Over the last few months, I have had a very unique opportunity for a pastor. Joy and I have been leading worship at church. Now I know that there are certainly pastors that can and do sing on a regular basis, but the vast majority of pastors preach and worship leaders sing and it is always better if the former does not tread on the territory of the latter!
There are things that I now understand about worship that I probably would not have understood without this sort of opportunity. I have to say that leading worship and preaching two service every weekend takes a toll on you. I would not have traded the opportunity that God gave me through it for anything but I am glad that season of my life is past.
One of the things that I learned was that worship is is often made to complicated. Do not misunderstand me, I think that we should do worship to the best of our abilities. It should be done to a level of excellence, not because it need to be a performance but rather only our best should offered to God as a sacrifice and worship.
It seems to me that there is a happy medium that people miss in worship. It should be something that comes from our heart and if our heart is offering it as something that is genuine and meaningful, then it does not matter what it sounds like. One the flip side of that, how are we to judge what sounds good or not? I think, as with many issues of faith, we do not realize that what God’s view of good or excellence is, our view maybe (and probably is) something very different. We judge worship, primarily through the glasses of how good a performance it was. We might even try to be a little holy about it and say that is not how we judge it, but the fact remains that is the ruler that most people use to measure good worship. Did the musicians play the right notes at the right times and keep the right rhythm and look appropriating excited, serious, and worshipful? Did the singers convey a sense of reverence and excitements while simultaneously singing each note to perfection? If not, we might say that “worship was a little rough this weekend.” The truth is that I do not really think that God cares one bit about those things. There are two passages that come to mind. The first is Micah 6:8 and the other is Psalm 98:4.
Micah 6:8 ESV
8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Psalm 98:4 ESV
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Micah tells us that the Lord requires us to walk humbly with God. The truth is that I see little humility in modern worship. I know that I am painting with a very broad brush here, but the truth is that there are few people that can see much difference between a modern worship service and a secular rock concert today. Video closeups of each of the singers and focus being put on those on stage is hardly a picture of humility in my opinion. Remember that Micah say that humility is “required” not optional.
The psalmist in 98:4 is showing us that worship is something that should be so desired and wanted that it simply bursts out of us like a spring. But the part that is so telling is the “joyful noise” clause. The fact of the matter is that God could care less what the worship sounds like to the ears of mere humans. God listens not to the voice, but the heart. In order for a noise to be joyful it must find its roots in the very depths of our heart. It must find its hope and purpose in one greater than all. If my time leading worship has taught me anything its that “a joyful noise” goes much further in true worship than a well thought out and executed performance.
One of the key impressions that I was left with is that in the inadequacy of my own abilities in leading worship, that gave God room to move. I may not have the worst singing voice in the world, but I do know that there is a reason that I am called to preach and not sing! Joy is has a very good voice, a trait passed down through her genes! But the fact is that if a worship service is not perfect, if it is something that is a little rough around the edges, then those are the times that we need God to smooth out the rough parts.
This idea and concept of us “needing” God for worship maybe a little surprising to some. I mean why should we need God to help us in something that is meant to be a gift to Him? The best presents are those that are given in and through the power and ability of the giver, right? If I go to my wife and and say “Hey I know you birthday is next week, would you give me some money and come with me to pick out your gift?”, that is not exactly thought of as a meaningful gift situation. But on the other hand, if year after year I get here the wrong thing or the wrong size or just generally screw it up, she may welcome and appreciate the opportunity to help me with the gift buying. I think that this is the same with God. The truth is that our worship is usually lackluster, pathetic and, often, downright disappointing to God. In truth, we need His help in every aspect of our life, especially worshiping Him.
In our day and age, we have been convinced that in order to have an effective worship ministry the worship service needs to look and feel like a concert. We need to entertain people for worship. There is a philosophy of ministry that the church must “compete” with TV, movies, and the internet, so therefore we must doing things big and expensive. I will even admit that I have had this idea at times. But the truth is that if people see that we are serious about connecting with our God and that God is meeting us and moving among us in our worship, nothing on Earth can compete with that.
The church has seemingly programed God out of church. We have come to a point where not only are we scripting the sermons, the service, the worship songs, the videos, etc, but we are essentially trying to tell God when and where He needs to move. Something like “Hey God, your on in 10, make sure you are in position!” How offensive must that be to Him!
Now that our church has a worship leader that can sing fantastically, we need to make sure that we keep God on center stage. We must consciously strive to make sure that that He is the true leader of worship as well as the object of worship. We need to make sure that we humble ourselves in our worship and then let God do the rest.
Can’t sing? Good!
Can’t keep rhythm clapping? Awesome!
Got a heart that truly wants to worship our God and Creator anyways?