These days, so many people are either completely unaware of why church services start with music or completely out on it because it doesn’t fit whatever human view they have of the purpose the music serves.
For a long time I was in the later camp – strictly because I didn’t get the first part.
Every weekend we’d know we were heading to church, we’d know exactly where the church was and when we were supposed to be there. No surprises. And I’m not the sort of person who shows up late for things. I personally feel that if you can’t be wherever you’re headed on time, then why bother going?
But, when it came to church I found all sorts of excuses to get out the door late, drive slow, drag my feet in the parking lot, take my time getting into the auditorium, wander around before sitting even though we sat in the same place every week. Anything I could do to miss the worship music.
Years later, while I was still doing this all the time (with the exception of the year and a half I ran sound for our worship team at Palm Valley Church) – I became friends with one of the country’s greatest psychiatrists. Turns out he’s also a musician and lifelong Christian who has always been fascinated with how people view worship in church.
In talking one time, this phenomenon came up – the foot dragging, “it’s all about what I want” view of worship services. He explained to me how the church almost tore itself in half when the first piano was brought inside so long ago. Then the same thing happened decades later when the first electric guitar made its way onto a church stage. It’s happening RIGHT NOW as so many people expend all sorts of sideways energy decrying the “secular rock concert” brand of worship so many contemporary churches use these days.
For me, however, it had nothing to do with church tradition and everything to do with my own traditions and mental wiring. As an ex-professional musician, band manager, music reporter, sound engineer and artist developer I had such an intensely critical view of the people putting on the worship service it ruined everything.
I expected perfection from the musicians, sound engineers, sound equipment, worship leader and everyone else involved. Just as I had from my own performances in the secular music industry.
It was during this intersection in the conversation when my psychiatrist friend asked the question that changed everything:
Who is worship for? You? Me? Is it for first time visiting new believers? Lifelong Christians? Church Elders? Staff? Random church-goers?
While I struggled to decide between the choices he provided, he sat there and tried to repress a knowing smirk – one his patients never got to see, but one I’d become all too familiar with in our talks.
It was a trick question.
Worship isn’t about you. It isn’t about me. It isn’t about the professional singer who leaves every ounce of their God-given talent on the stage every Sunday morning. And it certainly isn’t about the marginally talented volunteer musician wannabe who is up there performing worship songs simply because there’s no one else to do it.
It’s about Him.
Psalm 98:4 (NIV)
4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
Worship is us worshipping Him. Not us being entertained, not us rocking to that song they play on the radio that we love, not dancing to the beat of the tune the kids love to sing in the car from K-Love.
It’s about taking the focus off us – our sinful, selfish, inward focused lives – and putting it where it belongs: on God.
Worship is about celebrating an awesome God who loves us so much he gave his one and only child to save us (if you think you love your kids, imagine how much the one who created love feels about Jesus).
It’s not about the people who spend hours and hours every week practicing the songs so you can spend 20 minutes staring at them stone-faced on Sunday morning.
Worship is about heart – taking out the bad in ours and filling it with the good from His.
It’s all about Him.
So, rethink your view, get your self, your family, your friends and whomever else you’re doing life with to church on time this weekend. Get to a seat before the music starts, then stand and let go of everything in you – because it’s all His anyway.
And I know you can do it – I’ve seen you rocking out in your car when you think no one is looking.
Once you do this, you’ll be amazed at how great you feel. Whether the music is your favorite kind or not, whether the band is up to your standards, whether the volume is too low or too high, if your sole focus is on worshipping Him all that will be revealed to be what it is: just a distraction to prevent you from enjoying a joyful hug from the One who made it all.
October is National Pastor Appreciation Month. Show your appreciation for your Pastor by giving your all to Him each and every time you experience worship from now on. And thank the worship Pastors and their teams for helping you give your heart back to the One who gave it to you.