Options in Worship?
If I’m made to be a contributor, do I have options?
It’s January, but as a confident Cubs fan, I’m already thinking about baseball. It doesn’t help matters that my ESPN app allows me to see all the roster moves that the team is making in the offseason. And it doesn’t help matters that I’ve already been tempted to go see the Cubs in Cleveland this year to relive the memory of sweet victory in 2016.
The Cubs have now made it to three consecutive National League Championship Series and one World Series, with a championship to show for it. Despite the fact that we Cubs fans waited 108 years for the most recent championship, I’m not content. “Windows” for great teams only stay open for so long, and I’m still hoping for at least one more World Series championship in this current Cubs window.
What makes the current Cubs team successful — and any good team for that matter — is the willingness of each of the players to contribute in multiple ways. Each player is called upon to fulfill multiple responsibilities and seize multiple opportunities. They must be willing and able to run the bases. Everyone needs to possess an adequate fielding prowess. Players should all be able to hit (even the pitchers, unlike the wimpy American League with the designated hitter). In fact, all of them should be able to bunt the ball, advance the runner, or hit a sacrifice fly.
Yes, there are various positions. Yes, there are pitchers and position players. Yes, some guys aren’t particularly good in the batter’s box. But everyone has a contribution to make, and everyone is asked to make multiple contributions. When this is done well, the team wins. They get the most out of their capacities. They “steward” well what they have.
In early January, we began our Devoted Followers of Jesus sermon series on the DNA of a disciple. Being a vibrant worshipper was first on the list. But, strangely enough, our emphasis that day wasn’t on a large gathering or on musical expression. This is consistent with what the Bible says about worship. Worship is best embodied by a life of sacrificial stewardship. It means offering what we have, even who we are, in praise and service to God. Worship means the contribution of our time, talents, and treasures, in whatever proportion we have.
Randy Kettering, our long-time worship director, brought that kind of stewardship to practical levels in the sermon. He talked from experience about the importance of spending time on what counts, contributing talents for the blessing of others, and investing treasures in what lasts. He spoke eloquently on the joy of stewardship for those who are able to release what’s theirs (as the world sees it) and give it to God (who owns it and loans it to us anyway).
At least one challenge remains, however. It’s our selectivity. We’re tempted to ask “Which of those areas am I responsible for? Can I choose one area of my life — either time or talents or treasures — to be a worshipper of God? What if I want to focus on the area where I have the most to give and leave the remaining areas to others? Specifically, I’ll give money and let others serve. Or I’ll serve with middle schoolers or in the nursery and let others share the Gospel. Or I’ll start an evangelistic Bible study at work but let others financially give to the church. Does that work with God?” It’s not an uncommon thought, nor is it usually free of ulterior motives.
The answer? Not really, if we genuinely understand worship. When God calls us to worship, when He calls us to surrender, He’s actually calling for all of our lives, not simply the portion that we want to offer or the area where we think we have the biggest contribution. God doesn’t give us a multiple-choice option for worship or stewardship. He gives us one choice, and He asks for it again and again. “Do I have your heart?” (Matthew 6:21) He asks. “Can I be Lord of your life?” (1 Corinthians 6:20; Galatians 2:20).
When the genuine answer is “Yes, Lord, I’m Yours,” then Jesus has all He wants. He has our hearts, our minds, our wills, our families, our futures. He has it all. He also has our time, our talents, and our treasures. He has our priorities, our money, and our abilities. He has it all.
What grieves Jesus, and what doesn’t make sense for a steward, is to say “Here, Lord, I’ll give You just this one area of my life.” Why? Not only because it’s not all we have, but especially because it tends to be what costs us the least. If we’re honest, we all want to give what entails the smallest sacrifice and the greatest return for us. But usually that results in the least glory for God. And that’s not worship; it’s negotiation.
Back to baseball…
No manager is interested in a player who says “Coach, I want to pitch. Don’t ask me to hit. I don’t bunt. Running the bases is tiring. And please don’t ask me to catch the ball. All I want to do is pitch.” No, the manager gets to decide how he will use the player in each of those areas in the game. He wants the player to be available and contributing in all of them. The player plays and the manager manages.
So it is with Christ. He wants all of us. When He has it all, watch Him win in us and through us.
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Mike Yoder and his wife, Letitia, moved to Columbus in 2011. He became the lead pastor after a decade of missionary service in Berlin, Germany and later working in cross-cultural leadership training. Mike has educational background in sociology and communications (Grace College), theology (Grace Seminary), and intercultural studies (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). In his free time, Mike enjoys basketball, water sports, travel, and being a news junkie. He also roots for all Chicago sports teams including the Chicago Cubs! The Yoders have four children.