As discussed in a previous post, "The River," I just finished re-reading a book called Following the River by Bob Sorge. I can't emphasize enough how important it is for worship leaders and worship team members to read this book! So I'm going to spend the next few posts discussing some of the important points of the book. A majority of the information is from the book, but I will try not to plagiarize it too much.
Let's first focus on the River itself. For that, we are going to focus on the passage in Ezekiel chapter 47. This River can be applied to many different areas of Christian living, but we will look at how this river relates to corporate worship.
Ezekiel 47: 1-5
The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was flowing from the south side (some versions have "the right side").
As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross.
This depiction of the River that Ezekiel saw is one of the most vivid descriptions of this river in the entire Bible. Some believe that this is the river that you will see once you pass from this life. To that I will say true, but I believe this river can be encountered here on earth...today! In a corporate worship setting, there is a river that flows and it's source is the throne of God. In verse 2 it states that the river ran out of the "right side." Now think back to when Jesus was hanging on the cross; the guards pierced Him in His "right" side and water flowed out. Jesus' death on the cross opened up the avenue for us to drink of Him, to experience an abundant life in and through Him. So, the river of God finds its origin in the crucified Lamb. As a result, as we focus on the Lamb, we will soon find ourselves flowing in the deep waters of worship.
As we read on we see that Ezekiel was led down the river as it grew it depth without any tributaries feeding it. The river of God is self-generating. Here the Lord is showing how we can progress from the shallows of the river to its greatest depths, a progression that can be experienced powerfully in corporate worship! This is what I long for in worship. Not a service that people leave a little damp, or their shoes wet, but one where they have been swimming in the river of God! No more the statements of, "That was a nice service," or, "They have good music at that church." People who say these comments have experienced far less what Jesus died to provide.
Men and women today need to have a sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of worship service. They need to experience the "swimming" depths of the river! No matter what kind of mood they entered into the service with, or where they are in their faith, they will leave changed. It is here that they will feel the delight of their Lord and Savior. They will quiver and bow at the touch of His hands. Hard hearts will be softened and callings will be made clear.
You see, worship must lead to transformation. Richard Foster says in his book, Celebration of Discipline, "Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends with holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship." Worship CANNOT be just songs! It has to radically transform us, which will ultimately impact society around us. Worship where we genuinely encounter the Lord and His river will leave us sharing his heart for a broken world. Worship without mission is self-indulgent. Mission without worship is self-defeating.
So we need to seek after the swimming depths of worship. It can't be superficial any longer. It is time to forget about rolling up our pants just so our ankles get wet. True worship is getting everything that makes up you wet. You have to get out of the mindset of just singing songs and tune your heart to the Crucified Lamb, and the River will indeed overtake you and sweep you off your feet!
Part 2 to come...
Grace and peace.