Service & Worship: Outside of Ourselves and into the Zone with God


When you think about service and worship, they appear to be two very outwardly visible actions, and they are. You definitely know when someone is serving and when someone is worshipping. But what makes service and worship spiritual disciplines is what needs to happen first on the inside. What happens on the outside is just a symptom of the root cause that has begun within.

The search for meaning

In the classic film A Charlie Brown Christmas, the pessimistic Charlie Brown is troubled by the fact that Christmas has become too commercial and lacking any sort of significant meaning. When he shares his woes with his friend Lucy she diligently tries to label what ales him and suggests that in order to for him to find the meaning of Christmas, he needs involvement.

Involvement in a cause bigger than yourself has long been a recommendation for people who are in search of meaning. To fill the needs of others tends to also fill ourselves, give us purpose. There is power in that. As an act in and of itself these are all good, but God intended service for even more than this.

Our human minds tend to work from the outside in. We notice a symptom and try to treat what is immediately seen or felt. It’s a normal response. When Jesus came to earth, he constantly tried to point people inward. Where the people during that time wanted Jesus to fill a physical need (leprosy, blindness, even death), he sought to fill a spiritual need (salvation, redemption, even service).

Jesus modeled service in the most visible way he could on the night before he was betrayed. One of the last lessons he gave to his disciples was the washing of their feet. They all expected to become great and powerful rulers and even argued over who would be the greatest among (next to Jesus, of course). He had other plans.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
– John 13:12-15

The zone of transcendence

In a more recent film Disney and Pixar’s Soul, a middle-school music teacher, Joe, is on the brink of fulfilling his dream of breaking into the music business when an accident befalls him on the way to an important gig. As much as the movie is about Joe’s journey, it also revolves around music itself. There is great emphasis on a moment in music when a musician gets into “the zone”. Suddenly the room fades away and you see color and light without any recognizable form.

As a worship leader, I can say that I have personally experienced these moments in the zone. It really is transcending—the room does seem to fade away, your gaze immediately rises upward, and you can almost feel your spirit being lifted up. Music has a powerful way of doing this (whether the music is pointed toward God or not).

This feeling is not just limited to music, it can happen at the summit of a mountain, on the shore of a peaceful beach, deep in the woods, or in the arms of your precious loved one. It’s the feeling of awe that was placed there by our truly awesome God. And even in this, God intended more.

What more is there?

God rarely moves in straight lines. The beauty we see in the nature of his creation is often filled with curves and twists. So if the powerful and great feelings we get from service and worship can be so great even when we don’t invite him in, what more is there?

When we look at service and worship as spiritual disciplines, they are practiced as different expressions of getting closer to God. What’s unique about these two—service and worship—is that they are the most outwardly visible and least centered around ourselves. In other words, service and worship are both outward focused and outward facing.

Many of the other spiritual disciplines we’ve covered have been very inward focused and that is intentional. The order and pairing of these disciplines has been intentional as well.

Because service and worship are the most outward facing, they are best done when our inside has been filled up with any and all the spiritual disciplines we’ve already covered—prayer and confession, meditation and study, fasting and sabbath, silence and solitude, simplicity and giving.

Service and worship are a response to what God has given us in the practice of the other spiritual disciplines. It is the overflow of how God has filled us. It is the source of our energy to serve more. It is the light that our gaze turns toward.

And if you’re still looking for more, these spiritual gifts not only impact us, but they actually fill the needs and spirits of others that God is trying to reach. And he chooses to let us be part of it all. Everything working together for our benefit and his glory.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
– John 4:23-24

Next Steps

We hope that you enjoyed studying these spiritual disciplines with us and will join us on our next Family Support study. If you would like to talk more about this or have a Family Partner walk alongside you, please reach out to us here.