Categotry Archives: worship

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My Changing Views on Worship

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Categories: changing mindsets, creativity, Meanderings (look it up), music, worship

So lately I’ve had worship on my mind, and have been observing a shift in my thinking about worship in the past couple of years. Seems I did some of this before, in a blog series called Re-Thinking Worship. But I’d like to revisit this from a different angle, less from just tossing around ideas, and more about how those ideas are reshaping my whole approach and belief system about it–sort of comparing how I used to see it, and how I see it now.

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Worship: the Sound of the Broken

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), worship

Ben at live.awake posted something about worship last week that really spoke to my soul. (I’ve been waiting to write about this while Ben took care of some technical difficulties, but the link appears to be good now.)

In his post, Ben describes a recent worship service he attended where everything about the worship time seemed “normal” and “right.” And then something happened…let me give you an excerpt:

“The set ended, the lights went out…a large group of men came up on the stage. It was a choir made up of about 15 or so men from a local Teen Challenge camp…This choir was primarily made up of men who are former drug addicts.

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Update on our Re-Thinking of Worship…

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Categories: changing mindsets, worship

A few weeks back, I began publishing a series of posts on “Re-Thinking Worship”, and talked about how my perspectives of worship were being expanded beyond the typical worship-leader sing-along format. (If you want to read the series–seven posts thus far–you can find them under the “worship” category in the right sidebar of my blog.)

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God We Praise You In E-Flat

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Categories: fun, What the heck was THAT?, worship

Okay, time to tell tales on my good friend Aaroneous. (Don’t know why I was remembering this just now, but here we go…)

He and I were on a worship team together some time ago, and we were playing some new song for the first time in church. (Don’t ask me what song, I don’t remember now.) Not only were we having to concentrate on the song because it was new, but it was also in E-flat, a key we almost never played in. I was leading from the piano, and Aaroneous was behind me playing bass and doing BGVs (that’s “background vocals”, for you not-in-the-know, non-musical types). 🙂

Anyhow, as we ended the song, we went into one of these charismatic free-worship moments where we play a chord progression and people just sing their own spontaneous songs to the Lord. And because the song we’d just played was in E-flat, the chord progression was in… E-flat (which we almost never played in). So even though we were being all worshipy, we were having to concentrate harder on our playing, because of playing in E-flat and all.

All of a sudden, I hear Aaroneous crack up laughing at himself. And when we finished with the worship segment, he told me why….

He was trying to sing to the Lord and play in E-flat at the same time (a key we almost never played in), and he was concentrating so hard on playing the right notes that the song that spontaneously flowed from his worshiping lips was:

“God, we praise You in E-flat!”

Now, that’s REAL worship, folks.

I don’t think we ever did that song again. Probably wouldn’t have been able to sing it with a straight face.

Have any funny worship moments to share?

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Re-Thinking Worship (Part 7–Being Real)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, worship

I don’t know how long this series will go. I’ll keep posting on this topic periodically until I run out of things to say about it. 🙂 If you’re just joining us…links to the previous six parts are at the end of this post.

As a worship leader in institutional church settings, I admit I bought into the “show-must-go-on” mentality. In one sense, it was a coping mechanism, because if I let my teammates take the morning off because “I just don’t feel like worshiping today”, or “I had a really bad week, and I’d feel like a hypocrite if I got on the platform today”–I’d probably never have had a quorum. There sure were a lot of times when I didn’t feel like getting up on that platform.

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Re-Thinking Worship (Part 6–The Lost Art of Reflection)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, worship

And so we keep going…there’s just so much to say on the subject of worship. (Links to the previous posts are found at the end of this one.)

I have been a big fan of corporate worship. By corporate worship I do not mean worshiping corporations. 🙂 I mean the act of coming together as a people to worship God–as a people, in one accord. I still like that dynamic when it happens, and I think God does, too. Looking through the Bible, and through history, it seems like God has a tendency to manifest Himself when people come together with the common purpose of seeking Him. (Pentecost is just one example of many.)

HOWEVER…that’s not all there is to worship, either.

When our home church first began exploring this idea of re-thinking and re-shaping our worship, one question I laid on the table for discussion was this: “How do you think you receive most from God–through instruction, through discussion, or through reflection?” Now, we don’t have a large group of post-moderns; most of us are recovering institutional churchgoers. And so most people answered, “Discussion,” which is how most of our gatherings are structured.

Surprisingly, almost no one (initially) answered, “Reflection.” (One person came to realize she receieved through reflection when she said that everyday things, nature, etc. spoke to her about God.) And yet–everyone admitted that reflection is a good way to connect with God.

So…why don’t we do it more?

As I said before, corporate worship is still important. But perhaps an unfortunate byproduct of focusing only on the pulpit/pew, center-stage, worship-leader method of doing corporate worship is that we have programmed ourselves to be entertained. It’s as if we have dumbed down our own spirituality so that we must be led by the hand into the Holy presence of God rather than take the initiative ourselves. Our culture has somehow lost the art of reflection.

What do I mean by reflection? I mean to quiet our heart before God, to ponder, to look, to listen, to meditate. Reflecting upon the aspects of God, like His beauty, His goodness, His love–rather than having someone tell us about Him through a message or a song per se. We don’t do that too much anymore. We have been conditioned to wait for our cue from the stage to know what we ought to do. In fact, many of us are so conditioned this way that we start squirming when things get too quiet. Many times, even while leading corporate worship, I’ve felt drawn to bring the music down, or end the music completely, allowing the group to go into a time of quiet or silent reflection. Most times, it didn’t last more than a few minutes. People (including me, the worship leader) start squirming and feel like we need to move on. We have lost the art of reflection.

It seems that in some circles, there is a trend now toward what is being called “ambient worship.” Rather than have a leader “rally the troops” in corporate singing, the musicians will create a musical environment, allowing people to seek God for themselves–to reflect. Sometimes there won’t even be live music–just a recording. Sometimes there are prayer stations, art, or other things to stimulate reflection. But the remarkable thing is that there is very little direction given, and people are encouraged to seek God out for themselves in that environment. And for the postmodern crowd, it seems to be a strong point of connection for them.

Looking back, I realize I’ve touched on this element of reflective worship without realizing what I was doing–not only in the quiet worship times I described, but in some of the other things we’ve explored recently. We did prayer stations once in our living room, but didn’t repeat it because our folks didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Another time we had an “art night” during a night of public worship, encouraging people to draw or paint during the worship. The band sang songs, but also did a lot of spontaneous instrumental stuff, and didn’t urge people to sing along. It was more like a coffee house feel–except we didn’t have any coffee. That ended up being a pretty powerful time of connecting with God–even without the coffee. 🙂

I guess I’m realizing that this art of reflection, even though culturally we may feel alien to it sometimes, is something we need to rediscover. I’m convinced that there is so much that God says to us that we miss because we aren’t “tuned in”. We only listen to Him on a couple of channels, so to speak. But He speaks to us in other ways than through sermons and Bible verses. He speaks through music; He speaks through art; He speaks through sunsets; He speaks through the wind in the trees. (Not trying to go new-agey here–He just does.) Sometimes, if we’ll stop and just take the time to look around us, and reflect upon Him, we might find a stirring of our soul that will cause us to respond in worship in new and fresh ways.

All through Scripture there are references to reflecting on Him, meditating on Him, pondering. And through the history of the church, reflection has been part of worship. I think it’s only been fairly recently that this art has been lost. I think whatever our worship is going to look like in days to come…this element needs to be part of it.

Read the previous posts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

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Re-Thinking Worship (Part 5–These Songs We Sing)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, worship

Okay, continuing the thread on worship (read parts one, two, three, and four here)…

I’ve been pondering on this blog about why, as a worship leader, I have become bored with corporate worship as we currently practice it. It’s caused me to start deepening my understanding of worship beyond just the singing of songs, to focus more on the weightier matters of the heart, to consider that worship can involve all of life, and even to reimagine what other sorts of things we can do that could be called “worship.”

But today, I want to go back to thinking about the singing aspect of worship. (After all, this isn’t to exclude one form of worship for the others.) Today, I want to express a hunger, a desire, for more depth in the songs we sing when we’re worshiping God.

Now, I think probably every Christian I know has had some opinions about certain songs the church sings that he/she thinks don’t belong there. Most of it comes down to questions over the lyrics. One guy in church used to get on my case for singing a song with the lyric, “I know that You hear every cry/You are listening/No matter what state my heart is in.” He contended with me that God doesn’t hear us when our heart is in sin–a very specific theological standpoint that not everyone would agree with. And a reader here mentioned being uncomfortable with songs that ask God to “rain down” or “come down” because God’s Spirit is already here, with us and in us, so perhaps the “coming down” thing is not a new covenant concept.

I have to be honest here; although I stumble theologically over a few lyrics myself, I personally have some latitude with these kinds of issues, as long as they don’t blatantly contradict Scripture. As an artist, I think we sometimes over-analyze our lyrics, expecting them to be these flawless, theological nuggets instead of just letting them be artistic expressions. I also think we tend to think a little too linearly (like the Greeks) rather than multi-faceted (like the Hebrews who wrote the Scriptures). In Greek thinking, everything has to add up; so if, for example, God is already here, how can He “come down?” For me…I have accepted the omnipresence and infinite nature of God to the point that I don’t have a problem believing He can be here and come down at the same time. Both, in fact, are in Scripture. So in this case, and others like it–when one’s understanding of God could lean either way (and still be Biblical)–I respect everyone’s right to disagree, but in most cases I am not quick to censor lyrics on that account. Just my opinion.

On the other hand…theological issues aside, I’m struggling with both the shallow nature of a lot of the lyrics we sing, and the current tendency of our worship songs to run together, sound all alike, and say basically the same things. I mean, there are only so many ways you can sing, “I love you, Jesus,” “I need You”, “You’re all I want,” “I’m hungry for You,” etc.

Another example (just giving a personal opinion here)–when Hillsongs music first started coming to America, I loved it, thought it was a breath of fresh air. But when the third, fourth and fifth recordings all sounded and acted pretty much the same as the first, I lost interest. And it isn’t just them; it seems like the entire “worship genre” that emerged…well, let’s just say I haven’t had any worship recording genuinely move me since Hungry by Vineyard UK, and that was almost 10 years ago. I’ve stopped going to the Christian bookstore to look for new worship music; I’ve given up on it. Other than a single song here or there, I’m bored with the whole scene. (And that’s hard, because some of these guys on the records are friends of mine.)

Thing is, this apparent genre-wide lull in inspiration is what has compelled me to write more of my own songs these past few years, to try to fill in the gap I am feeling. And I like some of what has come out of that search. But you know what? I’ve gotten bored with my own stuff, too. (Dang it, now that’s rough.) And this is also what’s compelling me to ask some tough questions about the whole thing. Is this all there is? Are we doing this right? Is what we’ve boxed in and called “worship” a fair reflection of the bigness of our God?

If I’m bored with it–what am I doing presenting it to God?? Shouldn’t my offering of worship cost me more than that?

I have to confess that I’m a work in progress on this, and I have fewer answers than questions. I’m not going to stop singing to God, because it’s a good thing to do; but I’m actively seeking a deeper sense of meaning. I look at the Psalms, and I see so much more depth in those lyrics than what we’re writing today.

Something I read recently in the book Exiles by Michael Frost has given me a glimmer of hope. I don’t agree with all his opinions concerning worship, but I do resonate with his thoughts about Christ-followers being revolutionaries, and how that should play out in our songs. He says we need to be singing songs that express a deeper love and commitment to Christ and His ways, in the face of the selfishness, greed and injustice of the world around us. Our songs need to reflect the revolutionary nature of our faith. For me, that’s something to chew on….

What about you? If you could list one song above others that particularly inspires you to worship, what would it be? (And it doesn’t have to be a “worship” song, per se.)

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Re-Thinking Worship (Part 4: Expansion, not Replacement)

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Categories: food for thought, Meanderings (look it up), worship

I’ve mentioned in the previous posts in this series that I’m in the process of re-shaping my whole paradigm of worship. J.R. Miller left a comment that highlights an important point here, and one that deserves clarifying. Here’s a quote from his comment:

“The emphasis I get then is, not that you are seeking tear down what others are doing or what many enjoy, but seeking to “worship” through music in new and diverse ways.”

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Re-Thinking Worship (Part 3: Our Response)

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Categories: changing mindsets, worship

So in pondering the things I’ve shared in the previous posts on this subject…our house church has launched a sort of experiment.

In coming to realize that there must be much more to worship than the corporate worship leader directing the congregation–that this is a method rather than a principle, and is therefore subject to change; and in realizing that this method is growing stale on us; and in realizing that worship is supposed to come from an overflow response to what God has done and is doing in our lives…we began to ask the question:

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Re-Thinking Worship (Part 2: The Overflow)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, worship

Have you ever considered how true worship happens?

One of the most significant differences I see between Christ-following and other religions and belief systems of the world is in the area of worship. There’s a picture in Revelation 5 that illustrates this point.

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