"Do you get a better worship experience up there
(pointing to the stage) or out here?"
This is the question a friend of mine asked me while I sat on the back row of "the space" at Journey church during a service with my kids, Zeke and Rainy. I only play 2 times a month (sometimes 3) so the other weekends are spent on the back row sitting with my two oldest kids, where Josh can easily slip in and out between sets. I didn't even hesitate when I answered him, but the question keeps circulating around in my mind.
"Its really the same" I replied,
"I just get to worship with my instrument up there and out here I get to use my voice."
I wouldn't change my answer a bit, but I might have expounded on it if I had had the time.
The worship doesn't change depending on HOW I worship, or WHERE I worship. The thing that DOES change worship is my heart.
Anybody can go through the motions of worship, even the people under the illuminating lights on the stage. That is why Josh preaches to the team so earnestly about the importance of our own personal heart preparation before standing on the platform every week.
If we look back at the original plan God had set up for Israel's people, we see that he gave them tangible action, through sacrifices, to accompany a repentant heart. But after years and years of performing these sacrifices, they became just that...a performance. Their hearts were no longer engaged with their actions of worship.
Isaiah 1 is a very sobering account of the LORD's reaction to this shift from the heart worship He longed to receive.
"The multitude of your sacrifices-
what are they to me? says the LORD...
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!...
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them."
Then, in Matthew 23, Jesus is found warning those who had fallen prey to DOING all the right things without changing the course of the heart in the process.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded,
you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are."
"You give a tenth of your spices...but neglected the more important matters of the law-
justice, mercy and faithfulness."
"You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed
Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."
The worship experience can be the same on a bathroom floor where I lock myself in for a moment of peace with God (hypothetically speaking, of course;), under a tree out in a distant village with a small group (church) of people, in the woods far away, in the seat of an auditorium with thousands of other likeminded believers, sitting in the back row of a service with my kids or up on stage under the bright lights...but ONLY if the heart is in it.
A worship experience will only bring to it what you put into it.
God wants all of you.
And all of you begins in your heart.
The other "actions" of worship simply follow from that overflow.