It’s safe to say that my outlook and understanding of what worship is and the ways we conduct and express ourselves in worship has changed since I got involved in leading worship at eleven years old… I’d be worried if it hadn’t!
One arena of leading worship I did a lot of was local youth events; occasions, usually in the evening, where groups of young people from the local area would come to sing songs louder than they were allowed to during their regular church services. And I remember my opening gambit was something along the lines of:
“Tonight is about you and God. Don’t worry about the people around you. Don’t be embarrassed to express your love for God however you so choose. It’s between you and God. That’s all that matters.”
I meant every word and I’d heard other older, wiser worship leaders say similar things at bigger and more successful events. But in recent years my thoughts have shifted.
What if that act that we label as ‘worship’ isn’t just about you and God?
In the Bible it says “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord”. (Ephesians 5:19)
It seems as though we’ve majored on the making music from our hearts to God. We’ve focus on that vertical element of worship – It’s between God and us, us and God. I worship God, God blesses me. In some of the bigger festivals, sometimes there are 10,000 people there and I’ve often stood and wondered “how much would one’s experience change if the 9,999 other people weren’t here right now?” In that moment, is it a genuine coporate worship experience or a collection of indvidual moments linked only by geography? Leaving the psychological attributes of being in a crowd aside for a second, it occurs to me that so much emphasis is placed on the individual’s vertical relationship – God and me, me and God – that we might be missing out on something really important.
Worshipping Together. The first part of the verse in Ephesians encourages us to ‘speak to one another‘. Have we neglected the horizontal in favour of the vertical experience?
Are we not all part of something bigger? greater than the sum of our parts? Different limbs but the same body?
Instead of those individual appendages doing their own thing – flailing around independently from the rest of the body throwing the church into a worship induced seizure – what if the body were more delibrate, controlled, coordinated, in harmony, in community working with one another to serve and enjoy God together – not just in locality but in mind and spirit and unity and dependence on one another?
Why not write songs to sing to one another. Build one another up. Love you neighbour. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Meet one another’s needs. Be a family, a body, a collective, a community. Serve one another. Put each other first.