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Worship is key challenge facing Baptists, pastor says

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“The day is upon us where the message needs to be clear and the bell needs to be rung solidly that God wants you to be a worshiper before you can be a worship leader,” Rick Ousley said during the final chapel service of the 1997-98 academic year at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Ousley, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., addressed what he felt is one of the “most current issues in churchmanship: What it means to be a true worshiper of God.”
Too many times in churches today people go to church, call it a worship service or experience, but fundamentally are guilty of being a worship evaluator, rather than experiencing worship, Ousley said May 7.
“It’s like having a remote control and mentally plugging into the part of the worship service that fits our mode or where we want to be at that moment,” he said. “Our God is worthy of pure, entire worship experiences, not selective evaluative worship experiences.”
Ousley said he is not sure if “we are raising a generation today that really experiences the awesome presence of God.”
The longest book in Scripture is a worship manual, Ousley pointed out. Studying Psalms shows all the expressions of worship, he said: “clap your hands to the Lord, shout out to the Lord, let us bow before the Lord, let us come before the Lord, lift your hands to the Lord, let everything that has breathe praise the Lord.”
“Worship is a verb. It is not a spectator experience. It is a participatory experience,” he said.
There is a misconception in worship that the audience is the congregation, and the actors or the ones on the platform are the performers (speaker, band, singers), and the prompter is God, he said.
However, in genuine acts of worship, this is not the case, he said. “The audience is an audience of one. God is the audience and we the congregation are the actors and the performers. Therefore, we must understand true worship.”
The horizon is filled with new challenges for the Southern Baptist Convention as a denomination and a key issue to be addressed is worship, especially since people today are not as denominationally loyal or committed as they have been in years past, Ousley said.
People are not going to go to a Baptist church just because it says Baptist, he said.
“People are looking for two things,” Ousley said. “They are looking for life and they are looking for love.”
They are looking for a place where the Word of God is not compromised and they are looking for a place where they will be accepted redemptively, where they are loved and can grow and be nurtured in the ways of God.
“God has a desire to reach people, not Baptists,” he said. “I love our denomination, but I want you to understand, and no matter if you look at it through contemporary or traditional terminologies, there is a world out there that wants answers and wants to experience God in a real, genuine way. They want to know if it works.”
Christians need to bring back emotion into worship, he said, not to be emotionally driven, but to express passion.
“We don’t need to be afraid of the emotional response when we worship God in spirit, passionately, with our whole heart,” he said.
Worshiping God in truth is a mental recognition, Ousley said. “The Word of God is a lamp unto our feet, and I don’t worship God because of the way I feel but based on the beautiful balance of what his Word wants me to know.
“If you think you are going to reach a contemporary culture and lead them to be true worshipers without going to the Book, you are making a big mistake,” Ousley said.
“We better be ready to address their (contemporary culture) questions with the Word of God,” he said. “Give your people a way to take theology out to a workplace on Monday, applicable to their family on Tuesday and give them a way to be practitioners of the Word.”
Ousley defined worship in several ways:
— “Worship is our response to God for who he is and what he has done as expressed by what we say and what we do.”
— “True worship is the connecting of my personal relationship to my passionate response to God, resulting in pure righteousness.”
— “Worship is coming before our God in absolutely total abandonment of ourselves and say, ‘Holy Spirit, search me. Lord Jesus, see me. O God, I want you to call me unto yourself.'”
— “True worship is our affection for God expressed inside out. True worship comes from the heart.”
Ousley said worship is not:
— a place.
— some procedure, practice or routine.
— a personality or an earthly creature.

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  • Steve Achord