Transformation is the great white whale of ministry. We plan for it, pray for it, and dedicate our lives and ministries to its pursuit. We see it spout from a distance, feel the ripples that promise it is near, but real, honest to goodness transformation eludes capture. My friend, Doug Lee, is on to something important with his ministry, Whole Life Worship. The following blog was originally posted on wholelifeworship.com. I encourage you not only to read on, but to also follow Doug as he continues to unpack what it means to be transformed through whole life worship.
Rooted in worship
This all began over 30 years ago (the late 1980’s). I was the Worship Pastor at my church. At the time, I thought my main job was to encourage congregation to respond to the Lord with the level of “worship that is due His name” (Ps. 29:2) through singing, music and other outward signs of connecting with God. I believed that when people wholeheartedly respond to God in worship, He would make His presence known to us and it would spark a revival in our hearts and a movement toward renewal in the world.
And so I worked really, really hard at this. As the worship pastor, I felt that I was accountable to the raise the response level of praise and worship in my church. One of the things I did was to start monthly Worship Festivals on Saturday evenings that devoted 2 hours to praise, worship, prayer and Body Life (an open mic time where people can share what God is doing in their lives).
Eventually, it really caught “fire” and the Worship Center at our church was “packed.” Not only that, but there was evidence of heartfelt worship response: people were singing at the top of their lungs, hands were raised, powerful testimonies were given, and even we saw some healings (and this was at a “Baptist” church!)
I thought to myself, “This is it!” This is the type of worship that will bring the revival that we so need in our world.
When worship isn’t enough
But over time I saw that, while we had these exuberant Worship Festivals each month, there wasn’t much change happening in the church. There wasn’t a greater fervency to share our faith with others. There weren’t big transformative changes happening in people’s lives (even and especially in my own life). Everything was pretty much “business as usual.”
I was puzzled. I did everything I thought to help people worship the Lord well, but it just didn’t produce any of the “fruit” that I expected to happen.
That’s when it hit me: perhaps I was wrong in my assumptions. Perhaps my understanding and definition of “worship” is off-base. Perhaps worship isn’t all about exuberant singing at a large gathering with amazing music. Maybe I was “missing the boat.”
The Lord led me back to a familiar passage: Romans 12:1-2. As a teenager, I chose this is as my life verse because it sounded “nice” to me at the time. But now as an adult Worship Pastor it took on a greater meaning:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Four essential elements of worship
I saw this as “Biblical definition” of what true worship is. What I noticed was that there was no mention of music, worship services or crowds of people in this definition. I also noticed that there were four essential elements in this definition of worship:
1. It starts with taking a good look at God’s mercy to us
2. Our act of worship is to offer our bodies (our whole self) as a living sacrifice to God
3. The purpose of offering all that we are to God is so He can transform us
4. The purpose of His transformation in our lives (which involves “not conforming to the world’s mold” and becoming “renewed” in our minds) is so we can discern and do God’s good and perfect will
Whole life worship
So, true worship is a whole lot more than giving God “lip service” or a “song service.” It’s more than just a once-a-week activity that we do on Sunday mornings. Biblical worship involves our “whole lives” so that God can transform us to do His perfect will in bringing reconciliation and shalom to our world. It is through the process of true, Biblical worship – whole life worship – that God transforms us to be authentic Gospel/Good News bearers (in deed and in word) to others around us.
I thought to myself, “This is HUGE!” I also thought, “Christ-followers need to hear and understand this!”
That began this 20+ year journey of communicating how Whole Life Worship operates to others. Through the years, I wrote a doctoral dissertation, created a website and posted hundreds of blogs on Whole Life Worship. And I feel like I’m just beginning to scratch the surface.
The Discipleship Difference– This book lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are. Also available in Spanish.
Change Management– Recent times have reminded us that change is difficult to navigate. Shifting our lives and ministry to incorporate whole life worship is a big change. It means letting go of old habits in order to embrace new ideas and create new patterns. If we don’t lead this well, change won’t happen. The Change Management Effectiveness Profile will help you assess how well you handle change and point you to areas where you can grow. To develop your skills, work through the Change Management Skills Builder. Coaches will find the Managing Change Coaching Guide and Storyboard a powerful tool to work with clients navigating change.