Desiring A Heart Of Worship

I had a pretty busy time at work during the week so I looked forward to the weekend of 14th march 2008.Tired and in need of rest, I had put aside the idea of attending 2008 edition of House on the Rock, The Refuge’s yearly ‘Jam mega fest’ which held at Eagle’s Square Abuja. I was not moved by the array of top class gospel artists that were scheduled to perform as I had become so wary of attending gospel shows and gigs.

Though entertainment has become one of the biggest industries worldwide, and that for obvious reasons, but a couple of ‘concerned’ Christians feel the church should focus more on meeting the spiritual needs of people even though there’s a place for using entertainment to meet the socio-psychological needs of people in our churches. Since we are primarily spiritual beings, if we continually focus strictly on the entertainment side of music without sorting and meeting our spiritual needs as Christians, we may end up becoming famished and spiritually malnourished at the end of the day.

So that night of Friday, the 14th of March 2008, I struggled with the desire to sleep and rest, and the pull to go and join other believers at Eagle’s Square. After thinking through, I decided to disdain the comfort of my room and headed straight to the venue of the mega jam fest; I actually left around 12 midnight! True to my guess, a mammoth crowd filled the main bowl of the square with hundreds loitering about, seemingly engaged in trivialities, while others who came to do business sold their wares on kiosks and stands around the square. I can now understand why Jesus Christ had to use whip to flog and chase away the merchants that sold goods around the temple because their activities detracted from the sole purpose of worshipping God at the temple. Though the worshippers needed the stuff on sale, many of the sellers it could be argued didn’t just care about the central motif of the all-night gathering.

I slipped into the crowd who gyrated and danced to the tunes reverberating from the loud speakers. I finally found a seat at the southern far end of the square, but so many of the folks around me talked and chatted to give the place the spirit of a typical market scene, making wish I’d come earlier. After a session of prayers, Rev. Paul Adefarasin came up stage to preach a powerful sermon on seeking God. He spoke like a man hungry to see the power of God displayed, and like a revivalist, he urged people to look beyond material blessings and quest for prosperity and focus on true spiritual riches which are found only in God. His was like a lamentation from a heart that longs and wails for the manifestation of God’s presence among His people.

The message was a perfect ground upon which Don Moen built a monument of worship as he stepped onto the platform with his band of musicians; instrumentalists and singers! Don Moen sat by his acoustic piano, he led the congregation in a long session of heart-felt worship and with deft touches, he struck notes in the hearts and souls of many that came to the event. At some point, he plucked notes from his violin like an accomplished virtuoso with so much grace that made hearts fly into ecstasy. Little wonder the hearts of many melted and hands were raised without anyone’s command. When I couldn’t handle the intensity of the glow in my heart, tears freely traced outlines on my face as my knees hit the hard floor without a care in this world. This beloved man whose simple and lyrical songs have blessed many took us on a flight of steps like those that Jacob saw at Bethel. Little did we know that God’s presence could descend so strongly into a mundane place like Eagle’s Square where politicians have done intriguing things that defied reason and sense of judgment! The same square where ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags determined the direction of Nigeria‘s politics, a simple man had succeeded in melting the hearts of many!

There was something special about Don Moen that won the hearts of so many that sang, danced and worshipped for nearly 2 hours that he was up the neon-lit stage. He wore a simple shirt over his jean trousers, and his bespectacled eyes glittered as he beamed out smiles that were not forced. He didn’t struggle to make an impression and neither did he change the inflection of his voice to strike a point as a celebrity, yet he’s known and respected all around the world, at least among Christians of all doctrinal divides and congregations. Through one man and the numerous ‘God-centric songs’ he had composed and sang, Christians across the globe have come to know the deeper depths of worship. Though he has a major stake in Integrity Music Inc, Don Moen has remained humble and relevant to the advancement of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Though we have wonderful and talented gospel artists in Nigeria, I wonder why we’re not yet leading a world revival in worship. Oftentimes, Christian artists in their bid to ‘make it big’ have forgotten all about the place of worship. Christian songs have become so mundane that they are produced to have a commercial appeal, with little spiritual value added to them. While we may use the lack of seasoned Nigerian-born worship ministers (in the ilk of Panam Percy Paul), we have no plausible reason to not build a culture of true worship among contemporary Nigerian Christians. Our traditional culture had perfected the act of honoring and worshipping kings and the Almighty, The Creator of Heaven and Earth. We need to draw from our cultural background to worship God in Spirit and in Truth and I wonder what Nigerian Christians have contributed to the liturgy of Christian worship since Christianity made an inroad into our land in the past 100years and more. I have been lifted to heights of worship while listening to Messianic Jewish songs and other folk songs of Jewish origin. And the American church has produced wonderful worship leaders and has dictated the worship mode for Christians worldwide. I remember the Maranatha Music and Hosanna Integrity days!

If we can open our hearts and shut our eyes, lifting holy hands to the Lord, in true worship, I wonder if our soul and spirit would not be lifted to the Throne Room of God where we’d eavesdrop on songs that angels are singing in heaven. If we can learn to minister to the ‘heavenly audience’ we might per chance glean a thing or two from the unending notes that emanate from heaven. Until then, I’d still be constrained to depend on the American Church to lead me in the part of true worship. Sadly enough, we still have great Christian artists and singers in Nigeria who have focused more on entertainment rather than worship. Maybe they don’t realize that psalmists and worship leaders have been given the grace and ‘privilege to lead us all into God’s presence. But the irony is that we’ve depended on worship leaders for too long, whereas God expects us all to worship Him in privacy and in corporate gatherings. When we begin to desire earnestly to know and worship God truly, He’d certainly thaw our hearts such that we’ll be counted among those that worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

From where I stood that night, I looked intently at Don Moen and wondered how long it took this lovely man to get to the level where he is today. He doesn’t see himself as a star though he’s respected and admired by Christians all across the world. I still wonder what made him sing and couch such lyrical songs that have thawed and melted my heart for years. Way back in 1997, I remember hearing the wordings of one of his songs which still makes my heart rise in worship. The song goes:

“You make me lie down in green pastures,

You make me wanting for nothing

You still my hunger with honey from your sweet, sweet Word

You make me worship before you

So I’ll love and adore you

You are my shepherd, You are my Jesus, You are my Lord

As Don Moen rounded up his session at Eagles’ Square around 3am in the morning, I felt a glow in my spirit and desired to have a heart that truly worshipped God like he did. I went back home satisfied that I had enjoyed corporate worship and secretly longed in my heart to come to a level where I’ll glow always in my spirit each time I come before God in worship. Interestingly, I heard from friends in Lagos that on December 1st, 2007, Moen also changed the spiritual atmosphere at Tafawa Belewa Square in Lagos during a similar all-night praise and worship program that was hosted by House on the Rock. There just must be something about a heart that truly worships God in spirit and in truth. That is just one thing I desire. Exceedingly!

Written by
Felix-Abrahams Obi
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