So, tomorrow I'm leading worship for the first time in quite a while and, like every time I sing, I am a little nervous. To calm these pesky nerves I have been spending time reflecting, and specifically on worship. There is a lot at stake when you stand before people and lead them into worship. We who lead worship have a profoundly crucial task. It is us that are usually responsible for taking many different types of people with many different "heart conditions", from wherever they are at emotionally, spiritually, etc, when they come into our church services and then usher their hearts into a state of worship preparing them to receive the message from our Pastors.
This is not an easy thing to do. Everyone has different tastes in music, different beliefs on what is acceptable worship, different opinions on what "church music" should sound like. It is very easy to start focusing on appeasing people by feeding them the most palatable music so as to not offend anyone. This doesn't seem like a bad thing to do, and maybe it isn't, at least not completely, but when a church does this, something happens in the process. The focus of "worship" turns away from focusing on God, to focusing on pleasing people, and therein lies a problem. It's not a music problem or a theological problem, but a problem of the heart.
Worship is not music. Worship is not the time we set apart in our services when we sing a few songs. No, Worship is something much deeper, much more profound. It is a sacred and unspoken language between our souls and the very heart of God. No, Worship is not music, but music is one mode, and a very powerful one, that we can utilize to help get our hearts to that place where our souls can begin to sing that ancient, unutterable, sacred language between our hearts and God's. There are other modes that can just as effectively help to move us into worship. Some of my most profound times of worship have been in silence, deep utter silence. One of my favorite images from the Bible is that of David, dancing like a fool for God. I love it partly because every time I dance I look like a fool too :) but mostly because David didn't practice and perfect his dance before he worshiped God with it, and though he was called a fool, he loved God so much, that he couldn't keep from dancing for Him. My point is, we can not get caught up in focusing on the music. Trying to perfect every note, every beat, every transition, etc. It's not about perfection! It can't be. It's about the heart! Arguing over guitars vs. organs, hymns vs contemporary is ridiculous. None of that matters!
One of my favorite stories about worship comes from Matt Redman, a well know worship leader/ songwriter from England. He tells about how his congregation had gotten so focused on the music that a "dynamic missing", as he put it, began to become evident within the congregation and their services. So, the Pastor did something unheard of, he took out the sound system and band for a season and confronted his congregation with a difficult question, "What are you bringing to offer in worship." He encouraged them to engage with their hearts, to be producers not consumers. In response, their services were filled with heartfelt a capella songs and prayers and when they brought back the sound system and band, a new awakening in worship had begun among them. Out of that experience Matt wrote the song, "Heart of Worship".
It's not about the music! It's all about the heart! We, as Pastors, Ushers, Greeters, Childcare Workers, Musicians, Worship Leaders, Christians, etc. We servants of Christ, wherever we serve in His Church, can never allow our pursuit of perfection in technique to take precedent over our pursuit of perfection in a heart that yearns to glorify God. This weekend I encourage you, prepare your heart for worship and be a producer not just a consumer.
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