...Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Worship Blog

As you may or may not know, this year on Relay we are required to do an elective study and I have been looking at the theology of worship. One of the challenges with doing so much theological study is that it is difficult to put it all together to make sense in your mind and then let it affect your heart. I thought that studying worship would be easy because it's something that I have a real heart for. But it has been quite challenging to let what I've learned personally affect my relationship with God. I thought that one of the ways I could piece all of what I've learned together is to write about it on my blog! (Better late than never). So here ya go. I'm starting off with some of my random-ish thoughts on things that have come up while studying. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and challenge me so I can dig deeper! This is just a little taster of what I've been learning and I hope to go deeper into some of this stuff later! Enjoy!


"Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens! 
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness! 
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,  
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,  
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!"
-Psalm 150

It has been an ongoing debate since the Old Testament. How should we properly worship God? Most of the argument in recent years has centered on music style: Should we sing hymns or contemporary music? Should it be an organ and choir or a band? How loud should it be? (Does this thing go up to 11?)

But worship isn't just music. Actually, I'd go so far as to say that worship isn't music at all. (Shocking, coming from me, I know). Worship is an offering we bring to God (1 Chronicles 16:29). It is how we express to God that we love, adore, and revere Him (Psalm 29:2). It is an act of self-sacrificial service (Hebrews 12:28). It is bowing low before Him (Psalm 95:6, Revelation 19:10).

In short, it is a matter of the heart.

But for some reason we focus on music as the main means of worship. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with worshiping through music (I love doing it and it's something we're commanded to do in the Bible! Psalm 47, 150, etc.). I just think that we as a church (the body of believers) put too much emphasis on music. When we consider our church's worship we should be thinking about the entire service from start to finish and everything outside of Sunday morning.

If a church is going to make worship its priority, it needs to start with Jesus. Everything the church does (inside and out of Sunday morning) should start with, and be focused entirely on, Jesus. If we start making the King the priority, our worship will naturally become deeper. If we build up our congregations in the knowledge of Christ, their worship will be transformed far beyond what louder sound, the latest tunes, or sweet lighting can do.

Worship is not about the type of music we sing.

That's kind of a big statement for me. If you know me, you know that I rock out to bands like Relient K, The Wedding, and The O.C. Supertones when I'm cruisin' in my car, and I only really prefer traditional music if I'm in a concert hall. But in studying the theology of worship for the past nine months, my perceptions of worship have changed. Now, I still have my preferences, don't get me wrong, but I've come to the realization that if a church sings traditional hymns on a Sunday it doesn't mean they're a dead church. That may seem like a no-brainer to some of you (and I may have just offended some people - sorry) but as someone who used to go to a dead church that sang traditional hymns, my brain has automatically associated the two for far too long, and this has been a big step for me!

But I think it's important for everyone to realize, whatever church background you come from, that the type of music doesn't necessarily dictate the liveliness of a church or the people's devotion to Jesus. You can have churches that sing the newest contemporary worship songs and only thrive off of feelings and atmosphere rather than the doctrine of Christ. And you can have traditional, hymn-singing, organ-playing churches that are entirely focused on a heart for the Lord. Guess which one's worship is acceptable to God? (Hint: Its the second one).

Don't judge a book by its cover. Don't judge a church by its music.

Here's what matters in worship:
  • Are you offering worship from your heart to the Creator and Savior of the world?
  • As a church, are you facilitating this heart-worship? Or are you more focused on emotional reaction? Are you showing people Christ?
  • As a worship coordinator, are you choosing songs based on sound? Key? Taste? Or doctrinal significance? (Hint: The last one is the one that matters the most). 
  • As a worship leader, are you desiring to reflect Christ and help people enter into worship? Or are you looking to shine for your own glory?
  • Do you personally worship every day in every aspect of your life (Psalm 34:1)? Or just on Sunday during the 30 minute music set?
These are some of the questions I've been asking of myself, my church, and my worship team over the past nine months. I'm not saying that I have it all together (that my church is perfect - it's not- and my pride is low -it isn't) but I'm working on it. And I hope that I can use what I've been learning to push my church in the right direction of what worship in church should be. Will we ever have it perfect? No. Not this side of heaven. But can we try to make it better? Yes. By God's grace, our worship can be acceptable to Him.