WORKshipping in Spirit and Truth
by Jason Kinney
Nestled in a powerful testimony about how God had been reshaping her perspective, Naomi Barnett shared some parting words of inspiration on her last night as a SHIFT student:
One of the most significant activities that God has used to shape my understanding of His love for me was learning how to worship openly with other people.
It had been a week since our team had returned from a ten-day trip to Summit Training Post (STP) on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, and I was still processing an annoying tension in my heart—that feeling we get when we haven’t quite made the mental and emotional connection to something God has given us.
I often become overstimulated with our culture’s rhythms and routines (check out Pastor Steve’s July 3, 2016 “Ideal or Real” sermon for a great perspective on this). While this heightened sense of awareness brings with it a useful sensitivity to environments and circumstances, I tend to get frustrated with the predictability of certain settings. The common elements of a song, for example, can be an exhausting endeavor for me, and the probability of emotional responses to these elements often distracts me from being able to enjoy them. Corporate worship is a good example of this—not as much because I’m around other people, but because I tend to rebel against the expectation to respond to something socially that I feel more comfortable expressing intimately.
In fact, one of the reasons why I love playing drums, regardless of the lack of mastery I feel, is because it allows me to physically connect to the music as a producer. I’m relieved to know that I’m contributing to the dynamics of worship rather than feeling pressured to respond.
When the opportunity to go on the STP trip started becoming a reality, I grew increasingly nervous. I love building things, but lacking a sense of confidence with the type of construction we’d be doing caused me to challenge my validity with thoughts like, “Will I slow us down?” “Will Tyler be able to lean on me as a leader?” “Will I be able to connect with our students?” “Will my anxiety about corporate worship thwart the unity of the group?”
Then, one evening during our pre-trip training week, Tyler made a statement that God used to begin a work in my heart:
We aren’t going on a mission trip, and we aren’t a mission team. We’re going on a worship trip, and we’re worship leaders.
The idea of service as an act of worship has been deeply rooted in me since first committing Romans 12:1-2 to memory as a young teenager, but that evening God used Tyler’s words to ignite a sense of connectivity to the simplicity our team’s purpose: use our hands and feet to meet a practical need.
Regardless of my sense of mastery, the act of construction allowed me to become a producer—a contributor to the dynamics of worship. Our daily rhythm and routines became a source of comfort, and the simple predictability of what happens when a hammer strikes a nail became, for me, an incredibly stimulating act of worship that fused social and intimate into a unified experience.
As Naomi continued her testimony, my mind wandered to the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well. As outcasts, Samaritans were painfully grieved that they could not go to the temple to worship God and, as I can only imagine, lived with a sense of despair—wondering if their status would limit or deny them access to the messiah. “The hour is coming, and is now here,” Jesus said to her, “when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). “In spirit and truth” means knowing God beyond the deeply rooted theology, laws and traditions—beyond the tightly controlled access to the inner room—it means knowing God the way we were created to know him: socially and intimately.
Meeting Jesus face to face prompted the Samaritan woman to rouse the leaders of her community…
…prompted Naomi to embrace and share an inspiring level of maturity in her relationship with God…
…prompted Tyler and our STP team to serve the needs of a hurting people with hands and feet…