Over the last few years, I have found my understanding of what worship is changing and expanding. The main reason is that I have been leading worship more often. My learning to play the guitar started as a necessity. It then became something far more personal. It was not something that I wanted to do. It just sort of happened. It needed to be done, and I was able to lead, so I did.
What makes worship so challenging, at least, to me, is that it can be difficult to get people to worship. Part of the problem may be that most of us do not know how to worship God. We have been exposed to an entertainment culture. So, that gets transferred into the church and we come waiting on the “show” to begin.
This is a dangerous and sad state of affairs. The conversations about worship no longer revolve around content but rather have shifted to style and preferences. It really should not matter the style of music that is being used, if you are a child of God, you should be able to worship whenever God’s people have gathered for that purpose.
I am not diminishing the reality of our own preferences. However, when these preferences dictate our ability to connect with our heavenly father, we have given far too much power over our worship to something that changes from one generation to the next. I do not my worship held hostage by the style of music. I must work to keep our worship focused on the one who is worthy of worship. And I must do this independent of what style is employed my the assembly I happen to be in.
It is a true statement to say that the distance between what was expected in the Temple during the sacrificial system and today is so great. By this, I do not mean the sacrifice itself. That would be too easy to identify as a difference. I am talking about the intimacy of having to watch that sacrifice being slaughtered because of my brokenness and sin. That connection, the connection between sin and sacrifice to atone has to be reconsidered and reestablished.
Yes, we can sing about the promises and the love of God. We can sing about all the great things God has done. We can sing about heaven and the power of the Spirit. All of these things are appropriate and necessary subjects of our praise. However, the underlying reason for all of these things, the reason we can sing about these things at all is because a Lamb was slain for the sins of the world.
When we fail to ground our worship in the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection, our worship is untethered from the only mooring that gives our worship meaning.
I have basically come to the conclusion that the problem is we do not take ownership of the worship we are are supposed to be giving to God. In other words, when I join the church to worship I have been called to belong to and the worship leader is leading in a song, I have to make that song my song. I have to make the words that are being sung my words. I should be joining my voice with the voices of the rest of the church as we say to ourselves and to God that we believe what we are singing together.
Each song is communicating something. There is a point to the lyrics and the music helps to communicate that idea. Therefore, if I am going to worship I have to engage all of my faculties. My head and my heart must be joined together. The emotions and ideas that I hear and contemplate may begin in the mouth of the leader but, eventually, they must come out of my mouth too. Not just to parrot what is happening. But because I believe what is being sung is true for me too.
When I worship, those who see me doing it, those who hear me sing should be able to say that they believe that I believe what I am singing and saying. Those around us should be convinced that I mean every word of the song I am singing.
I do not always do this, but I want it to be truer of me every day.