When you hear the word worship mentioned in a church setting, what words, images, or impressions come to mind?
A dimmed auditorium.
Worship completes our souls and celebrates our Savior. Worship moves mountains. Worship unites. God designed worship to have incredible power, and when worship is used for the wrong means to a wrong end, worship divides. It divided the universe’s first worship leader from God and could be considered one of the most contentious points in the vision of a church.
There are stark denominational differences on what is even considered biblical and honoring to God.
Members of a church can speak passionately on the vision of the worship ministry and what it should contain, and who it should represent; more passionately than is sometimes fitting.
Here is a little background on me so you can better understand my passion on this important element of a Christian’s life.
I am 26 years old and I have been a member of four churches in my lifetime (2 non-denominational, 1 charismatic and 1 Baptist), attended two others (both Baptist) and visited multiple churches across my city.
My dad is a drummer and has been a member of worship bands at three different churches, and I spent most of my growing up years around that particular ministry.
Through the ministry of the fine arts, I spent 13 years performing in local churches and other venues with the art of Christian dance. Those events ranged from a large IPHC convention in front of thousands of people, to Sunday morning services at Baptist churches with a few hundred in attendance to Christmas productions with sets, actors, orchestra and singers.
To say I’ve seen it all would be fairly accurate. (Remember, one of those churches was charismatic!)
One thing that remains consistent across denominations is how many opinions members of a church have about worship.
Over the years, God has pointed out a few things to me and they truly help me enter into his presence no matter what church steeple I’m gathered under. I’ve labored over this post for years, actually, and prayerfully toiled over whether to even post it. My prayer and hope is that one of these nuggets might deepen your perspective on the holy act of worship.
It’s God’s worship- His and His alone.
It’s not about you. Sorry. Whether you are up on stage, or in the pews, it’s simply not about you. I have seen seasoned and mature Christians lose sight of this basic fact, and I myself had to “get over myself” before I could unlock what God had for me during worship.
I was really self-conscious about worship as a preteen, meaning I would sing the songs but to do anything beyond that (close eyes, lift hands, whatever) seemed very awkward to me. I was sure everyone was looking at me and passing judgment in some way. Through dance workshops and me just flat out trusting God that worship wasn’t about “embarrassing me,” but magnifying Him, I got over myself. Plus, no one thinks about you more than you do. They are too worried about themselves.
Psalm 115:1 illustrates this beautifully.
Not to us O God, not to us- but to your name goes ALL the glory, for your unfailing love and faithfulness.
At the end of the day, it’s all about God. For us to declare that we know exactly what an immortal, omniscient, omnipresent God prefers in a 4-song worship set is audacious, to put it mildly.
In the second letter of C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters,” Screwtape berates his nephew Wormwood over the fact that his assigned human (patient) has indeed become a Christian. But Screwtape cheers slightly (if that’s possible for a senior tempter) at the thought of the patient’s first encounter with The Church. Here is an excerpt:
When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter…Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.
It is SO easy to get distracted in a church service, especially during the worship section. And that’s why I just close my eyes. Think of the myriad of distractions in a brief 25-minute window:
Your best friend comes in late.
There’s a sneezer at your 6.
The auditorium lights are just too bright for you today.
Or too dark.
The stage looks weird.
Off-key singer 3 rows down!
Corporate worship shouldn’t define your worship experience; after all, it’s only 3-5 songs once a week and I know I need more Jesus music throughout my week than just 30 minutes on Sunday. But when you do gather for corporate worship, try and make it count- get focused quick, silence the racing thoughts and let yourself rest in the presence of God. You are in the presence of your creator and fellowshipping with other teammates. That should be one of the most restful parts of your whole week!
Who Made Your Decade Holy?
In the best-selling novel “The Shack,” the main character Mack has a conversation with God which left such an impression on me, that it’s the main thing I remember from the book.
Mack enters the kitchen to find God jamming out to a song.
He inquired, ‘May I ask what you’re listening to?’
‘You really wanna know?’
‘Sure.’ Now Mack was curious.
‘West Coast Juice. Group called Diatribe and an album that isn’t even out yet called Heart Trips. Actually,’ [God] winked at Mack, ‘these kids haven’t even been born yet…’
‘I thought you would be listening to George Beverly Shea or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir—you know, something churchier.’
‘Now see here, Mackenzie…I listen to everything—and not just to the music itself, but the hearts behind it…’
I know this is not a logos word from God. It is a fictional story, and one that many Christians may feel divided over, but stay with me. I believe the clues God left us in the Bible and in nature speak to the veracity of this exchange.
Is there one color of flower? One type of fish in the sea? One race of people? What about the fact that God is not bounded by time and does not live to see decades in succession, trends coming and going and the creation of antiques like we do. He sees it all, right now. He sees songs that we consider “old and revered” as new and untested, but also extinct at the same time. He sees our “contemporary” songs while they were still prayers in the hearts of the writers and when they will be considered archaic-all at the same time.
Heck, even at one time, the ORGAN was considered an inappropriate instrument for church because of its use on the old-timey burlesque scene.
Then what evidence in God’s wide, wildly beautiful and DIVERSE earth makes us think only one type of music is pleasing to his ears? What also makes you think WE are the only things that are bringing him praise?
I may step on some toes, but honestly, how can anyone think one decade, one style, one speed, one selection of instruments is most holy and pleasing? Our God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. He is present at all points in history, enjoying all types of music.
I don’t know what your church is like, or where your worship ministry is at, but what I would encourage you with is to keep an open mind. Stay humble enough to admit that we don’t know precisely what God likes. Be supportive of your worship ministry, and don’t assume their intention is to ignore the “good stuff” or leave out your age group. Believe in their leadership enough to give them the benefit of the doubt. And let God be God.
I truly believe there is a wide variety of songs, hymns, speed, volume, instrumental, vocal, and styles that bring him glory. Sure, we will identify more with one style or another, but don’t make that decision for God. I mean, we can’t even imagine what the angels sound like before the throne of God in heaven.