God calls us to worship him. As his children, we have to obey not only out of obedience, but also because we love our Father in Heaven. In fact, here’s a few verses on worship.
Ephesians 5:19 “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.
Psalm 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”
Hebrews 13:15 “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
John 4:23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him.”
Psalm 150:1-6 “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”
If I shared all of the verses on worship, then I’d probably have to copy and paste half of the Bible. But the point is you cannot read scripture and ignore the call to worship. It comes up far too often! Not to mention, there’s an entire book on worship. As I mentioned earlier, God calls us to worship. He is worthy of all praise, worthy of every blessing, worthy of every word that comes from our mouth. Our God is good. So why should we give him anything less than our worship?
Now, worship is more than just when we set aside time and start singing, (it’s in everything we do) but I want to focus on the musical aspect for a moment.
I’ve grown up singing hymns. It’s just what our church (and most churches) used. But I was always told that I am free to worship in any way I wanted to, so long as it brought glory to God. This was shown to me at summer camp when we sang more contemporary worship. What I love about camp is that we mix it up. We sing hymns as well as more modern songs. We’re always seeking new ways to worship.
I remember a time when my Dad got up and danced at a conference he and I were attending. Being 12 at the time, this was horribly traumatic. Looking back at that moment, I knew my father was worshiping God with his whole heart, and I could not be blessed with a better father. But one thing sticks out to me about that moment. I don’t remember the song he danced to. Nope. Not a beat, not a lyric, nothing. All I remember is the fact that he danced for the Lord. Obviously, God knows the song, but the song is not what mattered. It was the heart that danced to it.
As I grew older, my distaste for hymns grew. I felt like it was ritualistic nonesense. Just the same songs over and over again; songs that had lost their meaning to me. This angst became so powerful that I dreaded coming to church, and worship was only half the service! This opinion changed drastically during my camps Winter Banquet. (The Winter Banquet is when we raise support for the camp and provide food and childcare for potential donors.) I took one of my best friends with me during one of these banquets and we had a great time, eating, laughing and listening to great music. Now, it should also be mentioned that I was kind of out of place. Most of the people who attended were older people who could actually donate, not poor college students with connections to the camp. At the very end of the Banquet, the director gave a short speech, gave a few shout outs, etc. Then he called for everyone to stand and sing “How Great Thou Art.” I wasn’t too excited about this, but I understood because everyone knew it, so why not? We all started to sing but I couldn’t get through the first verse. Not because I was overcome with grief or that I had forgotten the lyrics, but because this was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. The room echoed with praises; every person standing up, exalting our God with purity. I looked around the room and saw the smiles of the people singing. They loved God with all of their hearts. Ever since that moment, I have never looked down on hymns ever again. In fact, I look forward to them now!
This story comes from only a few short weeks ago. I was attending a conference with around 600 other people in order to learn more about the gospel and how to use it. Like any church service, it started with worship. I knew the worship they had in store for us was more along the lines of upbeat, contemporary music. I thought, “maybe it’ll be like camp.” Little did I realize that it would not be like camp.
The first worship service, I had made a grievous mistake. I had sinned against the very core Baptist beliefs set before me by my church. I didn’t sit in the back. I was towards the front. My only protection was a mere 3 rows, and I knew I was not safe. Worship started and everyone around me began jumping up and down with religious fervor. They were shouting and singing praises as loudly as they could; they were flailing arms around and closing their eyes tightly. Yet. Here I was in the midst of this and there was nothing I could do about it. Every service after that, I sat towards the back of the church. Every service, they sang the same songs. Worship had lost its meaning to me again. The week crawled by, the songs never changed, and the people all worshipped the same frantic worship as the day before. At one point during worship, the worship leader told everyone to put their hands in the air. I decided to stand in defiance and was probably the only one in the audience who didn’t raise their hands. So I closed my eyes, and spent the time praying to God. I blocked everything out. I stood there in silence while the world shook around me. I was certain that they were worshipping, but I couldn’t get into it. One of my hands clasped my keys while my other gripped my phone. Then I opened my eyes. As soon as I did, a thought came to mind. Everyone had their hands in the air and Here I Am With My Hands in My Pockets. But I had a peace about it. I also had the inspiration to start writing. I could use writing to bring praise to God! I opened my backpack, pulled out my little notebook, and did just that. I began to write and write about worship in particular, but I knew that it wouldn’t end there. I knew I was going to write about many other things, but for now, Worship.
Hopefully by this point I have made it unquestionably clear that worship comes from the heart not from the genre of music. Up until this point, there’s been a clear bias towards hymn music. I should mention that I enjoy all sorts of music when it comes to worship, not just hymns. I should also mention that just because my worship experience differed from that of the other 600 at the conference, it does not mean that they weren’t worshipping. To each their own style of worship. At this point, I want to question some of the aspects within certain kinds of worship we may or may not participate in. I think it’s important to do self-evaluations regularly. Not to the point of self-destruction, but just enough to make sure our hearts are set on God and not on other things. Let’s start with hymn problems.
Hymn music can become ritualistic. Although there are some good aspects in having a regular schedule, we need to make sure our heart stays in check and is continually focused and devoted to God. I experienced this when I was younger, as I mentioned earlier. When you worship ritualistically, you no longer have a heart for worship, which is the most important part of worship!
Hymn music can be scripturally inaccurate. This has been a shocking discovery more recently. Not every hymn proclaims the gospel accurately. Be sure to listen to the words whenever you start singing.
There are plenty of other issues with hymn music, but I’m fairly confident they are different versions of these issues. Now let’s move to the more contemporary side of worship!
Contemporary music can become emotionally reliant. Although I think emotion can be part of worship, I think it’s more important that we worship God despite our emotions. Hymns have a problem with going through the motions, contemporary worship has an issue of going through the emotions. One phrase I hate hearing is, “Worship was so good this morning!” What made it good? The guitar? The synth? None of these matter and none will carry someone into heaven. Only the heart of the believer will.
Contemporary music is not always scripturally accurate. Just as hymns may get it wrong sometimes, so can modern worship. I remember going to a concert that promoted the audience to be completely careless. They even used scripture as the basis of their lyrics! “God will not let you go through more than you can bear.” However, they only used half of the verse and left out the most important part which said, “But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”When you took the whole verse into context, you realize it does not say to be careless, but to be wise and seek the Lords help.
Now, there are plenty of other styles of worship, but they usually can be generalized as either a hymn or contemporary. I think it’s best to evaluate our worship style with these basic tools.
- Check for scriptural accuracy.
- Check for ritualism in worship.
- Check for emotional reliance in worship.
To finish this blog post, I want to remind the reader of my main point. Worship comes from the heart not from the genre of music. If you feel like running, jumping and dancing, do it for the Lord with all your heart as David did! If you wish to remain in stoic reverence, do it with all your heart as Hebrews 12:28 says! For me personally, I find myself With My Hands in My Pockets.