There I was at the age of 19, on the phone with a mentor of mine, and he had a fantastic problem. I had worked with him as an intern through InterVarsity, helping to run Christian groups in local high schools. One of those schools was my own high school.
The group that I had started with two friends five years earlier was now meeting on the street corner.
According to a new school principal, the group was no longer allowed to pray together inside the school. So, they gathered to pray and worship together outside the school, in the cold Canadian winter.
The principal’s attempt to quietly shut down the group backfired. Only a dozen or so strong before, the group had exploded. Suddenly, at our high school, being a Christian was kind of punk rock, and kids flocked to the corner to learn about this love that was worth freezing for.
“I get it,” he said. “When faith is little more than some quaint ideas about the afterlife, it isn’t a problem to anyone. But when faith bleeds into other areas of our lives, when it impacts the way we live – that sort of love challenges the status quo.”
As those kids gathered to worship on the street corner, they experienced genuine discipleship. They saw that their newfound love for God was more important than their comfort. God stopped being a set of abstract ideas, and became the object of their desire. Many of those kids would go on to pastor and plant churches. After all, the Great Commission is to make disciples. We’re called to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, right?
But, does it ever seem to you that conversations around discipleship focus mostly on believing things about God? Here’s the problem: that can be accomplished without love. Discipleship has to be about more than knowing things about God. Instead, we must recognize that worship is learning to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
That’s why I’ve come to believe that disciples worship and worship disciples.
Throughout Scripture, people who see God respond in worship. If we’re seeing Jesus, and He is who He says He is, then worship is the only thing that makes sense! So, if we intend to be a disciple of Jesus, we’d sure better seek to see and know Him for who He is.
What’s more, the rhythms of worship – prayer, song, table, Scripture – offer an incredibly powerful way for us to grow in love. Worship is like a gym for the heart that trains us to love and desire God above all else.
In fact, studies show that singing together increases trust, goodwill, and altruism in participants. It is also said that “they that sing, pray twice.” At its best, corporate worship has the potential to engage and transform our whole selves, teaching us not to just know about, but love God.
Worship and discipleship are a beautifully reciprocal thing. If we’re serious about discipleship we must be serious about worship, and vice versa. One can’t exist without the other. As you prepare to lead worship, know that you’re not just singing songs. You’re living out the Great Commission as you help your people learn to love God with everything they’ve got – heart, soul, mind, and strength.