I just posted this on my personal blog (alexboxall.wordpress.com) and thought I'd share it: (Feel free to let me know what you think!)
Worship is more than just singing. We’ve established that and I think that we are all more than aware of this and therefore we shouldn’t labour the point.
However, so often we go to services and if we have not felt particularly connected to God we often leave saying ” the worship wasn’t very good/such a shame Alex was leading” etc.
Equally, when this is reversed and we have felt close to God we will leave saying: “the worship was amazing/great/inspired” etc…
I’m sure you’ll agree that there are some problems with this.
The first point I’d like to make is this:
The worship leader is not responsible for your encounter with God. He or she is not there to open a way or even lead the way into the presence of God. Jesus has already done this for us on the cross.
Up until that point there was only one person on one occasion per year who could enter into the presence of God. Every year on an appointed date, the high priest of the temple would enter the Holy of Holies, the innermost room of the temple wherein the Presence of God dwelt. The priest would have to undergo a number of traditional cleansing ceremonies prior to entering the Holy of Holies including hiding within a veil of smoke. Anyone who entered into God’s presence without protection died instantly.
This may appear harsh and mean for a loving God to kill the people He loves if they dare enter his presence, but this has nothing to do with th desires of God and more to do with his nature. God’s presence is so pure and holy that He is all consuming. Nothing is worthy to be in His presence and as such anyone who entered His presence would be consumed in His glory and would consequently die.
Jesus came to change this. No longer was the presence of God confined to the temple, hiddn behind a giant curtain, but with His death and resurrection, Jesus opened the way to the presence of God. No longer would we need ritual cleansing or animal sacrifices in order to enter into His presence. In fact, where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there.
I must add that He is also there when you are on your own!
Now, what does this mean in terms of our worship services etc?
When we look at living our lives we will often look to what Jesus did to work out how we should live, yet when it comes to worship we almost instinctively look more towards Tim Hughes, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and, in some cases, Godfrey Birtill!
I still haven’t found the passage where Jesus picks up his guitar and starts leading the five thousand in song…
Now, don’t get me wrong, in no way am I saying that singing songs congregationally is wrong or that guitar led musical worship is wrong, but I would suggest that there are more ways to worship than that.
Whenever Jesus met with his community, his disciples, He would teach them, pray with them, eat with them and yes, they probably sang psalms together, which Jesus, as their rabbi is likely to have led. As far as living a life of worship, Jesus was the ultimate example, feeding the hungry, curing the sick, touching the untouchable and loving the unlovable.
The new testament teaches a lot about the early church. They met together. They ate together, prayed together, shared their houses and possessions, learnt together and loved each other. 2 Corinthians 11 – 14 explains lot about different gifts available to people to be used in their gatherings, however at no point is singing mentioned. Hmmm… Is there really more to worship than just singing?
How can this affect the way we meet together?
Who recognises this scenario?
You arrive at church 5 minutes before the start, say a quick hello to someone on the way in, ask how they are (they’re not too bad!) you tell them you’re fine and find a seat. Two seats away from where you sit down is a couple you’ve seen before but never spoken to, so you don’t say anything to them again, after all, why break with tradition!?!?!
The singing starts, and you enter this little tunnel between you and God. Worship that day wasn’t very good as there were some children playing with the flags at the front of church and you didn’t like two of the songs. The sermon was fine but you drifted off a little in the middle thinking about the tennis match or the formula 1 race that you’d be rushing home to watch. At the end there’s a time of ministry and some people go to the front for prayer. Thankfully this means that you can leave before the parking charges start and you get home in time to watch the race preamble. You then realise that you have not connected with anyone or even with God and that maybe it would have been better to stay a home in bed…
Obviously this is an extreme example but I’m sure that we can all identify with some of the points in that example.
We are called to be community. Community being a word derived from the Latin meaning: with unity. The Bible teaches that we are one body in Christ and that He is the head of the body. If one part of the body is hurting, we should all be there, sharing the pain, supporting and helping the damaged part to heal.
Equally, we should share in each others fears and failures, tears and laughter.
Now, when it comes to congregational worship we need to worship together as one body as opposed to what often happens which is that we meet together and worship God individually together.
As one body we have different skills and these should all be shared as part of our worship.
Believe it or not, there are people in church who don’t enjoy music. There are people who simply feel uncomfortable singing.
Others prefer different styles of music, some classical, some hiphop, and maybe even, dare I say it, heavy metal!
There are people here who would rather spend half an hour painting a picture for the glory of God than singing. Others who would rather read or write a poem or pray for someone or simply sit quietly reading His Word.
We are all responsible for our worship of God, however, as a body we are responsible for each other’s access to resources and an atmosphere that is conducive to worship. We will sing songs, but maybe we should make space for people to paint. Or dance. Or share a poem. Maybe we could watch some drama and bring God glory through that.
People are different and as such find worship easier through different mediums. We don’t need to do this alone together, but sharing in our gifts will not only enrich our communion with God for those who enjoy these different styles but for the whole body.
Let's worship Him through songs and colour, through words and deeds, through cooking, painting, dancing, flag waving.
Let’s worship with hip hop and gregorian chant.
Let’s worship with embroidery and Digital animations.
Lets rock out to his glory and meditate on his mercy.
But, most importantly, let’s do these things together, as one body, for His glory.
Alex Boxall, December 15, 2009