**disclaimer** These are my thoughts. Things that have been on my heart recently and in years past about worship. I simply feel free to share them now.
I’m a worshiper. If I can be honest, it’s not the loud praise music that really gets me. It is the quiet, soft, worshipful music that really centers me and helps me focus in on God. In a church service, sometimes I will jump around during the praise songs but mostly my spirit is anticipating the worship set. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the need for both. Praise is loud and defeat-shattering. It was praise that decimated the walls of Jericho. It was praise that went before the armies of Israel when they were going into battle. Praise is powerful and dynamic. So please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here.
What I am expressing is more of an inner connection to worship. The way that I am constructed, my makeup, connects to love. Back in the 90s, I could listen to all of the hip hop and rap that I wanted to and enjoy it, but when the Boyz II Men and others would come on, that would place me in my good spot. I could kick my feet up, lean back and sing to my heart’s content with a smile on my face. These were songs about love between a man and a woman. Love resonates with me. Expressing love resonates even more.
Expressing love through music? Bingo. Now you have my attention!
Which has caused me to spend a lot of time lately thinking about the state of worship in the church. Worship is varied. I believe that. I also know that worship is not so much what we sing on Sundays, but how we live throughout the week. Even if I don’t sing a word of love to God, how I live my life is the letter that God loves to read. That’s also the epistle that people see in our lives as we lead them to Christ.
But focusing in on worship, and worship teams, here are a few things that I believe:
- A Worship team that creates together is stronger together- the reason for this is that synergy is created. Synergy creates trust. Where there is trust in a worship team, they become able to flow seamlessly through music as the Spirit leads them. I know that there might be worship pastors and leaders, but I believe in my heart that unless EVERYBODY on that team is involved to some degree in the creative production of the worship of that team, we aren’t making the best use of what God has blessed us with. Anymore, it’s not enough for a team to be told what they are singing. I believe that the members of that team are craving the opportunity to show what God has placed within them. To share those expressions of worship embedded in their hearts. Everyone needs a voice. And when this happens, that team is able to operate fully within the collective anointing that has been placed in each of them individually. Worship teams, you need to be hanging out away from practices. You can’t trust people you don’t know.
- I believe that Worship should be varied. When we get used to worshipping in a certain way, we expect God to meet us in the same way every time, which can both help and hinder our faith. If our music is loud and “turnt”, and the lights go down, people may get more comfortable and worship freely, but what if the lights didn’t go down by accident? Have we helped people achieve an understanding that worship is our hearts and not the lights or sound? Would it be a risk to have a solid acoustic music set on a Sunday morning? Maybe. But would the risk pay off? I believe that when we trust our congregations to engage in the Spirit of God no matter the form, we create a stronger faith in them. Pastors and worship leaders, take a risk. Change the expectation. Shake things up!
- I believe that we should never completely go away from hymns. As someone who enjoys writing music, I have never been able to write a hymn. Maybe a good deal of that is based on my middling skill, but I also believe that hymns have something special in them that really has the ability to touch the hidden places of our hearts. We have lost something by not using hymns more. Today’s music has made Christian music more mainstream, which can be good. Hymns, though, have this unexplainable quality about them. Many times we are singing the scripture, which has power on its own, but it also comes from a place of deep reverence for God, which we can never lose. Hymns help us all. Hymns are still extremely relevant. We need them.
- I believe that our worship should be creative. God is the CREATOR, and has imbued us all with creative aspects begging to be expressed. Worship teams should be experimenting with creative music that expresses what God is doing in the hearts of the local body. Of course, these should be scripturally sound, but I also believe that there are expressions of worship, sounds, that are authentic and powerful that we are missing by not engaging in this practice. If someone wants to paint during worship? go for it. I’ve seen this in action, and the results are often mindblowing. Dancing? Listen, I was in a conference with church leaders from all over our district, and I watched these leaders be comfortable enough in the Spirit to lose themselves in movement.
- I believe that we should trust the words of the song to speak for themselves at times. Sometimes too much exhortation overshadows the music itself. I can be guilty of this. The words are there for a reason. Sometimes as a leader, stepping back and allowing the words to be sung is all the exhortation that is needed.
- Finally, I believe that instead of striving for perfection, we should strive to give God all of ourselves. I’m a HUGE proponent of preparation, and giving our best to God. I’m not a huge proponent of trying to sound like a recording. I believe that church bands and singers should practice and prepare, but this preparation is not to be perfect, or sound like anybody else. This practice and preparation are so that we are free to move how the Spirit desires. We don’t have to be copies. God wants US. Who we are is good enough in Him. When the notes get messed up and the words are forgotten, maybe that is an opportunity…a moment…to do something different. To take our worship deeper.
I know that all of these views might not be popular. They might make people angry. To some, they might be outright wrong. But as I think about what worship is to me, it is all of these that make up something beautiful. These things and more.
Don’t be afraid to go deeper. To challenge conventions. To create. The spirit and truths of worship resonate differently within all of us. Find yours. And find the freedom to be all that God has created you to be in your worship.
Worship is authentic. Worship is powerful. So…worship!