Have you ever been told your worship life should look more like your participation at a sporting event – more passion, more engagement, more joy? And have you ever felt at a loss as to why it just doesn’t seem to work that way week to week? The answer: tension.
When Tension is Gone
My guess is that most of us don’t sit down in great anticipation to watch last year’s Super Bowl game every Sunday. If you did, you probably wouldn’t be nearly as passionate or engaged as the first time you watched it. In fact, in time, your passion for that game would grow stagnant. That’s because the tension is gone. You already know who wins. And if you really cared about the game, you would probably know most of the big moments of the game as well.
Now think about our worship as believers. We gather together weekly to worship our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and to celebrate his victory over sin and death approximately 2000 years ago. The account of Jesus and the cross is not new (nor should we ever try to alter it in any way). And no Christian who has traveled to Israel has ever been surprised to find the garden tomb empty. If you have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, this will not be news to you. You know the account well. The reality is that we don’t share the same tension that the early disciples did when Jesus lay in the grave. We know about the resurrection.
And if all we expect of our worship is to rehearse and remember a historical account from 2000 years ago, then it should not be surprising to find a lack of passion, engagement and joy.
But that is not the message of the Gospel.
Where to Find Tension
Unlike the Super Bowl, the Gospel is not just an event that came and went. It is the central and transforming point of all history that alters every day of our lives! As Christian, we are not called to merely watch a game, we called to get involved – to participate in the Great Commission by making disciples (Mt 28:18-20). And fulfilling that commission depends on the power of the Gospel daily. Our lives depend on it.
The tension that creates passion, engagement and joy in our worship is found when we connect the life-giving, never-changing truths of the Gospel with the unpredictable, challenging and dependency-creating practice of living the Christian life. We find tension when we connect God’s Word with each day of our life. Warning though! Tension is rarely comfortable. Praying for a prodigal child, sharing the gospel, disciplining yourself to study God’s Word, suffering for Christ’s sake – all of these produce tension that results in passionate and engaged worship. If the cross makes no difference for how you live today or tomorrow, then you had better take another look at the cross.
God has been using tension to develop hope (Romans 5:3-5) and foster worship (Jn 20:28) in his followers from day one. He could have introduced the Saviour in Genesis chapter 4. He could have given Abraham a son much sooner. He could have answered every question we will ever have about him. He could have left us out of the equation for making disciples. But he didn’t.
How to Use Tension for God’s Glory
Here are some ways you can utilize tension for God’s glory.
- When worshipping – seek to connect your past few days with the truth you are singing.
- When leading small group – allow for periods of silence.
- When sharing the Gospel – don’t skip the bad news of the seriousness of sin.
- When leading services – teach people how to celebrate baptisms and conversions with real joy and enthusiasm.
- When teaching – don’t pretend all questions have easy answers.
- When discipling – don’t shy away from confronting issues.
- When leading worship – use the Psalms as a template to explore and resolve tension.
- When parenting – teach delayed gratification.
Tension should never be created by teaching false theology about God or attempting to manipulate emotions; however, neither should tension be ignored. God has invited us into the greatest story ever – a story filled with tension. As we retell the story and invite others to participate, let’s accurately represent it for God’s glory.