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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thoughts on Worship

I have a genuine heart for worship. I know, people say that all the time. But what does that mean? It means different things to different people. For me, it means that I desire God to be honoured, glorified, in all I do. When it comes to music and how it is used in a Christian gathering I also desire that God be honoured. I want Him to be centre – not me, not anyone else, not anything else (the music, the performance, the polish, the externals) – but Him. That said, I don’t need to be the one at the piano – I don’t need anyone to know/hear me play. I play for God. If others get in on it, so be it. My desire only is that what is played meets certain criteria. Namely: 1) that it be purposeful – why is music being played? Who is it serving? If it is serving to glorify me, I don’t want it. 2) That it be appropriate – is the music being thoughtfully selected? 3) Is God the centre – the One we are seeking to honour via the channel of music? Or are we focussing on externals – pleasing others being our focus rather than the God we worship?
The source of the music is not the issue. The heart of worship and a desire for God to be glorified is the issue. Whether before or after the service has officially begun or ended, or what is played during communion, I am concerned that perhaps we ignore issues about how to worship God, but focus (not entirely a bad idea) on how to create a certain ‘atmosphere’. People are often drawn to worship God by others worshipping Him – not necessarily by us making it palatable to people’s palates! In this, I am not meaning to complain, criticize or have a bad attitude. My opinions may be strong – but perhaps there is a reason for that. It matters to me what music is used in corporate gatherings because it can either lend to or distract from true worship (God-centred). In fact, silence would also have a place in our gatherings too, and sometimes does. Music should augment reflective worship, not replace or distract from it.
Having said this, I also have a lot to say about kinds of music and genres. I used to be far stronger in my opinions, and reaped the consequences of such. I believe strong opinions are fine, if they’re right J! But I erred on having opinions on stylistic elements and declaring that my tastes were better than others. What pride! To my shame I went through a time of self-reckoning with the Holy Spirit doing a lot of the talking. I learned through various experiences that music styles are not all neutral but are also not all polarized. What I mean is that, there can be something ‘wrong’ with a certain style of music in a certain context. All genres are not okay in all times and places. In Africa, there were certain drum beats used in spiritistic worship rituals. Because of this association, many Christians chose to eliminate drums from their corporate gatherings. I don’t see that this is entirely necessary, but I respect the freedom of others to worship according to their conscience, and this, I believe, is what Paul would promote.

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