Alex explores the reasons behind why we worship.
Sung worship is far from the only kind of worship we can offer God. We can speak his praise, light candles, burn incense or give our time and resources to worship Him. Nonetheless, in the bible, there are many references to worship which are specifically musical. King David collected together huge bands of musicians to play music and praise God and Paul encourages the early church to meet together and sing spiritual songs. In Revelation we see that in the throne room of God, all manner of creatures sing out praises to God.
Eugene Peterson writes: (sung) Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God. Worship is the time and place that we assign for deliberate attentiveness to God – not because he’s confined to time and place but because our self-importance is so insidiously relentless that if we don’t deliberately interrupt ourselves regularly, we have no chance of attending to him at all at other times and in other places.
Sung worship is unique. It allows every member of a community to praise God individually but in unity, everyone singing together. Carefully crafted songs let us express ourselves in ways we couldn’t do on our own. Often, they help to reinforce our understanding of God and His Kingdom. The style can vary from hymns and monastic chants, to rock songs and rap; every nationality and denomination has its own style. But the concept remains the same: singing together allows whole congregations to express heartfelt praise to God.
Sung worship is not always easy. Sometimes the words can be challenging, speaking of issues at the very core of our being, or of ideas that we have yet to grasp. I sometimes find that I am singing something as a statement of how I would like to feel, asking the Spirit to make it true in my life. In house groups in particular, it can be awkward, making us feel self-conscious. House group worship may be out-of-tune and musical errors are often made. It is likely that from time to time we will simply not like the style of the worship we take part in. Never the less, I believe it is a key part of our “DNA” in the Vineyard movement that when we meet, we sing praise to God.
Sometimes people remark that they ‘didn’t get anything out of Worship’. This rather misses the point. It is the duty of worship leaders to make times of worship accessible and of a quality high enough not to distract. It is their job to facilitate a journey which takes us to a place of intimacy, helping us to engage. However, it is our duty to worship, regardless.
I often find that when it is the hardest, when I really don’t want to worship, that is exactly when it is the most rewarding. Worship refocuses your attention on God, and with His grace, he may minister to you. I remember leading worship the day after I discovered that my mother had terminal cancer. It was the last thing I actually wanted to do. I remember my mentor reading to me over the phone from Samuel. At the death of his son, the first thing David did was put on his best robe and worship God. I have no doubt that he was angry with God, but I think that David understood the need to re-establish his relationship with his God, speaking out eternal truths and seeking intimacy with God to understand what had happened.
One thing surprises me and leaves me awestruck each and every time I worship; as we draw nearer to Him, concentrate on Him and sing truths to Him – He draws nearer to us. He allows His spirit to inhabit our praises and ministers to us. It is my experience that when I make this sacrifice of time and effort, I am changed and re-focussed. Often we enjoy worship; it is a pleasure to sing to God when all the conditions are right. But this is not, and must not be, why we do it. We in the Vineyard believe that sung worship is one of the best models we have to corporately give God the praise he deserves.