“I just can’t worship the way I want to at that church.”
“I feel like I haven’t even been to church.”
“Their music is so boring. What would it hurt to add some drums? They hardly ever even stand up. I need some energy.”
“It’s too loud in that place. And I’m not singing off of a screen. They just sing the same words over and over again. I’m not doing that.”
“We don’t even talk like those hymns anymore. How am I supposed to worship with those words?”
Many who’ve grown up in the Bible Belt (and beyond) of the United States have heard the words mentioned above, or something to their effect. I once traveled to beautiful Brentwood, Tennessee, for a writing conference and I noticed that there were beautiful, large churches… like everywhere. Seriously, they were all down the streets. That’s not an uncommon sight, especially in the southeastern part of the country.
I feel SO wonderfully blessed to live in a nation where I can worship freely, at the church of my own choosing (the one HE tells me to serve at). But sometimes I wonder if we as a body of believers have become somewhat spoiled in our “churchgoing” acts, and have used those acts to replace the real act of worship. In some areas of our nation, we have so many churches of different sizes, music styles, and program offerings that we tend to sound and act as if we are at a “church buffet”, picking and choosing whatever fits our appetite at the time.
Especially in the area of music. You KNOW what I’m talking about here. Those comments above? You’ve heard them. You may have even said them. I’ve said more than one of the lines as an excuse to not “worship” somewhere. Not my style. Not my brand. Not my preference. Not my decade. Not my genre.
So the Lord is constantly teaching me about worship. And it has taken years to get a few things through my thick skull. I’m vulnerable here, sharing these things that He has taught me. Because worship…it’s what we were made for and I just think that I’ve had it all wrong at times.
Any time that our focus, our preferences, our attentions, and our hearts shift from God to something or someone else, then our worship shifts as well.
When the music in our churches causes us to argue and fuss, then our focus is shifted from God to the music. When the music in our service dictates whether we feel like worshipping or not, then our focus is on the music. And our feelings. And we start worshipping the music instead of God.
No one that I know loves singing more than me (except maybe my parents and sisters..but I don’t know–I love it A LOT!). I. Love. Singing. I love listening to music. I love playing music on the piano. I teach a music class after school. I. Love. Music. Oh my, yes I do!
I especially love Jesus Music. I grew up in “The Singing Munchers,” as our friends affectionately called my family. We sang at all kinds of churches, and we still do on occasion. My dad is a Minister or Music and my mom is a Choir Director at church. I can’t imagine going to church and not singing.
But, friends, God has taught me–and it has been painful at times–that singing and music is not entirely what worship is all about. At many churches, we still have “Worship” time and then “Preaching” or “Bible Study” time. Aren’t they both acts of worship, though?
For such a long time, I equated our music and singing time at church as my weekly “Worship”. But then, what did I do when it was over? And what if I didn’t like the songs? Would I just miss the worship then, and have to wait until next week to worship?
Ya’ll. You have to be patient with me, I know. I thank my Father that He never left me and He continued to teach me in my ignorance and selfishness.
Worship. It’s not about the music. Yes, singing praises to God is part of our worship, but it’s not the whole thing!
And here’s another newsflash for Paige: Worship. It’s not about me. That one right there is a game changer.
When the worship shifts from me and my preferences, it doesn’t matter if I like the song or not. It doesn’t matter how I feel.
When my focus shifts to the Lord, to His goodness, grace, mercy, and power, every song becomes beautiful. Every beat hits the spot. Everyone’s voice and spirit are in perfect harmony, and every word speaks to my heart. When my focus shifts to the Lord, the worship continues past the music and singing, and onto the offering of tithes and gifts–that’s worship; and onto hearing the preaching of God’s Word–that’s worship; and onto the time of prayer and invitation to the altar–that’s worship, too.
At one pivotal moment in my life as a young adult, I came to the realization that when my focus shifts to the Lord, my worship continues past Sunday, onto Monday. When I roll out of bed, rub my eyes, and open my Bible for a daily devotion time–that’s worship. When I hear Him telling me on Tuesday to go and encourage a lonely friend, to show them love, and I obey–that’s worship.
It’s not about the music. It’s not about me. It’s about Him, and only Him. It’s obedience, and it is a beautiful thing.
2 So they hosted a dinner for Jesus there. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. 3Then Mary took about a pint of expensive perfume, made of pure nard, and anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of theperfume. ( John 12:2-3)
photo from mudpreacher.org
In this beautiful story of Mary and Jesus, I see an act of worship. Mary worshipped Him by offering up her most prized possession, a jar of oil that was about a year’s worth of wages, and washing his feet with her tears, then drying them with her hair.
I also see Martha’s worship, as the scriptures say that “Martha served” her Lord.
I see that Lazarus sat with Jesus, which is something that I love to do. Some of the sweetest times of worship that I have known have come from simply sitting with Him, hearing Him whisper to my heart.
I don’t see a mention of singing as we know it today in this story, although it could have happened.
This story…it’s such a sweet reminder to my heart of what worship is and should be in my life.
I love Sundays. I love my church family. They are truly my family and they love me like no other. If you need a church family to love you and take care of you, I encourage you to visit my church if you live close by.
And I love to sing. I LOVE TO SING.
But, sweet friends, I love God more. I am shifting my focus from the music to Him. I encourage you to try it, and I think that the more we shift from us to the Lord, that we will find Him singing to us in ways we could have never imagined before!
He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)