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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Love Deeper (oh to be the kind of worshiper the Father seeks)

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and, overhearing the conversation at the table next to you, wish you could pull up a chair and listen, or even join in?

Today, at lunch, I overheard five men who were engaged in a conversation regarding the worship at their church.  Scratch that. Two men were talking and the other three were listening.  Four, if you count my wandering ear.  But I really couldn't hear everything that was said.  You see, the music in the restaurant was too loud... (irony?)... maybe.  So you understand why I wanted to pull up a chair?

From what I could make out, the man doing most of the talking was expressing his resistance to the addition of guitar and drums.  He didn't seem angry, just resistant.  He admitted that there was nothing "technically" wrong with guitar and drums in worship.  It's just that he was, well, uncomfortable with them.  He didn't like it.  He said He found himself gripping the back of the pew as they all stood and sang along and when the songs were over and he could let go to sit down, he felt relieved.  He seemed to regretted how he felt, but he wanted to be honest about it.

His friend was trying to encourage him, saying that the church needed to be relevant to the culture.  He seemed to agree and commenced to chase a rabbit wondering if it was society in general that rubbed him the wrong way; too noisy, impatient, self-absorbed, performance oriented.  And he just didn't want to see that happen in his church.  My mind wandered after that and it sounded like their conversation did too.  I found myself thanking God that theirs was a pleasant conversation between brothers and that there was a "Truth in Love" aroma to it (and a hint of moo goo gai pan).

As a worship leader veteran of 18 years, I may have heard it all; all the complaints, criticisms, humble questions & sincere support.  I've received my share of anonymous letters; "God hates rock music" "Rock music has no place in the church"  "drums are a tool of the devil."  Some of the most non-biblical statements I've ever heard within the church have been about worship.  And I think all our self-righteous and self-wrongness about worship comes down to us using a wrong criteria when we evaluate worship.

How do we evaluate worship?  This is a tricky business.  First, let me say, as a worship leader, I'm appreciative of every compliment I've received over the years.  Please don't stop.  Your loving words are a wonderful encouragement for me.  I love my calling and my job.  And I love the people that God, in His grace, has allowed me to serve over the years.

It seems to me that most of our evaluating statements regarding our worship services utilize the words "like" and "I" a little too often.

Now, I'm not offering condemnation here.  I want to be a better worshiper!  I don't have all the answers.  I'm still looking and learning.  I'm seeking here, to discern the premise of our worship evaluation.  I think every worshiper would agree that we worship because God commands us to in His Word.  And, moreover, we would probably agree that we worship because God is deserving of our worship.  Why then, when we evaluate worship, do we seek to resolve whether or not WE "liked it?"  Shouldn't we be asking God what He wants?

Our worship evaluation gets off track very quickly if it doesn't begin with this question; "God, how do You want your people to worship You?"  If we first seek to satisfy this question we are led to verses like Psalm 51:17 "The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart."  When was the last time you and I left worship with a broken and repentant heart?

We are also led to verses like Romans 12:1 "give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you"  OUR WHOLE SELVES!! "This is truly the way to worship him"  Do we come to worship service seeking to offer ourselves to God?  Or are we interested only what we can get from it?  Are we looking for a tingly feeling and calling it worship?  We should be throwing our lives at His feet, begging and pleading to give Him more, all of ourselves.  Instead, we can't get out the door fast enough when worship is over.  We start checking the clock on our phone fifteen minutes into the sermon.  We prefer to sit instead of stand through the singing because our feet hurt or our back hurts or we stayed up to late last night.  We worship a Savior who had nails hammered into his feet and hands and we can't stand for 10 minutes of singing to Him? Or sit through 30 minutes of Bible teaching?  What must God think of that kind of worship offering?  No wonder we don't asking Him if He felt worshiped.  We probably wouldn't like His answer.

We should be begging to stay and to sing one more song or pray one more prayer and hear one more testimony of how great our Lord is and what miracles He has done in the lives of those who surrender to Him.  "More, more! I'm not done yet.  Let me stay. Let me sing one more sing, fast or slow, I don't care,  I MUST declare the greatness of God!"

When the service is over, may we no longer ask "Did I like this worship service?"  but instead, ask "Did God enjoy my worship?"  "Did we worship in a way that was worthy of the One we worship?"  Instead of saying "that was a great sermon" let us declare "Oh, what a great and marvelous God is our God."  Rather than saying we like or didn't like the music, may we proclaim "Oh, how I love Jesus!"

The growing intensity of my tone here is meant to reveal that I long to be that kind of worshiper.

If we are going to Love our God Deeper, then He will shine through in the way we worship and the way we think about worship.

Father, oh how easily my eyes drift from You.  Forgive me when I'm more disheartened by the lack of singing than I am by missing the presence of Your Spirit.  And when I'm more impressed by loud singing than by the greatness of You, please forgive me.  I am humbled in Your presence and I am a beggar, desperate for a few crumbs from Your table, yet you are inviting me to pull up a chair and sit in the place of honor with You as Your beloved child.  Thank You for what Your grace means in my life.

Do any of my thoughts here resonate with you?  Are you needing a freshness to come back to your worship?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Kerry Wolfington said...

Psalms 150 is a great guide to the types of musical instruments that can be used to praise the Lord in worship: cymbals, lyre, harp, trumpet and even dancing.

Alden Schoeneberg said...

And, Kerry, don't foget the flutes in verse 4. That's all four instrument groups; strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion.

Bryan said...

Great post and definitely relevant. I think I've heard all of the same criticisms as well. But the true heart of the matter is the heart.
Good entry.

Alden Schoeneberg said...

It shouldn't surprise us how we or anyone else can get so caught up seeking worship we "like" and forgoing the humility and brokenness taught in scripture. Criticism is sure to come, if only one of the parties has lost focus on our biblical call to worship.