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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Whole Life Worship: Worship and Our Whole Lives

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

COLOSSIANS 3:15-17

I have a large extended family, still mostly living in my home village, who are in more normal times prone to big gatherings with vast amounts of food. There’s one area of friction, however. When we say grace together, half my family will add ‘in Jesus’ name’, while the rest clash with an immediate ‘Amen’, all glaring at one another! This is the result of a silly feud which the family matriarch – my late grandmother – started who-knows-when. Half follow her insistence that we always pray ‘in Jesus’ name’ and the other half refuse, possibly just to spite her.

She must have read this passage of Colossians, but her understanding may have been flawed (don’t tell my cousins!). Paul is writing to the church with instructions on how to live and worship together. Verse 16 is often picked out by worship leaders to show the importance of singing together. Paul certainly gives congregational singing his approval, and there is no doubt that it can help to teach us, and allow us to express our thankfulness to God.

Paul also goes on, however, to expand his vision of worship beyond ‘psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit’ into the wonderfully inclusive ‘whatever you do’. We are not just to sing and pray in Jesus’ name, but to do everything in this way. Is it about just speaking the phrase, like my Grandma? ‘I’m going for a walk, in Jesus name’? No, I believe that he means that we do all things in the style of Jesus and for the glory of Jesus.

This is especially important to grasp at this time, when singing together has been discouraged on health grounds. Music is a wonderful tool, but worship is not dependent on it. What would it look like if you treated your family and friends in the style and for the glory of Jesus today? How would working ‘in Jesus’ name’ change how you do your job? Are there ‘words or deeds’ which would be done differently in your life if you approach them as worship?

There’s a glorious truth in those last two words as well – ‘through him’. As we do our best, aiming to live ‘in Jesus name’, God the Father looks at our efforts through Jesus. And we can trust that, however flawed, a life lived ‘in Jesus’ name’ becomes a fragrant offering of whole-life worship before God.

Sam & Sara Hargreaves
Sara and Sam run engageworship.org, providing training and resources for local church worship

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