Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How do we participate in Worship I

For the last couple years, I have been serving the church in Kuwait at Mishref. Sometimes that means that I am helping with the sound, or watching for new people during the service, or making sure that needs are being met. During this time, I have had many opportunities to watch people as they are worshiping God. This is a very humbling experience for me. It can also be a very unusual thing to watch. I see some people passionately expressing their worship to God, others quietly reflecting during worship, and I see a third category who are just standing their looking at the screen with their hands in their pockets.  Perhaps they are worshiping God in their own way, but it is also safe to say that some people in every church are not engaged during worship. It seems that there is a some confusion as to what it means to worship God during the singing part of church.

What does it mean to expressively worship God?
We worship God as a response to all that God has done for us. I came from a more reserved church
background, where people would dutifully sing the songs that they are supposed to, but only a few people would occasionally lift a hand while singing. Most of those people were standing in the front, and were either the pastor's family or other leaders in the church. It was not until my college years did I see the general congregation expressing themselves to God during worship. It was a bit of an adjustment initially, but I realize that's because I was never really taught to do that before. However, why shouldn't we be expressive before God. I know many people who go totally crazy for a football or baseball game, spending hours beforehand preparing what they are going to do for the day and what they are going to wear. They do the wave during the game, and shout and cheer for the players who score a goal or do something amazing, and are completely mesmerized and immersed in the total experience. However, some of these same people can look like total zombies blankly staring at the screen when we worship God at church. This should not be! How much more amazing and all-consuming is the God of the universe than any sports game. How much more have we been recipients of physical, emotional, and spiritual healing from Jesus than any other earthly memory that we have.

So, what is it?
We sing because we are responding to what God has done for us and in us. God made words to tell how to think, but He made music to tell us how to feel. Music has a special power in our lives to illicit emotion, whether it is exciting and driving, or slow and melancholy, or soft and reflective. This is one of the main reasons we use music and songs in worship. This is combined with words that demonstrate truths about God, truths about our relationship to God, or ways that we interact with God. We are saying in our hearts AND in our minds the words that are displayed in front of us, whether it's thanking Jesus for the cross, discussing how we will be with God forever, or admitting that God gives and takes away. So, combining these truths with the music that is playing allows people in the church to experience God. At the root, though, expressive worship is engaging on a mental and emotional level with God through the songs are being played.

Am I always engaged emotionally with the songs? No, I'm often distracted by various thoughts that are running through my mind, or seeing something out of the corner of my eye, or just generally feeling distant from God. However, by God's grace, I am able to often become affected by worship at church. And there are four things I do that help me in my worship to God that I will explain in my next post!

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