Sunday, September 30, 2007

What does Worship look like?

After the service last Sunday someone grabbed a member of the worship team and launched into a diatribe about how amplified worship music is a disgrace to the Lord Jesus and, somehow, less than biblical. This often happens at our church- because our worship is contemporary in style, expressive in character, and lengthy. Usually these kind of ignorant comments are meant to provoke an argument. I am proud to say that this worship leader responded in grace. People often equate their likes and dislikes with those things that God likes. This sort of "creating God in our own image" is an idolatry that is crafty and clever but is sinful nevertheless.

Now I grew up in a church with organ music, choirs, and hymnals. (By the way the organ has a built in amplifier!)I appreciate the worship from times of old. When William Booth took bar songs and put Christian lyrics to them he did so with the idea that he was making the deep truths of God relevant to sinners. Some have attributed the saying "Why should the devil have all the good music" to him. Few people quibble over Send The Fire or other hymns that he wrote, these days. Music is both an expression to God of the soul and the making relevant and accessible the truths of God to those who need reminding of his character and nature.

But what does worship look like?
1) Well- to the chagrin of this poor unenlightened congregant- Worship is Loud! While there are some who prefer their admiration of God to be quiet and mannerly, the Bible records powerful, loud worship as being the kind of worship that God inhabits. Praise, by its nature involves shouting at times. Indeed, one of the Hebrew words for worship is "Shout" (Josh 6.16; Ps 66.1) and believers are supposed to get loud in their worship- at least occasionally. Of course, it doesn't have to be deafening but there is a reason why they had choirs with many voices... volume!
But worship is more than volume.

2) Worship is biblical. I don't think we need an example here of the poverty of some theological impressions from the hymns, do we? Okay- read through Rise Up Oh Men of God (verses 2 and 3); or how about Near the Cross...
The point is our worship needs to reflect biblical truth. While there are great hymns there are also wonderful expressions of worship in contemporary music. Any one who says otherwise hasn't plumbed the depths of a song like Glory in the Highest
by Chris Tomlin

You are the first
You go before
You are the last
Lord, You're the encore
Your name's in lights for all to see
The starry host declare Your glory

Glory in the highest
Glory in the highest
Glory in the highest

Apart from You there is no god
Light of the world
The Bright and Morning Star
Your name will shine for all to see
You are the one
You are my glory

And no one else could ever compare
To You, Lord
All the earth together declares ...
Glory in the highest ... to You, Lord

All the earth will sing Your praise
The moon and stars, the sun and rain
Every nation will proclaim
That You are God and You will ransom

Glory, glory hallelujah
Glory, glory to You, Lord
Glory, glory hallelujah

I think in John 4 Jesus called it "worshipping in spirit and in truth". A generation died in the desert because their worship was impure in character. It might be incumbant upon us to pay less attention to musical style and more to the condition of the heart.

3) Worship is genuine. If flows from the heart and the form is less important than the function. I question whether someone who is bound and determined to dislike the worship of God has a real relationship with God. Worship is what we will spend the rest of eternity doing. I think some folks may be terribly uncomfortable in Heaven!
It also strikes me as a terrible hypocrisy to judge what only God can know- the intents of a fellow worshippers heart while the same is worshipping your Lord alongside you. Really- which one of these worshippers is responding with their heart? The offended pew sitter or the fully engaged demonstrative and boisterous charismaniac?

The desire of a man or woman after God is powerful stimulus to holiness. Many offer the simplistic worship of a submitted heart. They do it in many ways- bowing before God, hands lifted to heaven, dancing in joy, singing with all their hearts, yielding to will of God, tearful reflection and repentance, jumping and shouting, in English or in a prayer language- they genuinely desire to please God. Naysayers seem to forget that all those are biblical expressions of praise to God.

4) Worship is a subjective, spiritual, and experiential endeavor. God moved in the Scriptures as men of old prayed, sang in worship, and humbled themselves. In my home church there was a fella who played for the Vikings on most Sundays. He was so big I couldn't see around him when he stood to sing. But there is something powerfully humiliating and encouraging in seeing a pro defensive tackle humble himself before a mighty God. It is a metaphor for the rest of us. It is in worship- imperfect in all its variables- that God meets us. It was the primary requirement of the sons of Adam. It was the expression of worship that brought blessing and cursing upon Able and Cain. God was experienced in the context of altars of worship and prayer throughout the patriarchs lives. And in the NT the promise of re establishing the Davidic Tabernacle of praise (Act 15.15) reminds us that God is bringing the gentiles in to experience his manifest presence.

Every Sunday I remind myself that God has planned to inhabit these praises and that his glorious presence will be there from the first note on. Some say that they can praise God in "other ways" but God is no fan of 'strange fire'(Num 3.4). The Biblical pattern for praise and worship is best.

We dedicate about 1/2 of our service to this highest calling of man. Giving God the praise due his name is of equal or greater value than the Word of God. Andrew Murray wrote, "To worship is man's highest glory. He was created for fellowship with God: of that fellowship worship is the sublimest expression." No sermon can change a man with out the invited presence of God's spirit into the situation. Worship is more than a way of life- it is life; it creates life; it welcomes life; it changes lives.

A. W. Tozer lamented the lack of real worship in churches in his day. It has been a determined effort, with many confrontations with persons who would settle for a less than biblical experience in the church, but we continue to desire to follow God's express and clearly articulated will regarding worship. If that is not what someone is looking for in a church- if they want to dumb down worship- manage the Holy Spirit's presence- stifle the gifts of the Holy Spirit- or hinder the worship of others, then I invite them to leave our church. But if they have a teachable spirit and are submitted to Christ above all- then I invite them to enter in and experience the live altering presence of God in worship. They won't be sorry. I'm not.


1 comment:

Paul M. Harrison said...

Perhaps the best example of worship in this entire post was the band member who responded with grace.