An older gentleman stopped by the office today and shortly thereafter I heard the hauntingly familiar lyrics, in all their morbid perkiness, shuffling out of a back office: “Majesty, worship his majesty!” The hair raised on my neck. My mind raced and stomach churned as I lunged for my mouse. Must . . . get . . . to . . . media . . . player . . .
And Majesty was just the beginning of a litany of Maranatha choruses that brought back memories of feeling bored in church while the song leader plodded through the old school choruses. I had very little interest in these songs. They did not quite capture how I related to God and the style did not connect with me at all. Worship, as I at least understand it now, was very far from my mind and spirit at that time.
So what is going on in church when we sing songs together? Obviously we desire to worship God in song, but why sing? There are a host of other ways to worship God. In fact, if we believe that the Kingdom of God has in fact invaded our lives, then everything we do should be to worship. I think one of the writers of scripture said something about doing everything to the glory of God . . . but nah, let’s only sing as a form of corporate worship.
I should mention in the midst of my meandering thoughts, that I am not “against” singing in church as a form of worship. My point is that singing is just one way of worshiping when the body of Christ assembles together. The waters become muddied when you consider that singing has bred a great deal of controversey in churches. We even call it the “worship wars” according to Christianity Today. Churches painstakingly try to avoid crossing the line toward too many hymns or too many choruses depending on who has more power and control. People take their worship songs very seriously, but do we take it so seriously that perhaps there come times when we need to just give it a rest.
In reality, there are some songs like Majesty, Sacrifice of Praise, and others from that era that really minister to certain people. In fact, I know and respect a man who has said that while there is nothing wrong with contemporary worship, he finds that he worships with a hymnal in his hand. On the other hand I would say that I lean to the other end of the spectrum with a like for hymns, but usually the revised versions such as the Hymns: Ancient and Modern CD by Passion. My regular worship song diet consists of artists such as Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes, Eoghan Heaslip, and David Crowder. I find that I identify with their kind of music.
So if there is no right or wrong, but simply certain styles that mix better with certain folks, why do we persist in having a full set of worship songs EVERY Sunday? Inevitably there will be some people who feel alienated during the service, if not for the entire service should we persist in having traditional worship music every Sunday. I do not advocate that we abandon it altogether, but that we perhaps rethink worship. If some of our divisions and strife stem from what we sing, perhaps we need to take a break from time to time and explore some other options for corporate worship.
Worship is a powerful interaction with God in which we offer ourselves to him, enjoy him, and he enjoys us. When we seek the Lord as a group amazing things can happen. In some way the Holy Spirit of God is present with his people filling them with more of God, prompting us to continue to praise him. Feel free to add to this, but that is where I’m coming from when I talk about worship.
Now if worship is broad, and can be washing dishes, serving your community, doing your work, singing a song, etc., how can we integrate new forms of worship into our meetings? Here are some ideas off the top of my head:
Perhaps we just drop the lyrics and focus on the music one week.
Perhaps we can go classical or with jazz versions of worship songs. Of just play good music to the glory of God.
Recite creeds or chant ancient prayers/songs
Moments of silence and meditation
Distribute simple art supplies and focus on drawing or creating something as an act of worship
Create a slide show emphasizing some aspect of creation.
Put an attribute of God up on the screen with a few verses and have a quiet time for reflection
Though this goes beyond the comfort zone of many, perhaps we either can the service or postpone the sermon at least in order to serve the poor in our community. Better yet, have the sermon/Bible discussion at the place where you serve.
Encourage every one who owns a lap top to bring it to church with some songs loaded on it. Break into small groups and let each group enjoy the worship music selection. If you have some techno-savvy people they could even modify some of the songs or mix them together. In the very least you could bring in a few CD players and let people share their favorite worship songs in small gorups.
Set up an art exhibit (ok, this sounds so emergent I’m a little sick to my stomach, but I had to include it) and tie the messages of some of the paintings into the sermon/discussion time.
That’s about all I have. I would love to see if anyone can add to this list. Simply put, I think that God is so big and magnificent that we can do better than the same form of worship week in and week out.
I think back to my days of Jr. High and the girl that I “dated”. We basically just went to movies together on Friday night. boring boring boring. I laugh at myself now. How could we honestly have gone to a movie for just about every date??? It throws me for a loop. Needless to say she didn’t stick with me too long! I think about how we do the same routine for God week in and week out. Sure the songs change, just like the movie titltes changed, but the routine is basically the same. I know that we can be more creative and expressive in our worship of God. In addition, innovative ways of worship may just be the release valve for churches in the middle of worship wars. Let’s not worry about maintaining one worship style over another. Let’s experiment and be open to a variety of options. It may help us get the focus of our worship songs squarely onto the one who deserves all of our attention and praise.