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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why Do We Worship?

If you had asked me this question in the past, and by worship I am here referring to the kind of corporate worship we do when believers (and unbelievers, too) gather together, I would have responded that we worship in order to draw near to God. The music we play and sing on a Sunday morning (or Saturday night, or Sunday night, or whenever) is meant to usher us into the presence of God so we can experience more of Him.

Recently, God has been changing my mind on this. Today at a chapel service, we sang the song, "Beautiful One", and it contains the line, "Beautiful One, my soul must sing." Now, I will grant you that this line is not taken directly from Scripture, but at the same time I would suggest that it conveys an idea which is deeply rooted in Scripture. The idea being brought forth in this statement is that we first contemplate and enjoy the beauty of a risen Christ, and as we behold him in his majesty, splendor, and humility, then we cannot help but sing. We must worship. Worship in this case becomes our joyful response to what we have already experienced.

This might sound like a minor distinction, but let me explain why I think this is such a tremendous change. When we approach worship as the means of coming to God, then our personal worship is dependent on the music; we need music done in a way that agrees with us and helps us feel "in the mood" to worship. If the musical style or selections of that particular morning are contrary to our desires, our worship is hindered. We can't worship because the music doesn't "work" for us. We make comments like, "How can I focus on God when I'm so distracted by the music?" When we say this, we show that we need the right music in order to get to God.

On the other hand, if worship is our response to the goodness and beauty that we see in Christ and in God the Father, then we can worship regardless of the style of the music. This morning in chapel, the service was highly liturgical. I am not from this kind of religious background and I would typically be very critical and skeptical of a seemingly contrived and overly-structured worship service. For some reason, however, God gave me grace this morning. I arrived in a spirit of gratefulness to Him, looking to respond to that in worship. And by no means am I looking to congratulate myself in this, but I want to confess that the worship was moving; not because the presentation or leader was so overwhelming, but because God had freedom to move in my heart. When worship is our response to God rather than our means of approaching God, we can respond by using any kind of music! Whether it's a hymn, a chorus, a responsive reading, or even meditative prayer, all of these can be meaningful expressions to God.

So if you find yourself struggling to worship because this instrument is too loud or that voice is too quiet, turn your mind away from the presentation for a moment. Allow your heart and mind to fixate completely on Christ and his life given for you. See him there on the cross out of His love for you until your soul and spirit begin to respond; until you say, "My soul must sing!" And as you return to the corporate worship occurring around you, begin to respond to God out of this vision. I think you'll be amazed at how worship comes alive- even if you don't like the song!

"Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will alwyas give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-20)

May your journey be filled with worship to the living Christ,

Nick

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Nick, thanks for the reminder that it's not the music that causes us to revel in joy, but dwelling upon Christ and what He has done in our lives that causes us to sing. I need that reminder.

Anonymous said...

ACK! Well, I posted a comment on your mushy brains blog but it either didn't get through or you didn't like it so you didn't approve it...let me know which is was :D Anyway, now I can't remember what I said, but I'm sure it was profound. I'm enjoying your blogs. I have lots of comments, but I'm more of a reader than a responder.

Anyway, it's funny that you say you aren't used to being in a more liturgical and/or orderly church setting because I find you more on the traditional side than the progressive side. Obviously our perception of traditional and progressive are different :D

The worship issue is always one that gets to me...I guess because I AM one of those who gets distracted by the quality or style of the music. Let's face it, we're all different. Yes, we should all approach worship with an open heart/mind/whatever but if the words are unfamiliar or the beat is off or the voices are bad, I'm sorry...I WILL get distracted. That's like telling me that if I'm in prayer that my kids running around screaming shouldn't distract me...it just does. It's not any disrespect to God and I think He knows that.

If approaching God in worship isn't about the music, then why are there different types? Why do people go to different churches? It's because people seek out a church that "fits" their worship style. Yes, for a short time I can at least appreciate a more traditional form of worship, but if it were a type that I felt opened up my heart and mind to worship God then I would be in a church like that.

I know I'm not stating this adequately...my eloquence obviously doesn't extend to this particular post. haha Well, anyway, keep up the blogging. Some of us are reading (we may just not always be responding)

--Britt

Pastor Nick said...

Hey Britt!

Wow- you're quite the contributor. Do you do your own blog? You probably should!

I agree with your statements- to an extent. I agree that corporate (church) worship needs to have a certain level of quality. If instruments are out of tune, singers don't know the words, or leaders are very difficult to follow, I think worship can be hindered.

I guess what I'm getting at more is the fact that on many occassions the level of music is fine, but because certain songs aren't played in certain ways we become unhappy. I hear people say (and I've heard myself say), "Well, I didn't like those songs so I couldn't worship." That's not like kids running around while you're praying- that's like saying I wasn't in the right "mood" to pray. I would suggest that if we need the right songs in order to worship, maybe it's not really worship. My basic assertion is how we approach worship; not with an attitude that says 'the music had better be good so I can worship' but one that says 'I am going to worship through whatever music is played.' Does that make sense?

Thanks for contributing!
Nick

Anonymous said...

I know what you are saying...about being in the mood. Sometimes it doesn't matter how good the music is or whatever...if I'm out of it, I'm out of it! I would agree with the idea that sometimes you have to decide to push through your own personal issues -- your "moods" -- to get to the heart of WHY we are worshipping, not how. Sometimes I'm good at that...sometimes not so much.

I had to laugh about you saying I should get my own blog. I've tried to do one for years, but like any journal-like activity, I just can't do it. I can respond, but I guess I'm not deep-thinking enough to start a conversation :)

Besides, no one would read it anyway...there's very little that I have to say that is interesting.

--Britt

Anonymous said...

worship is truely were the heart is and if u been in tough situations u will thank god for all hes done in your life and how hes gotten u through them and bye the way worship is my favorite part of service,can't make the day with out it. signed just areader