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A Pastor's Worship Life

More than 20 years ago, I heard Kathryn Kuhlman say, "If you have only 10 minutes to pray, spend nine of them in worship and the last one for your petitions." She was voicing the preeminent place worship should have in the life of every believer.

by Joseph Garlington


I am convinced that nothing substantive is birthed in the purposes of God without worship. If true worshipers are the "kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23), then I want to make it easy for Him to find me. It might surprise us that He's not seeking apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers. Instead, He is pursuing, craving and searching diligently for worshipers.

There is no substitute--nothing else you ever do in ministry will yield the beneficial results that come from a life of worship. I have discovered, often serendipitously, some wonderful principles that have helped me as a worshiper:

1. Sheep versus lambs. Once when I was leading worship, I distinctly heard the Father tell me, "I'm healing only lambs tonight, and if you can see yourself as a lamb, I'll heal you." Since that experience more than 10 years ago, my approach to Him in worship has no longer been with the identity of a pastor; now it is with the fragile sense of being a lamb. Even Jesus is never referred to in Scripture as the "Sheep of God," only the "Lamb of God."

2. Children vs. adults. In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus presents a child as His model of greatness in the kingdom. He then says we must be converted and become like children.

Conversion is first a decision and then becomes a process. Rather than taking a posture before God as His adult, we are to come as His little child.

When Solomon described himself as "a little child," his words pleased the Lord (1 Kin. 3:7-10). When I seek to cultivate childlikeness in His presence, the Lord is able to teach me.

When it comes to worshiping God, we need to beware of "growing up." Who could, anyway, in the presence of one called "The Ancient of Days?"

3. Little vs. big. The prophet Samuel indicts King Saul with the reminder that there was a time when Saul was little in his own eyes (1 Sam. 15:17). I believe that worship--true worship--allows us to celebrate both the bigness of God and our own "littleness." The psalmist enjoins us to "magnify" the Lord, which we do by proclaiming Him to be greater than any challenge we could ever face.

4. Fountains vs. cisterns. This speaks of secondhand spirituality--the subtle concept that a daily devotional book or a praise tape is superior to your own relationship with the Father. Someone once said, "Ninety percent of the body of Christ is living off the devotional life of the other 10 percent."

I have often allowed someone else's word from God to take the place of my own word from God. For instance, I have been tremendously blessed by Oswald Chambers' devotional, My Utmost for His Highest; compared to God's Word, however, it's a "broken cistern" (see Jer. 2:13). The most powerful worship manual is the Bible.

These four principles have enabled me to have what J.B. Phillips called, "a sane estimate of my capabilities" as a pastor and a worshiper. They have helped me move from a self-centered perspective to a God-centered perspective in my life and ministry. That, for me, is what worship is all about.


Joseph Garlington is senior pastor of the Covenant Church of Pittsburgh and a worship leader with Maranatha Music.

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