I read this post last week…
At first—because I’m slightly neurotic—I was really convicted by it, if for no other reason than I, um, often play guitar solos during worship songs.
But the more I read it, I actually got a little tweaked (full disclosure: if it’s not obvious already, I’m a worship pastor, so as my southern friends would say, I have at least a few “dogs in this hunt”).
As usual, I think of reality more in terms of a tension to be lived in, between the truth of what Bill says and another perspective.
Here are some thoughts from another perspective. Warning: possible frumpiness to follow.
- I love me some hymns. Love ‘em. Believe in them. But the church I serve in is not a hymn-heavy church. We do 3 or 4 a month. There are hymn-heavy churches in town, however, and there are also churches who worship through liturgy, through silence, through choirs.The point is practically all of our churches exist in the flow of a tradition, and this is a good thing. My non-denominational, evangelical church is not going to become high church Anglican. We will not become full gospel AME. While we do our best to learn from other traditions and to give people a wide(r) glimpse of the church, I think that when we constantly question our own tradition we cultivate a sort of eccesiological multiple personality disorder.
I think there’s a certain amount of wisdom to looking at your church tradition and culture and acknowledging the truth of where it’s been and what it is. Now culture isn’t frozen; we are meant to grow and change, but God created culture. It is a gift, at least a partial recognition that humanity is so diverse. There’s no point in freezing or elevating one form of worship culture and saying, this is what we need to do.
- Sometimes, worship participation is simply a matter of discipleship, of the heart.There I said it.
Now, I realize that I may need to cut my guitar solos short. I accept that chastisement. But I think responsibility needs to be spread evenly. If an individual isn’t willing to sing, “Holy is the Lord,” then I really can’t make them. Ultimately, I am not the worship leader, the Holy Spirit is, and if a person is unwilling to follow the Spirit to God, then so be it. It’s a reality of my call, but I accept it.
A word about “seekers” (whoever they are): I once heard Erwin McManus say, “if your church doesn’t have problems of heresy and immorality, than you’re probably not missional enough.”
If we are engaging the world, there will be a certain percentage of people who simply “aren’t there yet.” As I just mentioned, I acknowledge that’s a reality of my job. There will be people in our gathering space who actually don’t have a clue who Jesus is, much less what worship is, and I need to respect their journey.
But for those of us who are “in the know,” I think there comes a time when we have to simply say, “I’m here to meet with God; I will open my mouth and worship—not only to remind myself of who He is and what He has done, but so that I can be an example to other folks who are at a different part of their journey.” My church is primarily young people: young(ish) families and some post-college and college kids. But we have some older folks as well. One day, an older gentleman (in his 70s) said to me, “You know, I really don’t like the music at all. But God is at work here, so I’m just happy to be here and be a part of something.”
- Which leads me to my last point…It’s not about you.
I once led worship in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic church; our Sunday set lists included modern gospel, songs in spanish, rock stuff (and an occasional hymn lol). Our pastor once said, “Hey guess what you guys: no one here is going to be completely satisfied with worship. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. We don’t come here to just get. We come here to give.” Because that church was clearly diverse, it was easy to grasp the idea that we all need to give up something to worship cross-culturally, but I think the principal holds true for us in mono-cultural worship settings as well:
worship is first for God, then for us. Worship often overflows into love back from Him to us, but that’s not the point.
We worship first because of who He is and what He has done for us, not because of what we may get out of it right now.
When I have the rare opportunity to sit under someone else’s leadership, I have the same feelings:
- “Man, I don’t like this song…”
- “She’s repeating that chorus too many times…”
- “The mix is HORRIBLE…”
- “He’s going to kick that water bottle over…”
In other words, I’m not immune. But I remind myself in those times that this moment is what I’ve been given, and it’s up to me to direct my heart, soul, mind, and strength towards my Creator and Savior.
It’s my choice.
In closing, I’d say this: you don’t sing at my church because you don’t want to sing at my church. It’s really that simple. In a sense that’s okay. And also, I hear the corrections—I don’t want to be a rock star worship leader—and I realize that we need to create an environment that facilitates people meeting with God and tells the story of our faith.
But it’s never gonna be perfect.
Take it away, Mick…