(2 years at my current location) and I truly love my work. Music is a big part of the corporate worship experience, and for this reason, it's also the source of a lot of tension and division in the church. Yes, it's true – church music is a touchy issue!
The church where I work and attend chooses to offer one service on Sunday mornings. It's a blended service, meaning we combine both traditional hymns and contemporary Christian songs in our worship. We tend to do more of the contemporary music, but we don't do it exclusively – every week, there is a mixture of old and new. One particular Sunday, we ended our worship with a song that I would venture to say is a favorite of almost every believer – How Great Thou Art. After worship an older woman came up to me while I was speaking to another gentleman and said, “Thank you for that last song, I really enjoyed it. It holds such deep meaning for me, and has gotten me through a lot over many, many years. I've grown up with it. I can't stand those other songs, I really have to pray to get through them. But I just loved that last song, I feel like I've been to church today.”
“I feel like I've been to church today.”
And....I'm sure that was an accurate statement. But what I wanted to say to her was “Who CARES about having been to church! The point is that you worship, not that you've simply 'been' here, and your feeling of nostalgia and warm fuzzy memories from 40 years ago does not equate worship, because (wait for it.....) worship is not about you.” Of course, I didn't say this, however the gentlemen that was with us, who was also older piped in to say how much he enjoyed all the music, and that he finds meaning in both the old and new songs.
Now, this is not a post about musical preference. Lord knows that there are some contemporary Christian songs out there that are comparable to......terrible teeny bopper, pop/rock, love anthems at best. I can tell you that as a worship leader, I've led plenty of songs that I didn't care for, both old and new. I'm not advocating for any one type of music, and I'm not saying that we have to like every song that is “Christian,” but what I AM saying, is that we cannot allow our preferences to impede our worship. God's praise should not hindered by what we like or don't like. Our comfort and preferences shouldn't be prerequisites to worship.
I'm so sick of drive-thru, feel good worship. It's not about you. It's not about me. If the reason we're getting up to go to worship is just to make ourselves feel good, to see our friends and sing our favorite songs, then we're going for the wrong reasons. The church shouldn't be a social club for us, it should be a group of disciples who seek to serve others as the hands and feet of Jesus. The church doesn't exist for the people who are already there, it exists for those who aren't there yet. Nothing we do within those walls means anything if we're not doing it for the purpose of building the kingdom of God outside those walls. Period. So, if that means you have to sing a song that's not your favorite every once in awhile, so be it. You know why? Because worship isn't something that happens in between the pews on Sunday mornings. It's something that happens in your heart – continually. It's an overflow of love and gratitude and joy. It's a response to the acknowledgment of who God is and what he has done in our lives, and what he promises to do for us in the future. It's recognizing God as a sovereign, all-powerful, holy being who loves us and guides us. It's a proclamation of his righteousness and faithfulness. It's a marveling at his grace and mercy. But....no, it is not about us.
“I feel like I've been to church today.”
Really? You mean to tell me that had we not sung that song, there wasn't one single other thing in that service that could evoke a worshipful response from you? Are you totally dependent on that one hour on Sunday mornings for the sum of your worship for the week? Is there nothing else in your life worth giving God praise? Because if the only way that you can feel like you've worshiped is if you're able to sing a song you like.......something is really, really wrong.
Personally, I see worship as something that never stops. For me, worship isn't confined to the walls of a church building – it pours out of the walls of my heart, all the time. I am moved to worship when I look into the face of the child for whom I longed and prayed for years before meeting him. I am moved to worship when I recognize that I was in the right place and the right time and met what I am sure was a divine appointment. I am moved to worship when I see the sun rise and set and I know that Jesus sustains all things. I am moved to worship when I finish a performance and someone comes up to me to tell me what a blessing it was to them and I realize that the blessing is really mine because I was used as a vessel to bring glory to my Father. I am moved to worship when I watch the news and see all the evil in the world, but know that my God is bigger than all of it, and that in him, I am already victorious. I am moved to worship when I simply sit and ponder....what He has done for me. What he IS doing for me. I don't need a song to bring me to that, nor do I need to have “been to church” to bring me to that place of worship.
In the world of worship leading, I frequently hear the role of a worship leader is described as “someone who ushers the people into the presence of God.”
I hate that.
I don't see myself as that person at all. I can't bring someone to God. I don't have a VIP all-access pass to God that no one else has. No one needs me to encounter God in worship. All they need, is a willing heart.
I can't help but think of the lyrics from a song called “Heart of Worship.” There is so much to say on this subject, and I've just barely scratched the surface, but I think these lyrics beautifully convey what it is I've tried to say in this post. Please take a moment to read this selected portion:
When the music fades,
and all is stripped away,
and I simply come.
Longing just to bring,
something that's of worth,
that will bless Your heart.
I'll bring You more than a song,
for a song in itself,
is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within,
through the way things appear,
You're looking into my heart.
I'm coming back to the heart of worship,
and it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it,
when it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.
May we all lead lives of genuine, heart-born worship. Every day. Make it so, Lord. Amen.
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