Worship Is All About You
Blog post from Wherever Is Trevor. On the mission field in Peru, worship music was not something to necessarily brag about. In most cases, the worship team was made up of people who knew generally how to shake a tambourine and pluck a guitar, and the vocals carried the characteristic of sounding raw and untrained. It was interesting hearing Hillsong music sung with this native sound. At first, that was exciting, but after a while it began to wear on me and I began to have a hard time connecting with the worship and feeling like I could find God there. My expectations of what the worship should sound like and be like held me back from experiencing God fully. After a while, I found freedom from myself to simply come into God's presence.
Coming back to the U.S. I've found it’s kind of scary to talk about what people thought of the worship experience after church. Lot’s of people these days have lots of opinions. Most of them have been shared already all over the internet and a new war has been waged, the Worship Wars. It sounds like a spoofy, Christianized version of Pitch Perfect. Actually, is that a horrible idea? It even has the double w’s. Unfortunately, it’s a reality we are seeing in our church congregations.
There is no way that any one church can meet all of it’s congregation’s varied music tastes, beliefs and projections about what worship music should sound like, thoughts on how worship leaders should dress and act on stage, etc. The Praise and Worship Team has become a very important piece of church culture, it’d be hard to imagine a church of any significant size that didn’t have one. Yet, for some, even that name might cause chills and triggers involuntary gagging. Something is missing in the experiential act of worship with song, and everyone else knows about it. Everyone knows about it but it’s not being addressed. Comments are made about the sounds, the vibe, the style, but those are only distractions from the real problem.
The problem starts with you, meaning, worship is all about you... at least, it all starts with you. The problem isn’t with the quality of sound, nor is it about the style. A lot of people have already said it, worship starts at the heart. There’s more to be said, though, because there are things we can do together to foster this idea. Worship is all about you in the sense of what you bring to the big picture. As a part of the congregation, you contribute greatly to the way others are experiencing worship.
Let your communication with God be your focus.
Worship is 100% all about communication. It’s a gift, like prayer, that God has given to speak with Him on a deeper and more intimate level. According to the Barna Research group, the Worship Wars are the result of a failure to understand that this communication is the central purpose of worship. Pastors begin to focus on pleasing people’s tastes and the people began to see worship as an experience for their personal benefit instead of an outward projection of praise. Barna says, "Music is just a tool meant to enable people to express themselves to God, yet we sometimes spend more time arguing over the tool than over the product and purpose of the tool."
You are the creator of the safe space.
Authenticity is valued greatly especially among twentysomethings and they are generally pretty good at picking out the phoney in a crowd. As much as it’s valued and sought after, it is only born in safe places, but when people become overly critical of their worship leader, it’s likely that attitude will stamp out the very authenticity those church-goers are actually seeking. If you are striving to find authenticity in your church’s worship, but your thoughts and words about the experience are floating toward negativity, take a moment and stop yourself, lay those thoughts down, and remind yourself that the church is a safe place. Your perspective on the way church does worship might be authentic, but are they contributing to the overall safe place where other people’s authenticity is born? Allow everyone else around you to worship without your judgement clouding their experience.
Your energy during worship affects those around you.
If you lean over to your neighbor to comment that the worship leader lifting his hand to point to God looks like he’s channeling Crowder, there are people around you who are reading your body language. Interrupting your own worship experience actually interrupts the experience of those around you. People are unknowingly very good at reading body language so, if you are standing in the crowd, lips unmoving and arms crossed, the person next to you might be influenced by your lack of involvement and decide this worship is terrible too.
Just let go of your control.
Sanctuaries can be thick with discomfort when the worship leader shouts out things like, “lift your hands,” “clap with me,” “can I hear a hallelujah?!” Everyone in the room suddenly feels jarred with fear of looking like an idiot. What if no one else does it with me? What if I am literally the only one to follow? It’s not just you who is grappling with those fears, everyone else in the room is hypersensitive to being humiliated. But, if you let go of your reservations and focus on the energy that you are contributing to the rest of the room, you’ll find you can influence those around you positively and invite them further into the worship experience.
Don’t judge the way others worship.
Judgement is an encroachment on all of these pieces. It rejects authenticity, it creates a negative energy, and it comes from a position of control. By leaving judgement at the door during worship we open ourselves up to being completely surrendered. Placing expectations on God and the experience one can have with Him will always end in disappointment. Besides that, worship is an outward path of communication that glorifies God. He is the ultimate judge. Let God see the heart of the worship leader and decide if His worship is adequate. Your worship, regardless of the worship leader’s, can be a pleasing offering to God. By setting down judgement during worship, you are letting go of control and expectations. One of the big themes our heart should be mulling over when we approach the Lord in song and praise is surrender. Laying down these things connect directly with that posture.
The big piece to remember is that you are a main contributor to both your and everyone else’s experience during worship. By allowing yourself to create a safe space and letting go of control and judgement, you can worship in any kind of environment. Seriously! If you master letting your heart connect with God regardless what music is playing, you can find yourself in the heart of worship in any worship style. It’s so freeing to know that just as the curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn and we are free to meet God anywhere, so is it with music. Ask yourself what you are contributing to the room. Don’t let anything get in the way of your posture of surrender before the Lord. Let go of all judgement and create a place that invites everyone around you to enter into God’s presence with reckless abandon.
Trevor is the Messaging Coordinator at Extreme Nazarene heading up communications, marketing and design. He's also a writer for the blog Capture Hope. When Trevor isn't creating, he's spending time with friends falling over laughing and playing croquette. You can check out more of his writing at his personal blog also.