Music As A Form Of Worship

The phrase ‘Let us start worship’ or ‘Let us begin worship’ is one that never sits easy with me. The term ‘Worship Leader’ for me doesn’t seem to be a biblical principal. In this post, I am to pick apart these terms and phrases and suggest what I believe we should be actually doing instead.

Is Worship something we turn on?

I do hope that no church flicks a switch and suddenly they are in ‘worship’ mode, I would be extremely concerned if it did! In my interpretation, worship is something that we are, we are made to worship. It is also not just solely music and singing, as we can sometimes think; in fact music is just a small part of what worship is all about.

So can we just turn it on with a flick of a switch? No! We don’t start worship, and we don’t just begin in worship, we should be worshipping God in all our thoughts and deeds, in our actions and in our words.

There is no start, and there is no end. To be frank, no one can lead you in worship. No man can lead you in worship to God, only the Spirit can give you the words to say, give you desire to praise such an awesome God we serve. You don’t just go to church where someone there helps your heart focus on God, that’s all through the Spirit, through your own heart and through you as an individual before the Lord. We worship collectively as individuals.

Music isn’t all worship

Let’s be straight here as well. Music is only a tiny fraction of what worship actually is. The Bible says:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Worship is everything we do, it is a way we can communicate with God, it is a way we can give Him praises, and it is a way in which we can actually remember truths and passages from the Bible. If you look at hymns for example, their purpose is often to help people remember key truths about the Bible and about God. Are we losing that today?

Nonetheless, music isn’t worship. Music is a tool God has given us, to help us and to give it back to Him. Martin Luther said, ‘Next to the word of God the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’ However, I think, we, the church, can get too focused on just one facet of what worship is. We will rehearse, practice and make a fantastic performance on stage, but what is our prayer life like? Do we spend time with God? Do we read our Bibles? Do we show a Christian life by our actions always? Sometimes we focus on one facet that we forget all the others which are just as, if not even more, important. We may get excited over a song, but we have to ask the question — do we get excited because we love the tune, love the music, but not what worship is all about?

I’m not against ‘Worship Leaders’ but..

I understand the need for someone to help keep everyone in tune, in focus and in musical cohesion, but let’s be straight here, no person actually leads worship. If anything the Spirit helps us in our singing praise, but again no person should be in a position like this, it is though as if it was just a title given to someone to sound spiritual.

Again, I am not against someone at the front helping the congregation sing and what not, but it’s the term that I have problems with, can it not be just an ego situation?

So is Music bad?

Certainly not! Music is a great gift! (Psalm 71:23; 105:2; 150: 1-5, Colossians 3:16; Revelation 14: 3-4) and one we should cherish and love to do, it allows us to be creative and it allows us to express ourselves when words fail us. Nonetheless, we must remember that it is all about Him, the mighty God, the One we are told to hold in reverent fear as well as love and adore. When we sing to our Father we do need to be serious and mean what we say. If we sing ‘I surrender all’, for example, then we should surrender all to Jesus, rather than merely singing for the sake of it (or because it’s catchy and modern) then going home and forgetting all about it. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were hypocrites and, to be frank, we can be very hypocritical in our music.

Music shouldn’t also be about using the latest snazziest catchphrases. For example, in recent times ‘oceans’, ‘waves’ and ‘storms’ having been doing the rounds. Before that it was ‘dry bones’ and I can keep going on. When we write music as worship, it should all be from the heart, about what God is telling us, and what we have been through, not what is trendy. Let’s be frank, modern songs/hymns have produced some amazing and great songs that really come from the heart, but there are also a number which just sound like they have been regurgitated time and time again, the same phrases, the same things being said. When we describe God, surely there are more ways of saying ‘You are awesome’ or ‘You are great.’ Don’t get me wrong, these are amazing truths, but sometimes it feels to me that less time has been put into the lyrics and more time into the production quality. Lyrics are important! Sometimes I can’t resist rewriting certain songs for my own personal use, and I’ll probably go on a massive rewriting spree now with many others because sometimes the tune is great but the words are so weak.

When we worship, via music, via songs, we must ensure it comes from the heart and that we mean it. We must also be prepared to learn, to be prepared to be challenged. We must acknowledge all aspects of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Now I love music, I love music in churches, but I just wanted to write this. I think sometimes we get the wrong concept of what worship is. We don’t start or begin worship, when we sing we actually join in with the choruses in heaven, but our whole life is worship, of one form or another. Live a life that worships God, love Him with all your strength and yes praise Him in music, but always remember Who you are worshipping.

God in Our Hobbies: Writing Worship

I love sitting down with my guitar and coming up with a song. Granted, I am not a great singer or a great musician, in fact, I’m probably one of the worst around. Nonetheless, to spend time with God and giving praise to him, there is nothing I’d rather do. The Bible says to ‘make a joyful noise to the Lord’; being in tune is just a bonus. Over the past few years, I have written quite a few songs, and I have to thank a friend at university for getting me into the habit. We used to come up with some song ideas, and then he would turn them into something amazing. Now that we live in different parts of the country that’s rather hard to do, so I’ve learnt the guitar to a basic standard and have a go myself!

What do we centre our hobby on?

When someone writes a song, it should be about something they are passionate about, for the Christian, what greater passion than Jesus? I find myself with little desire to write about anything else, even when I tried, I found the songs lacking. Jesus is what we are all about; he has brought us alive, he has set us free. When I write these songs I feel it’s giving back a small offering to God. An amazing thing about our Saviour is that there’s no list of do’s and don’ts (Colossians 2:20) no set religious pattern or legalistic ties we have to follow, no sin offering we have to bring before Him. All we do is, trust in Jesus Christ, giving us a desire to live our lives for him, and in my case write songs to glorify his name.

Experiencing the Holy Spirit

There is however no point in forcing a song out. I have tried and it has come out as a mess. Rather I decide to write when I feel close with him, when I feel led by the Holy Spirit to write one. A song written with the power and presence of the Spirit is amazing, like all things done in the presence of the Spirit. It some ways, for me, writing music and feeling the Spirit makes me desire the Spirit more and more, it’s a unique but wonderful feeling, it’s so amazing that you never want the experience to end, and you have the desire in your heart for more. Song writing really helped me look to Jesus and the Spirit and the Father and just allowed me to pour out my heart in worship to God.

When I have been in tough times at university, the Spirit comforted me and gave me a strong desire to write, and at certain times whilst back home I have had times where songs have poured out. Sometimes, that desire has gone, in some cases, when I allowed sin to rule my heart, the songs completely dried up, but also sometimes after a lengthy writing period, the desire tamed, a lesson was learned or an aspect of God was opened up in glory. I think that is the purpose of song writing, for me. It teaches me, it encourages me to read the Word, and it helps me to experience God in power. And when I look back at these songs, I am reminded of lessons, of times, and it helps me focus my eyes on Jesus more and more.

Finding God in our hobbies

I write this, because do we look for God in our hobbies? Do we find him all around us?   Whatever our hobby; big or small, God can be in it. Do we aim to glorify God in the life we lead, in the hobbies we take part in?   Sometimes it can be difficult to find God in what we enjoy, but perhaps we are putting the hobby before God in our heart? There is nothing wrong in our hobbies, just ensure that they don’t overtake God. God uses our hobbies and life experiences to teach us, we don’t just learn from the Bible. God is alive, he’s not confined to a book (although the bible is extremely important in our lives), and don’t you start quoting about the passing of these experiences in 1 Corinthians 13; nothing is perfect yet. God will use our life, our experiences to guide us, teach us, train us and this certainly applies to our hobbies.

I am no great guitar player or song writer, but I have been blessed with what God has given me. The Spirit of our Lord is amazing and I am thirsty for more. We have read from an article by Josh, of how important it is to read the Bible and rightly so, and also how important is it to be thirsty of His presence? To thirst for the gifts, God has given us, whether spiritual or supernatural? Song writing has opened so much to me and it’s all down to God. In our all hobbies, God can teach us, he can guide us. Christian, are you putting anything in the way and stopping the outworking of the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19)?

The Solution: Authenticity in Worship

In the last two posts, there has been analysis of both traditional and modern worship, showing both the positives and the negatives. This third and final post will aim to bring both of these together, discuss authenticity and finish off with showing a few examples of each styles.

Tunes

I think it can be agreed that tunes are vital in order for us to sing a song properly. They can stir the heart and they have an important role in bringing words to life. It’s easy to read the words of a song, but if you are not stirred within your heart to sing then the words are pointless.  We must also remember that instruments are just as important as words in worship.  Music was created by God and it must be given back to him in praise.  It is a way that musicians can also glorify God.  Both traditional and modern worship followers get fixated by tunes and both will inevitably deny this; but rather than thinking this is wrong, we should think about tunes and should give our attention to such issues.  What can be seen is that the church, old and new, has the same gospel and the same Saviour, just worships in a different style of music.

Style

I think the biggest issue dividing modern and old churches and worship is the ‘style’. Ideally, this should be irrelevant anyway.

There are the two extremes, one that believes we should only worship unaccompanied; whilst the other brings in lights, stages, electronic guitars and all the razzmatazz. To be honest, both styles can be used to praise God; it doesn’t matter so much about the style, as long as they do not distract or detract from the real purpose of our worship.  It’s about giving our all, with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might to worship our God. For many people worshiping unaccompanied or with an old organ makes worship difficult, and we must adjust to this, the same can be said that many find worshiping with all the modern paraphernalia  difficult and again we must adapt to this. We must be careful to not impose our own styles or tastes on anybody, we need to get back to basics, keeping our worship simple and God-honouring.

We can praise God wherever we are and with all different styles of music, because that’s what we were created for, he doesn’t work in one particular environment that was decided by man.  The real issue is that the style of music has divided God’s family, because we are sinners, perhaps it is time to talk to each other and worship in unity as we were meant to. There is a place for all kinds of worship. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to one particular form of worship. Unaccompanied straight-lace psalm-singing is really powerful, and so is modern worship with guitars and other instruments.

Words

I think it can be safe to say that most Christians, whatever their views on worship, love words that praise and glorify God. In this vein, there is something to be said for all kinds of hymns and songs. Time-honoured psalms amaze us with their power. Old hymns are full of rich poetic truth. Newer hymns help us to live out our faith.  Newer songs and choruses give a direct and simple upwards praise to God. We think repetition is bad, but it helps us grasp a single truth or allows us to remember a particular aspect of God which can be big-ask when surrounded by the world (Psalm 136 is a prime example of powerful repetition).

Unfortunately we seem to have lost the awe and amazement of how great God is, which then stirs us to worship God. This awe and amazement that put Daniel flat on his face (Daniel 10), and set lowly shepherds about rejoicing (Luke 2:20). Words are limited in this respect, they only go so far, so let us seek deeper experiences of God and the Holy Spirit, ‘groans that cannot be expressed’ (Romans 8:26).

Words have been and are still valued by both modern and old churches and I think we all need to see this.

Authenticity

After all of this, worship to God is not in the tune, in the style, or the words, but it’s in the authentic heart.  If we are singing because of tradition, or because it sounds great, we are doing it wrong.  It should be about Glorifying God, it’s about our hearts celebrating God, and it’s about so much more than us as individuals.  Worship shouldn’t be sending us to sleep, and it shouldn’t be about putting a man or a band on a pedestal, but in fact, it should make us awake, and it should be about putting God on the pedestal.  Are our hearts authentic?  Are we really in love in Jesus?  Are we letting tradition rule us?  Are we too mesmerised by lights?  Are we really awake?

 

New and old examples

To finish off my series on worship, I would include a few great examples from old and new songs that show just how great each can be.

New songs

This is amazing grace

Bless the Lord O my Soul

At the cross

New Hymns

Streets of this city

Simple living

O Church Arise

Old hymns

Great is thy faithfulness

Come now fount of every blessing

O for a thousand tongues to sing

So in conclusion, worship from any style, new or old is great if it comes from the heart. It is gotten to a point of utter ridiculousness where we are divided because we all like different songs and music.  We need to draw close to each other to unity, as Christ prayed that we would be (John 17:20-23).  Music is great, let us use it properly and worship our Heavenly Father with authentic hearts!