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,