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Heart to Heart Worship
"Fascinated hearts" beat at the centre of a worship style that's spreading fast.

Arms upraised. Hands clapping. Music saturating the room. Tears of joy. Tears of shame. Songs that ooze passion for the Divine. This is worship.

There's a growing movement in Christian circles. The development of a different kind of worshipper. Unquenchable. Unstoppable. Undignified. Undone. They worship before an audience of one. Although I've been in the church all my life and experienced thousands of services, this worship has a different feel about it. The style is part of the change but the attitude is where you really sense it. The main goal seems to be to lose oneself in God; to give praise and devotion in a way that truly glorifies the Creator.

Much traditional Protestant worship has emphasized thoughtful dignity. This worship calls on an emotional reaching out to experience God. The song lyrics are often about love and passion.

Over the mountains and the sea,
your river runs with love for me …
I could sing of your love forever.

The singing is not about God—it's to God. The sermon time still has value for teaching, but the music and prayer are the heart of the service, with an outpouring of heartfelt emotion.

One source for learning more about this movement is Matt Redman's book The Unquenchable Worshipper (Regal). Redman is a worship leader, songwriter and musician in England. His book is an enthusiastic and beautiful explanation of passion for God, expressed in praise and prayer.

Redman certainly knows Church history and Christian literature. He refers regularly to Barclay, Bonhoeffer, Moltmann and Wesley.

He suggests worshippers should be unquenchable: "The heart of God loves a persevering worshipper who, though overwhelmed by many troubles, is overwhelmed even more by the beauty of God." When calling on Christians to be "humble and undone" in worship, he quotes Francois Fenelon: "All our falls are useful if they strip us of a disastrous confidence in ourselves, while they do not take away a humble and saving trust in God."

He writes to inspire: "Fascinating as it would be to know exactly how earth was formed or now far the star-filled galaxies stretch, I'm far more captured by this mystery: almighty God would invite me to intimacy with Himself, and the Son of God would willingly die on a cross to make that possible."

" … At some point you need to worship just to worship, to lose yourself in God."

Maybe the language is too gender-specific, but the heart for God is true and refreshing. Much of our mainline worship is "cause" and "issue" driven. A colleague in New York once said to me: "The church across town has a different theme every week. Afghan Sunday, then Stewardship … Camping … Environment. At some point you need to worship just to worship, to lose yourself in God."

So this turn to a simpler agenda in public worship leads to what Redman calls "the raw, uncomplicated devotion of a fascinated heart." On a quest to bring glory and pleasure to God, these worshippers will not allow themselves to be distracted or defeated.

In a musical prayer Redman says: "I simply come, longing just to bring something that's of worth; That will bless Your heart."

The Unquenchable Worshipper, by Matt Redman, published by Regal Books (September 2001), ISBN: 0830729135.

Orville James serves a United Church in Burlington, ON that offers traditional and contemporary worship each week. He can be reached at

Originally published in The United Church Observer, April 2002.




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