Often I’m asked why we call our ministry “Next Level Worship”? They want to know what that term means and who qualifies to be on the “next level.” I especially appreciate those who want the scriptural evidence for the idea of next-level worship.
Next-level worship, as we call it, does not imply some mystical place for the spiritually elite. If so, I’d be left out too because I’m not one of those either. I can relate to Paul when he said in Philippians 3, “I haven’t attained. I’m still pressing for the mark, for the prize.”
So, what does God want to see in us as worshipers? What does God want us to experience and understand about worship? What does God want to see in us as worshipers? What does God want us to experience and understand about worship?
Let’s dig into God’s word and find out, shall we? At Next Level Worship International, we believe there are three characteristics which represent what a next-level worshiper is. A next-level worshiper gives worship, lives worship, and shares worship.
The first characteristic is a passion to give worship. Psalm 29:1-2 says, “Give to the Lord, O you mighty ones. Give to the Lord glory and strength.” And then a third time, “Give to the Lord the glory due His name. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
Let me ask you a question. Did he just shift gears? Did he just say, “Now I’m going to go a different direction. I’ve used the idea of giving. Now I’m going to switch over to worship”? Do you think that’s what he was doing there? I don’t think so. He said, “Give to the Lord. Give. Give, i.e., worship.” You see, that’s what worship is. It’s giving to God.
Have you ever been asked this question from somebody: “What did you get out of the worship service today? Did you like that music? Did you get anything out of that?” Have you ever been guilty of asking that question? I have. That’s the wrong question. The question should be, “What did I put into worship today?” The question should be, “What did I put into worship today?”
If our attitude is to come to get and get blessed, then we probably will. But what about when the service and congregational singing is dry? Should we not still give worship then too? Did our God change? Is there anything about our God that was different in that service than others that inspired me and blessed me? No. God never changes, and our worship should always be done with passion for Him.
George Barna, speaking at a conference a few years ago, said, “Unfortunately, many believers still think that worship is something we primarily do for ourselves.” If we think that worship is something primarily for ourselves, then we’re not on the next level. We’re not even on the ground floor. We’re in the basement of our understanding about worship, because worship starts with giving to the Lord.
The first level of giving worship is not based on knowledge. Look at John, Chapter 9. The setting here is that Jesus had just healed a blind man that had been born blind. He had put mud in his eyes and said, “Go wash.” And when he washed off, he was healed, wasn’t he? The Pharisees got upset about that. They were looking for any reason to snare Jesus in some way. So they called in this blind man that now can see. Listen to what they said. “The second time they summoned the man who had been born blind. ‘Give Glory to God,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.'” Here’s what the man born blind replied: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see.”
Think about that. He didn’t even know if Jesus was a sinner or not! When I trusted Christ as a six and a half year old I didn’t know much. I was young, but that didn’t keep me from going to school and telling all my first-grade friends, “Something happened to me.” I didn’t understand much, but I knew I was blind but now I see. I was lost but now I’m found. I didn’t have purpose and now I do. I didn’t have joy; now I do. Do you remember back when that was your situation? Do you remember that? Can you think back to the time when you couldn’t wait to get to church to worship?
Why not be excited about the God that changed us? Have we gotten so far away from that life-changing moment and so “mature” in our faith that we’ve forgotten we were blind but now we see? If we want to be next level worshipers, we’ve got to have passion. God gives it. We can’t manipulate that. May we let the passion He gave us show up on our faces and come from our hearts.
Jesus found that blind man when he got kicked out of the temple and here’s what Jesus said. When he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the son of man?” “Who is he, sir?” Jesus said, “You’ve seen him. In fact, he’s the one speaking with you.” The man said, “‘Lord, I believe,’ and then he fell down and worshiped.”
Did you catch that? No one had to prompt the blind man. No one had to say, “Hey, cue you. Time to worship! You’re supposed to fall right now and worship.” He didn’t have much knowledge at all. He just knew the man he was looking at face to face had changed his life. No wonder he had passion!
It’s not enough to stay in the no-knowledge area. We can’t stay there because, let’s face it, we’re not always “up,” are we? There are days when life can deplete the passion right out of us. Can you relate? That is why we need some more knowledge built in with our passion, to help mature us.
The second characteristic of an excellent worshiper is to surrender to live worship. There needs to come a point in our lives where we want to worship more than just on Sundays. We want to do it on Mondays too–and every day of the week.
Romans 12:1 is a good explanation of true worship. “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God; that is your reasonable service (or spiritual worship in the NIV).”
Worship means laying our bodies out before the Lord, and saying, “Lord, my body is on the altar. You don’t need me dead. You need me alive. You need me to surrender everything because I have no rights of my own. I don’t want to think I deserve anything, Lord. I’m totally yours.” If we do that, we’re bringing glory and honor to God. Thus, anything this body of mine does as long as it’s laying out on that altar, so to speak, is worship. If we’re walking down the street, we’re bringing glory to God.
Try this. Breathe out. Now, breathe in. Do you know what you just did? If you’re in love with the Lord, you just expressed worship to Him with that body of yours. If our body is laid on the altar, everything we do is worship. That’s how it works.
1 Corinthians 10:31 is one of my favorite verses. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” When our bodies are laid out as a sacrifice to God and we’re surrendering our whole life to Him, then everything we do, including eating and drinking, is worship to God.
The last few years, I’ve seen God raise up some teachers, books and worship songs that all teach us how worship is a lifestyle, that it’s more than what we do on Sundays. However, now I can see how God is beginning to enlighten us and help us understand there is one more element to next-level worship. It is this: We need a burden to share worship with others. Let’s just let that soak for a minute. Why would that be included with next-level worship? Why is that so very important?
Look at 1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 9: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The King James says that we would “show forth the praises of Him who call us.”
Have you ever heard someone say, “Religion’s a private thing. It’s something you keep to yourself”? Or “Hey, it’s not anyone’s business how I worship God. That’s between me and God”? Not true! If worship is just about “me and God having our praise moment,” if that’s all worship is, then why doesn’t He take us on to Heaven? We would do a much better job there of doing that. We’ll see Him face-to-face. We’ll see Him as He is and worship Him as we should. God leaves us here on earth to let our lights so shine before men when they see our good works and glorify (worship) our Father in Heaven.God leaves us here on earth to let our lights so shine before men when they see our good works and glorify (worship) our Father in Heaven.
I want us to return, in closing here, to 1 Corinthians, chapter 10. For many years now, I’ve quoted verse 31 about doing everything to the glory of God. But listen to the verses right before it: “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews or Greeks or the church of God. Even as I try to please everybody in every way, for I am not seeking my own good but the good of many so that they may be saved.”
If you look at those verses in context, Paul is saying if you are invited into the house of a pagan or lost person, and they invite you to sit down and eat with them, then you should eat whatever’s on the table. God made it all. There’s nothing restricted. Eat whatever you want. However, what if somebody there says, “You’re not supposed to be eating that. That’s food sacrificed to idols.” Should we just blow it off like it doesn’t matter what they think? After all, worship’s just between you and God, right? So, they can just get over it. Is that what Paul is saying here? No! Not at all.
I believe he was saying, why let them speak badly of you? Why be a stumbling block? Simply don’t eat it. Our natural response might be to say, “Well, it’s my right to eat what I want.” But keep this in mind: You and I no longer have rights. If our bodies are on God’s altar, then we have no rights. We gave up any rights we might have had when we got saved. Thus, it doesn’t matter what we want; it only matters what God’s Word says.
Are you and I willing to share our worship with others? Are we willing to say, “Lord, I love you so much that I want to be a light to this world”? More than singing to people on Sundays, if we’re not willing to take time to get to know our neighbors or give a cup of cold water to someone in need, then we’re not on the next level of worship. A next-level worshiper says, “It’s not just vertically between God and me. Worship is horizontal, in how I love others.”