This week I’m sharing the original song “The Grace In Which We Stand” to accompany this week’s post.

There’s nothing sweeter than the sound of God’s people singing to Him.

As a worship pastor, each week I have the joy and privilege of leading worship at our home church, Live Oaks Community Church, in The Villages, Florida.

A little over a year ago in Minnesota— when we were first contacted about traveling to Florida to candidate for this ministry position—I said to my wife, “I don’t want to be part of some sleepy, tradition-bound church that is just going through the motions of worship.” Little did I know how wrong my preconceived ideas about this church were!  Anyway, we accepted the invitation to interview for this ministry position even as we decided to view it as a week of traveling ministry and a nice break from the Minnesota early March winter weather. God, however, had other plans for us.

It’s hard to find the right words to describe our first visit to The Villages. Our heads were spinning as we saw 3 beautiful town squares with live music and great restaurants, theaters, a gorgeous performing arts center, miles and miles of paved trails, golf courses, polo stadium, swimming pools, softball fields, pickle ball courts, and gorgeous recreation centers where over 2,500 classes and clubs meet. We soon discarded our flawed notion of life in the Villages as a dull, dreary place where people are resigned to live out their days. As he gave us the tour of the Villages— the largest 55+ community in the world— Live Oaks’ Senior Pastor Chris Holck told us “This is a place where people come to live, not to die.” In fact, he told us, our church has a saying:

“Play hard, pray hard, finish well.”

The biggest surprise to us, however, was the vitality and authenticity of the church in worship.  I have led worship all over the world and in many churches, but have never heard worship singing so Spirit-filled, loud, and real as at Live Oaks Community Church.  As the church worshipped they showed—and continue to show—that it doesn’t matter what style or genre of worship music was done as long as it is directed to God. Our worship time has always been set apart as a time to experience God as we give Him an offering of worship, regardless of our personal preferences or backgrounds.

When the church called us to this ministry, and after prayers and blessings from our family we said “yes” to God’s call. Since coming on staff last June, we have moved to our new campus, and the church has experienced tremendous growth.  The heart of the church, however, continues to be revealed in worship. I am still amazed at the unity and authenticity of our church in worship, whether we do the latest current worship music or adapted versions of older songs and hymns.  I often step back from the microphone on Sundays, moved and in awe of God, as the church sings loud, heartfelt songs to Him.

In my book “The Isaiah Encounter: Living An Everyday Life of Worship” I wrote that personal agendas for music styles or selections need to be placed under God’s divine searchlight.  Demands that church worship fits our preferences can become false idols that create factions and keep us from experiencing God and being transformed by Him. The essence of worship is surrendering ourselves and our desires in favor of His kingdom work in and through us.

When the church sets aside preferences in style and simply comes to God with an unabashed offering of worship, great things can happen. God blesses his people, even as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 133:

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

…For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:1, 3

I see this happening in my home church and pray it will become the growing reality in God’s church throughout the world. It’s a beautiful thing when the Church worships God in unity.

There’s nothing sweeter than the sound of God’s people singing to Him.

God bless you.

Chris Atkins