You know it’s a good blog when it comes to me at 3 am.
I am a worship leader. From the time I was little I was a singer, always singing, ask my mother. My grandparents encouraged me constantly to sing to the Lord, and in whatever little bedroom I had at the time, I sang to Him. I can clearly remember some of my earliest songs I wrote to Him, at about third grade. They were terrible, as you could expect, but I have a feeling He loved them.
I have led worship in many different sizes of congregations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and venues. I often lead at my church at our Sunday morning service. These leading experiences have created a longing in myself for unity, between me, the Holy Spirit, the worship team and the congregation I am leading. More often than not, there is a strong disconnect when it comes to that last component- the congregation.
I know how we all come in, our minds scattered on a million things. Mind you, I’m talking to the regular churchgoer in this blog. We’ve just argued with the kids and spouse, our adult child just canceled on lunch plans for the third time, that person was pretty rude to you in the lobby as you walked in, your lunch you slave over had better turn out good, the kids have to have those papers signed for school Monday morning and clothes washed or they’re going naked…I get it, I do. Maybe you try to justify it at this point, saying I spend time in worship, in His presence, all week. It doesn’t matter what I do when we’re all together, corporately.
Ah, but it does. There’s a beautiful thing that happens when two or more are gathered (Matthew 18:20). We are instructed:
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5:18-20 NIV
This is in the middle of a chapter where Paul is strongly detailing how to live your lives, conduct your marriages…it’s a basic of following Him and being in the body of Christ.
I have read too many blogs about worship, especially critical ones. A “favorite” of mine was called Why I Didn’t Worship When I Visited Your Church. This blog hit the issue on the head, and exposed hearts of many, unbeknownst to the writer or any who agreed with the blog.
I don’t know this song.
I don’t like this song.
I wish they’d play this song.
I wish they would play this kind of song.
I don’t like their voice.
It’s too loud.
It’s too quiet.
It’s too wordy.
This song says the same thing over and over.
They’re singing the same songs over and over.
Could they change chords?
This song changes too much.
Could they switch keys each song?
Their transitions were too rough, stay in the same key.
They sing too fancy and leave me behind.
They sing too plain.
Why can’t they sing hymns?
Why do they always sing old songs?
Why do they sing so many new songs?
I wish someone else was leading.
Oh, they are my favorite leader, they don’t lead enough.
These lights are too bright.
These lights are too dim.
This is a show.
This is so boring.
Worshiptainment or worship?
Any one of us has probably been guilty of these petty thoughts at point or another, more than likely even thinking about both sides of any of those arguments in one given service. 🙄🙄🙄🙄
Here’s the truth:
Worship is not about you. It’s about Him and them. There’s a reason Paul says “speaking to one another”. Worship is the edification and strengthening of our hearts and the body of Christ. God designed everything about it to be that way. It is to build faith, to reaffirm, to embed scripture into hearts. It’s plain science that music is a powerful tool for memorization, especially in children’s brains. It literally hardwires in our minds. I believe God created music as a tool for writing His word on our hearts (Proverbs 7:3, Deuteronomy 11:18, Psalm 119:11). But furthermore, it’s a gift to Him. David was beloved by God because David was after God’s heart. Worship is seeking after God’s heart. The temple was a place of worship just as the church, both our physical bodies and structural buildings we call our churches. How many Psalms do we read and are instructed to seek the Lord in His dwelling place, to make music to Him, to find joy and peace in His presence? Too many to count.
As a worship leader, when people are not engaging in worship, but instead are sacrificing to the altar of self by thinking those thoughts listed before and whatever else they choose to dwell on instead of Him, they work against the worship team, the Spirit and the church. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about not going up to the front, waving flags and dancing, getting all out. You do you. If your worship doesn’t reflect your God-given personality, you should check on that. My husband is just as energetic in worship as he can be coaching a football game, hands high, voice loud, emotions raw. My grandfather is just as sweet and still and thoughtful as he is when I’m sitting as his dinner table having a conversation with him. I’m not referring to outward expressions, although many hold back and refuse to allow themselves freedom in worshipping Him. I’m referring to your hearts. And at that point, it’s like we’re all in a huge canoe, the worship team at the front with a handful of worshippers truly engaging, and they have paddles. Everyone else in the congregation is in the canoe too, but they don’t have a paddle in the water. So at the front, the worship leaders and team are desperately trying to move forward, paddling like crazy, and precious little movement is happening, because canoeing is a team effort, just like worship.
Furthermore, I think many get embarrassed in worship. They need freedom from that. That reflects lies they believe about themselves in the Father. I’ll put it to you in physical terms. All of us have experienced formal versus familiar family settings. You have the grandparents or aunt and uncle who you spend far less time with, and you are so bummed when you have to go to their house because you’ll probably get in trouble while you’re there. They don’t really know you. You just try to appease them and your parents while you’re there. Conversation is strained and the depth is shallow. Don’t be too much of anything. That’s formal relationship. Then there is familiar relationship. The grandparents that you spend the summer with. The aunt that is more like a friend. The grandpa who makes you laugh so so hard. The cousins who you consider your best friends. The family you spend time with, even if it’s not super often, you truly spend time with them when you’re with them. Which do you think God desires in worship with our church family, formal or familiar? Do you think He wants you reserved or real? Now, I believe He calls for great reverence. He is the God of the universe. But He is also the God of the manger. The God of the poor. The God who took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and washed dirty feet. The God who came close and remains close. Just as I revere and respect my grandparents in many different ways, I also know I am was welcome to snuggle up in their laps, laugh a great big belly laugh when they tickle me, and spend hours with them. You are welcome to come and be close to Him in worship.
Worship means engaging wherever you’re at. Emotionally, mentally, physically. When your thoughts go haywire, it means taking them captive into obedience to Him. When you’ve experienced a loss or tragedy, it means turning to Him as the source of all joy and peace, because He keeps your mind that dwells on Him in perfect peace. When you just plum don’t feel like it, it means digging down deep and entering His gates with thanksgiving in your heart, because today is the day the Lord has made.
I challenged many, including myself, with these words. Look at your heart. Are you for or against the church moving in deeper relationship with God? This is your family. They have more in common with you than your blood relatives many times. You are called to support them.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.””
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NIV
Most importantly, if you read a single thing, read and absorb this:
“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…”
2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.””
John 4:23-24 NIV
Lord, may this fall on listening ears, including my own.