Will It Work in the Amazon Jungles?

(A new "Listen Up Moment!" is added each week on Sermon Seedbed)

Will It Work in the Amazon Jungles?

Sometimes a thought will just explode into your mind and you know where it came from. You say, "Get behind me Satan!" or "Yes, Lord!" It’s great to "know that you know" isn’t it? Recently I had such an ocassion. Of all places I had my head under the shower, I guess that’s the place everything else finally gets drowned out. It was there that the thought flashed on my mental monitor:

"Don’t make a requirement for worship that cannot be fulfilled in the jungles of the Amazon."

Interestingly, this thought eclipsed the man-made waterfall that was pounding on the outside of my head. I began to meditate on the thought. I thought of how this single thought washed away so many of the props that we often build into our thinking and sometimes preach from our pulpits. Do we not think or at least hear at times the following ideas:

    "God was about to really move, and then the sound sytem started crackling."

    "If the worship leader would just sing this style of music we could move to the next level."

    "We need a new building before we can really grow."

    "God can’t bless our church when the staff wears golf shirts to church on Sunday."

    "We almost got there today, God was so close. I wish our guest speaker could preach every week."

    "Our state of the art youth facility is going to cause our church to explode."

    "The only place God speaks to me is when my head is under the shower."
In the Amazon jungles, there are no sound systems. I imagine the style of worship there hasn’t changed much since the first missionaries came, a new building means, new leaves on the "lean to", it’s no shirts instead of golf shirts, any guest (speaker or not) is a rarity, state of the art is non-existent, a waterfall maybe, but not a shower.

I challenge all of us to make sure we can truthfully export what we preach around the world and expect it to work. If we cannot, we are allowing cultural expectations to be elevated above what God says. Yes we are all different and we have different traditions. Traditon is fine until it becomes more important than truth. The expectations we carry often put the requirement for "great" worship on someone else’s performance, or something mechanical, or some personal expectation of ours. Worship is about pleasing God not man. Since when have we been authorized to define successful worship by what it does for us? Tell that to Jesus when he was in Gethsemane pouring his heart out to God or on the cross pouring his heart out for us. Are we somehow worshipping ourselves, our own desires, our own rules? We do not get to make the call on what constitues "successful worship." I know there are lots of scriptures we use, but we too can make the word of God of none effect by our traditions.

Sure we should want to have excellence in all we do. We should not accept slouchy, sloppy, and apathy to rule. We should always be sensitive to what we can do to improve. BUT–not at the expense of the foundational requirement of worship — which is: the posture of the heart. Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.

If we get the atmosphere right, the sound right, the lighting right, the music right, the building right, the colors right, the flow of the service right, the look of the staff right, the image of the church right, the preaching right, but forget its all about the issue of the heart, we become white washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. We become religious, near sighted, and proud.

You should not ignore the things you can do to eliminate distractions, just don’t allow your desire to eliminate distractions to become the distraction that closes your heart to God. Yes, you may have goose bumps in a service when it all comes together, but it may be from the pride and sense of accomplishment you have from being able to pull it together. The desire to build the Tower of Babel can still sneak up on us. "Will this work in the jungles of Amazon?" is a question that may help keep our core near the cry of the cross and away from the cries of the crowd.

By the way, two weeks after I was challenged by this thought, a friend sat with me at our church. He had traveled down from Nashville. I had not mentioned "my" thought to him. He began to share how God had used him on a mission trip to the Amazon. Though he was "not" a "gifted" worship leader, he had been asked to lead worship. He said, folks back home would have probably laughed upon hearing such a thought. Anyway, he simply from his heart began to worship God and the Lord blessed it tremendously. He said the people in the Amazon are still talking about the white man who led them in worship." Our carnal minds tell us, "People in the Amazon are starving and anyone can be a hit on such a mission trip." Yeah, poor people in the Amazon, all they have is their hearts and they use that in worship. Forgive me for being a little cynical. I am frustrated at myself for how I have too often made it about me instead of HIM.

Upon hearing my friend’s testimony, I could not help but feel God was confirming to me "Don’t make a requirement for worship that cannot be fulfilled in the jungles of the Amazon."

Every human has a heart and that’s what God requires.

This has been a "Listen Up Moment!"


Eddie Lawrence

(A new "Listen Up Moment!" is added each week on Sermon Seedbed)

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