Search This Blog

Friday, February 19, 2010

Things that Impede Worship...

C. S. Lewis spoke how dogs generally won't look to what you point at with your finger, instead, they go sniff the finger, missing your intentions. Worship, for many, is like that. They begin to focus on worship itself, rather than the God to whom all worship belongs.   As I teach and converse with students about worship, one of the most common things I find is the fascination of the "feelings" of worship. There is a sense that if they haven't felt like they had in the past, then it must not have been real worship. Worship, like love, is reflected more in commitment, than feeling. Like the dog, they keep sniffing the finger, rather than see the point of real focus.

If we were to get specific about what some of these “fingers” are, I would start with the following, but would certainly welcome others that fit the illustration:
●    Focusing on the feelings and emotions of worship. Not that experiencing a specific feeling is wrong, but our emotional state is not the measure of our worship, but our loving obedience to what God has called us to do.
●    Worshiping “worship” itself.
●    Worshiping a musical style or the music itself. A single musical style can no more capture all of who God is and how He communicates with His children anymore than one single language and culture can.
●    Worshiping the structures of worship. Whether it might be more liturgical or the free church tradition, structures are like the frame of a picture and only facilitate the display; they were never intended to outshine the painting.
●    Worshiping the individual parts of worship. Unfortunately, many people today use the word “worship” as a synonym for the word “music.” Worship is not just the music; worship must include the praying, the reading of God’s Word, the offering, the testimonies, and yes the exposition of Scripture in addition to the musical participation or our understanding of worship is not fully biblical.
●    Focusing on the personalities leading worship. Worship leaders, perhaps should best be called, “lead worshipers,” Pastors, and virtually anyone that is in a public visible position in worship can become the focus of attention. Admiration and respect can develop into something totally askew from God’s purposes, especially in situations in which those that come to worship come with deep emotional needs and hurts and those in leadership positions seem to “have all the answers.”

What might be some solutions for these problems? The leadership sincerely desires that everyone from old to young worship God with their heart, mind, soul, and spirit, and yet many still get the focus on the wrong thing. Without trying to simplify the issues too much, again, here is just a starting list:
▸    We must teach what biblical worship is and not assume that everyone just understands. I cannot remember when there has ever been such an emphasis on worship in my lifetime. I have over 100 books in my library on worship; 20 - 30 years ago, I don’t think that would have been possible. But, with the immense growth of material written about the subject, the amount of confusion about worship seems to grow exponentially. We cannot afford the luxury of assuming the members of our churches have a true biblical understanding of worship; we must start from square one.
▸    Those that lead worship must be living models of biblical worship. The temptation to follow the “worship leading style” of someone is tremendous for many young leaders. They imitate the words and actions, but many times have not paid the price of deepening their personal relationship with Christ so that their worship is an outgrowth of that relationship. They have not paid the price to hone their musical or communication skills to lead effectively and without distraction.
▸    We must learn the principle of the unity of the body. I like what Dr. John Hopkins, Dean of the School of Fine Arts at Samford University has said, that we need not so much “a table for every person, but a place for every person at the table.”  The model of worship in heaven is one where every tribe, tongue, and nation are gathered around the throne of God in worship. Individuality melds together by the grace of God in worship. Multi-generational worship is a healthy model for children to see how their parents and grandparents respond in praise and adoration to the God who created the universe and redeems for eternity. This happens when we are more committed to making God the focus of our worship than the dictates of personal style and taste.
▸    We must develop a deep hunger and thirst to know God better and respond in loving obedience through personal study of God’s Word and prayer. However simple, it cannot be under estimated. We cannot share what we do not have and we cannot lead where we have not been.

It is my prayer that we begin the process of focusing on the what worship is, teaching it to others by personal application.