doing in every aspect of our lives – living, loving, working and serving in Jesus’ name.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” – Colossians 3:17

If you would like to know more about this area of Whole Life Worship, why not book for the Whole Life Worship Training Day being held in Banbury on 5th October 2019 (I attended earlier this year and found it hugely inspiring!).

Details can be found at https://www.engageworship.org/events/whole-life-worship-saturday-banbury

Alternatively, you can search the resources and ideas at LICC for ideas: https://www.licc.org.uk/ourresources/

Lisa Holt
Learning Mentor for Passionate Spirituality and Inspiring Worship.