It's 2015. There is a whole lot of icky, yucky, mess going on right now. There's a lot of crazy things happening in the public eye and so many heartbreaking things going on behind closed doors. But no matter what seems to be happening in politics or public relations or whatever strikes your fancy, there seems to be a never-ending debate about corporate worship in churches.
Allow me to drop a truth-bomb on all of you right now.
This debate will never end.
The older generations don't like praise and worship. The younger generations don't like hymns. I am almost 100% positive that when my red hair is replaced with gray and white, I won't like whatever the young whipper-snappers in the church are singing. And it won't matter.
I think the reason why this is such a hot topic (people get really heated when you bring it up) among Christians is because we have lost sight of what is truly important when we sing in church: true worship. That is something I think we all can agree on.
I was recently listening to a sermon on worship when the pastor made the comment, "Worship is not a means to an end. It is the end....There is a vast difference between worshipping TO God and worshipping FOR God. God does not need our worship." (Bill Johnson of Bethel Church)
I think Pastor Johnson brings up a very valid point about corporate worship in churches today. Our worship has shifted from being focused on worshipping God for what He is and who He is to worshipping God because we need to worship Him so we can be filled. If we are all being completely honest here, we are all guilty of this.
But who cares, right? Who cares what I or Pastor Johnson or anyone has to say? What does God say about worship?
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
Worship is not something you come and do on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights and then leave. Worship is a lifestyle and our worship of our Savior flows from our hearts. If our hearts are clogged with mess that we see on TV, movies, social media, or whatever, ultimately the flow of our worship will be affected. So guard your heart from junk because it affects the lifestyle of worship. Lifestyle. Not activity. How do we do this? What does this look like?
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about these things."
Our worship begins with our thoughts. Our thoughts need to be focused on the things that bring God glory. So yes, this does include what you listen to on the radio, what you watch on TV, what you read, who you surround yourself with...the list could go on. Your mind should constantly be heavenly minded.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
So what on earth does all this have to do with what we sing on Sunday morning? Nothing. This has everything to do with your worship throughout your week when your feet aren't in a church and your bottom is not in a pew. Before we can even discuss what worship should look like on Sunday mornings, we have to talk about what your worship looks like throughout the week. Guard your heart, be heavenly minded, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, and rejoice always.
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."
I pick up three major points when I read this:
1. Shout for joy, worship with gladness and joyful songs.
2. Check your attitude at the door - enter the house of the Lord with thanksgiving and praise only. (That means no gossip, no,"I wish so-and-so was here. He/she really needed to hear that sermon this week/last week," no, "did you see what she was wearing?" NONE.)
3. He is good and His love and faithfulness endures forever.
"Praise the Lord, praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and the lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with strings and pipe, praise him with the crash of symbols, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord."
Four points this time:
1. Anywhere is acceptable to praise the Lord how you choose: his sanctuary, the heavens, anywhere under the heavens.
2. ANY instrument is acceptable and pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. Any volume of any instrument is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. This includes drums. This also includes drums being played loudly. This also includes guitars and organs at any volume.
3. If worshipping the Lord makes you want to dance, then dance before the Lord. Who am I to say you can't worship in that way?
4. Just praise Him. Who cares if it doesn't sound good? Who cares if it looks different than the person standing next to you? I know God doesn't care. All He cares about is your heart. You may think you sound like a dying duck but if you heart is in the right place, it is the most beautiful sound to the ears of the Lord.
"'I tell you,' he replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
The worship of King Jesus is so important to Him that if we don't praise Him, the rocks will. He is so worthy of our praise and so much greater than any song ever written, any performance, any worship set, and any argument about the "worship" that the rocks are not too lowly (or too proud) to praise Him.
This part of our walk with Christ is so important that if we miss this, we miss all of it. Worship is not for God. We worship TO God and in our daily worship, He comes in and changes our hearts to look more like His. Worship changes our lives in every way. It changes our outlook on life, it changes our thought life, it changes the way we treat others, it changes the way we treat ourselves, it changes everything.
It breaks my heart every single time I see hateful words being thrown around about hymns and about praise and worship because at the end of the day, is it really that important? Do the songs we sing at church for half an hour twice a week really affect our walks with Christ that much? I pray the answer is no. I pray that this little corner of the internet has clearly demonstrated that worship is not just Sundays and Wednesdays but an everyday lifestyle. I pray that we can put aside our differences and realize that church is about coming together, worshipping the Lord together, lifting one another up, and then going out and making a difference. We are the salt and light of the world; we don't need to take this lightly.
"The Lord says, 'These people come near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'"
May our hearts be closer to Him than ever before. May our worship be more than a song that we sing. May a rock never cry out in our place.
I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.