Serve Seattle

Several weeks ago, I had the sweet privilege of going to speak to the courageous interns that have committed their lives to Serve Seattle, an incredible program that encompasses live-in community, mentorship,  training in leadership and service, all with the purpose of literally hitting the streets in as many ways possible to serve the city. It is a beautiful endeavor and if you know of any young person looking to do a gap year or sensing that their journey needs a divine interruption {there is a Spring Immersion and a Summer Intensive} direct them HERE. Even their website inspires me!


That said, I was invited to speak on the topic of worship and our discussion proved rich and lively and full of freedom.

For weeks prior to our time together, I polled people randomly about how they might define “worship”. For most, the word denoted singing or making music to God. It was a word used to describe a style of church service or faith gathering.

As I dug deeper, the word for many brought up feelings of insecurity — the thought that there might be one “right” way to worship left them frozen,  self-aware rather than god-aware, wondering if raising their hands showed arrogance or the lack thereof showed a lukewarm heart. And yet others found worship to be a major point of division in the body of Christ, the butt of criticism where one denomination or gathering varied in its style from another and thus separated the bride that God so expressly wants unified.

It was amazing how much this one word evoked from the hearts and mouths of those polled.

And so with all those perceptions I went to the one place I knew would bring clarity. I combed through scripture to find how God himself might unpack this word that I think perhaps has become distorted for those it was meant to bless and to free.

Joshua says this: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” {Joshua 24:15-16}. For Joshua, it is a decision that sets his family apart. Could it be that every decision we make is an act of worship?

Jesus asserts:   “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  {John 4:24}  Could it be that worship is not about about a place or a tradition, but about authenticity of the soul?

Mark echoes Deuteronomy when he exorts “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” {Mark 12:30} Could it be that worship is so much more than a song and bodily posture, but also a posture of the heart?

Paul exhorts, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” {Romans 12:1} Could it be that we are not just to worship on Sunday, or during a “quiet time”, but that we are to develop a lifestyle of worship?

John Piper so beautifully put it this way:

Worship must be vital and real in the heart, and worship must rest on a true perception of God. There must be spirit and there must be truth. . . . Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers . . . . On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.

So after listening to this to prepare our hearts, the interns and I waded through a rich conversation about what it is to worship, what it is to integrate our hearts and bodies and minds and focus them all on a God who love us, delights in us, knows that our most satisfied place is when we are locked in a gaze with Him. It is not that He is some megalomaniac that needs our attention. It is that He is a playful, loving, generous father who gets that His kids are happiest and most secure  when they are fully released to be their full selves under the delighted eye of their dad.

My favorite moment of our time together is when I asked every student to close their eyes, to recall a time when they felt worshipful in their deepest parts, and to let their bodies mirror on the outside what they were experiencing on the inside. For some time, they sat, recalling that moment. Different emotions glanced across faces – smiles, thoughtfulness, a tear or two – and bodies began to take shape. Standing, sitting, kneeling. One drew her knees in tight as she perched on her chair, another lifted her hands to the heavens. A young man’s knees kissed the ground, another sat motionless. A young woman collapsed inward as she drew her hands to her heart and bowed her head, another had his arms low and expanded wide with great strength as if he were carrying the world.

It was breathtaking.

I had them freeze and slowly open their eyes, and as their gazes swept around the room, smiles bloomed on their faces.

Not one posture looked the same as another. But they were all experiencing worship.

Unique. Beautiful. Delighted in. Free.

There is no one, right way. There is only spirit and truth. And that could look as varied and beautifully diverse as the multitude of us that God created.

My friends experienced freedom as thier hearts joined with God as expressed in the most authentic way their bodies knew how.

And today they graduate. 

Serve Seattle, my heart is with you today as you close this chapter and take with you all that the Lord has sewn in you. May you develop a lifestyle of worship! May you be free of any notion of what it should look like — hands up or knees on the ground, corporate or church, backyard or abroad, high heels or barefooted — as there is only one you. And the Lord has particular plans for you to walk out and particular people for you serve and particular pockets of the world for you to impact and particular ways for you to bring light and reflect His glory in this world… in a way only you can! May you walk blessed and free and full of the knowledge of Jesus. You are so loved!



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