“Dont EVER allow lights, cameras, and smoke machines to become a cover up for the absence of my glory.” These were the weighty words I heard one day as I walked through the sanctuary of my Youth Church building. These words were a wake up call. Not only that, these words marked me and I’ve never forgotten them since. It’s like God knew exactly what I needed, and what I WOULD need from that moment forward and he handed it to me in one unforgettable phrase. Now, I don’t mean to be redundant here, but moreover,  I’ve carried those words with me to every ministry event, and onto every stage since.
I’m constantly gauging the genuineness of my heart, and conversing with the Lord even as I lead. There will even be moments when I’m encouraging a crowd to trust in the Lord, while at the same time, fighting and re-adjusting the placement of my own confidence and trust. I think many pre-aspiring worship leaders would agree that they didn’t know leading worship would be such a multi-task.
The timing of this word was also very interesting and when I look back, I can remember wondering why He felt the need to say THAT to me THEN. I mean, this was during an incredibly healthy time for our youth ministry, and although we had lights, and cameras, we were still solely captivated by and caught up in Jesus— Or so I thought. And I’ll never forget the moment I was forced to question the genuineness of my worship.
As our service opened up with prayer one Wednesday evening, the pastor made his way to the stage and announced, “Tonight, we’re not gonna use the lights or any of the equipment. We’re not even gonna keep the lights on. Tonight, I want to see how you will worship in a regular setting without any help.” And “Help” was referencing all of our lovely technology. I certainly thought it would be easy as I was SO in love with Jesus… but that wasn’t the case. Surprisingly, worship that evening was tough and as a matter of fact, we were ALL exposed. No sooner than we began the first song, did we realize how much strobe lights, smoke machines, and darkness had made us feel intimately closer to God. And the truth is, none of those things bring ANYONE closer to God. Yet all of those things stroke our senses. Don’t worry. I love a good well-lit worship service haha. But I’m trying to indicate that some of the things that were supposed to HELP us connect, have caused a DISCONNECT.
What am I getting at here…? I’m poking at your heart, worshipper. I want you to begin to decipher between being caught up in His presence and being caught up in the experience you and your team worked so hard to create.  I want you to ask yourself, if you’ve become more focused on the details of the planned service than His heart because the truth is, one DOES matter more than the other. And if we think that our HARD work will touch more hearts than our obedience, then we need to do some adjusting.
As I was reading about David in 2 Samuel, I saw a beautiful parallel between Israel and the modern Church. In this chapter, the bible paints an incredibly detailed picture of one grandiose party. David had grabbed 30,000 men for this particular procession and they were celebrating!!  I mean, why not, they were escorting the presence of the Lord (the Ark of the Covenant) back to its home – their home. And seeing Davids love for the Presence of the Lord, these were exciting times. But, as we all know this party would soon be cut short, as the oxen would stumble and a man (Uzzah) would die. The scripture says that Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and when he did, the anger of the Lord burned against him. Hmmmm… his actions seemed noble enough, right?
Well, when you dig deeper into the story line you’ll find that God was probably angry before this specific moment, and that Uzzah probably got the brunt of the blow. You see, the presence of God came with what some would currently call a Tech Rider. And if you don’t know what a Tech rider is, it is a detailed description of how a guest would like to be hosted at a venue and during an event. For some artist/ministers/guests it can be over-the-top detailed, and for others can be simple. But regardless of the specifics, God’s  detailed design and desire for hosting was not well respected. As a matter of fact, while the ark was supposed to be carried by Levites, it was actually being carried by animals. I believe THIS was just ONE of the things that lead to this tragedy. And as you read through the story, you’ll notice that after this tragedy, when Israel attempted to return the ark the second time, they followed the plan.
As I read through the details of this instance, I could CLEARLY see a parallel with the church today. I could see the lurking dangers of getting so comfortable with God and his presence, that we think the results our hard work and sacrifices equate to the pleasure of God. And in turn, we also think that the outcome of our hard work and sacrifices equate to the presence of God. This scripture says that 30,000 men were added in attendance to this party. The bible says that they were worshipping so loud, and they were filled with SO much excitement..yet all the while, God was angry. And although he was there, he was not with them.
Have you ever hear people argue about the phrase, “Oh God let your presence come now!” The argument is ALWAYS regarding whether or not we should even be asking God to come if he’s already here because he is IN US. Well, yes.. this is theologically true. But if this is the case, then that puts us in the same predicament as the Israelites on that tragic day when the anger of the Lord burned against them. You see… HE WAS THERE… and he was present… but he was not pleased.  

This was one of the greatest celebrations of all times. This was an incredibly well-put-together PRESENTATION. They’d worked it all out on Planning Center, they had thousands of volunteers come and be apart of their event, and everything looked so well, and YET, HIS presence was not with them, because HIS pleasure was not with them. And today instead of an ark, we are the temple. We are the carriers of his presence. And I want to ask you this question. IF HE IS WITH US.. IS HE PLEASED WITH US? I don’t want to know about the presentation, because we’re really good at that. We’re really great at following written directions and creating and building, but what we’re sometimes not good at is HOSTING THE PRESENCE WELL. And quit honestly,  that’s what we need. We need to know in our hearts, that HE IS PLEASED WITH US. That while we can put together a flashy service, we can also present our bodies as a LIVING sacrifice, HOLY AND PLEASING TO GOD.