Worship Happens When Lyrics Are Applicable To Our Experiences

Worship is our response to God as he reveals what He has done, is doing and will do in our lives.

I led worship for fifteen years and loved it. I loved being able to sing and play guitar and lead people singing about how great God is. Through these experiences I had a lot of doubt, insecurities, and fears but on the other side I had joy, faith and hope. At times, I saw people worship with every ounce of their being and others act like they hardly wanted to be there. I learned a valuable lesson from a friend named David who never moved but stood faithfully in the back of the room and hardly an emotion crossed his face yet worshipped. How I knew that was because I talked with him about it and he says he worships differently. Long story short, people worship differently and worship looks different to different people.

What I am sure of is that musical worship is an experience that needs two things; lyrics and life. What I mean by that is lyrics need to be applicable to life experiences in order for us to respond. We can sing “How great is our God,” but if we haven’t recognized God’s greatness in our lives then our words are invalid. The same goes with the faithfulness of God or his works. God is faithful and the works of his hands are great but if we don’t recognize them in our life, our response when we sing, is a melody with no power.

If we haven’t recognized where God is faithful or working in our lives, then singing these songs will be a regurgitation of words that have no meaning. Regurgitation has no heart, it has no emotion, it releases no lament or joy. It simply voices words with no invested feeling. It’s apathetic. It’s indifferent.

Recently, my wife and I experienced a scare and now joy because our son had fallen eight feet off some bleachers at the Little League park. We weren’t sure how he would come out of falling on concrete from such a high level. After hours spent at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, he was given a full release. This is an incredible story of trust and faith in God and prayers of the community being answered. When we attended church the next Sunday, every song and every lyric was applicable to the experience.

We sang Chris Tomlin’s Sing Sing Sing. The lyrics are “We will sing, sing, sing, grateful that You hear us.” We were very grateful that God heard our prayers when Levi fell and answered us. They were applicable to sing that day.

We sang When I Think About the Lord by Shane and Shane. Although this is a salvation song, it still was applicable because everyday he still picks me up and turns me around and places my feet on solid ground. I needed him to do just that when Levi fell. I needed someone like him that was faithful to stand on and lean against.

We sang I Stand Amazed In The Presence. What an amazing song. It is one of my favorites. The chorus reads

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
is my Savior’s love for me!

After the accident and hearing the outcome, I can’t possibly utter greater words. During this song, I couldn’t help but be moved to shed crocodile tears and my jaw shuttered so much that singing was not an option. I have experienced God’s great love for me and my family and when we sang this song, I was emotionally a wreck.

Back to my point: We need lyrics to apply to experiences for worship to happen.

So my call to worship leaders: choose songs that relate to your congregation. That means you have to be in relation with them in order to know how to minister and lead to them through song.

My call to the congregation: Experience God. The only way to do that is live though the Holy Spirit. Go where he tells you, be who he tells you and experience him as he gives you an abundant life.

When we live in the Spirit we will experience all of who God is and when we sing the lyrics, they will be applicable to our experiences. Then we will be able to experience worship by responding to God’s revelation of himself in our lives.

 

 

 

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What Is This War About

The other night, I was having coffee with a guy I disciple. We are going through my book Faith Debugged (his request) and we were talking over the first chapter on the Armor of God. He asked me a very pointed question. I was taken back at first because of the profoundness of it but quickly realized how simple the answer was.

“If we are at war, what is this war about. I mean I never felt I was at war until I gave my life to Christ.”

There are two sides of this war and they both have a very different fighting style. God’s style of fighting is not a pushy one. It’s a fighting style that eagerly chases you out of love. It’s one that throws mercy and forgiveness at you in hope that you might see just how much He cares for you. It’s a fighting style that says, come to me you weary, jaded, soaked up, beat down one and I will give you rest. There is no condemnation. There is no casting you away. There is no deceitfulness. He desires to love you and be loved by you. His style of fighting is style that wins over your heart rather than tear you apart.

Satan’s style of fighting is much more grueling. He doesn’t care for you. He doesn’t love you. He doesn’t want anything to do with you other than to use you to get at God because he doesn’t care for God more than he doesn’t care for you. It ‘s pushy. He’s bossy. He’s deceitful. He’s cunning. He’s tricky. He lies. But most of all, he wants to hate on God and anyway he can do it, even if that means using you to get to him. He doesn’t mind strapping a bomb to his faithful follower in order to blow up his enemy.

Satan doesn’t fight with rules. God does.

Satan wants to destroy and God wants to give life.

So before we gave God our devotion, Satan had us right where he wanted us and although God was our enemy at the time, there was no friction in our lives because God doesn’t fight that way. He simple says, “Here I am. I love you. Will you worship me.” Each day was a reminder that his love outweighs our needs. But our enemy, God, wasn’t being pushy about it.

The moment we accept who God is and His forgiveness and love towards us, then we have made enemies with what once was our “friend”. Because Satan doesn’t fight like God, now we experience friction. Now we experience the fire in the fight. We experience something causing us pain. Satan will do all he can to get us to regret our decision. But since our decision to be a Christ follower, he steps up his game to hurt God more and in the process make it as uncomfortable for us as he can and what better way than to tempt us to worship ourselves.

What is this war about?

It’s about our worship. God wants our worship. Satan doesn’t want us to worship God and what sin really does in us is makes us lovers of ourselves. Satan tries to manipulate that so that we’d become self worshipers and not God worshipers.

God created us to worship Him. Satan tempts us to worship us. Just as he had tempted Adam and Eve to be like God, knowing good and evil, he tempts us with self-godliness. Self righteousness. Just as Satan thought he could be greater, he tempts us with the same attitude.

God on the other hand shows us why He is worthy of our worship. In His image He created us. He died for us. He suffered for us. He bought us with His blood. His peace He give us. His love, He surrounds us. His mercy, He pours out on us. His grace, He affords us.

We are at war, a spiritual war that needs to be fought and not ran from.  This war is about our worship. There will be a winner. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

Top FIVE Worship Books.

I’ve been leading worship now for about 12 years. I thought I would share with you the top five books that have inspired me in the realm of leading worship. Some of these are practical and some of these are more for our spiritual health. And yes, I’m leaving out the bible on purpose because it should be a no-brainer that God’s word is the most impacting and defining book on true worship. These books are in no particular order.

  1. God Songs – Paul Baloche – Paul takes us on a journey not through worship but gives a full spectrum from the worship ministry. He teaches us music theory, band dynamics and ministry leadership and packs it all into one book. It’s one of my favorites and I occasionally have to refer back to it.
  2. Make Love, Make War – Brian Doerksen – I read this one a few years ago. Brian takes some of his songs a gives a back story and a teaching on how and why they were written and gives songwriting tips. My biggest takeaway was a line that read if he couldn’t worship with a song, he couldn’t lead it. That was liberating.
  3. Created For Worship – Noel Due – I just finished reading this book for my Theology of Worship course in college. This book literally opened my eyes to the practical side of worship. The fact that God had in mind what worship is and what it would look like before creation and how it never changed throughout until he comes back is mind-blowing. It’s a deep read and covers Genesis to Revelations but it’s one of the best books I have ever read on worship as an outward response to God’s manifest revelation.
  4. Following the River – Bob Sorge – This is a little short book that I read every year. If you believe that the musical worship portion of your church should be spirit led and you are open to allowing the Spirit to move you through it, then you should read this book. It talks about staying in the middle of the river as it twists and turns banking off the Scripture in Ezekiel 47. He also talks about spontaneity in our worship services. Great little book and fast read.
  5. Doxology and Theology – Matt Boswell – This book recently came out and is power packed full of theology and doxology. Hence the name of the book. The premise of the book is simple. You can’t have Doxology without Theology. In simple terms, our songs much be thick of the study of God. He obviously argues against the “me,we” songs to put the attention on the saving works of Jesus and the person of God. This is a great book if you want to take your worship deeper than just saying “God is good, God is great, let us thank him for this plate” kind of songs.

Honorable Mention goes to Worship Matter – Bob Kauflin – Honorable Mention goes to this book simply because I have not read it but have heard too many good things about it. It’s sitting on my shelf right now as I write this. I’m just covered up with too many other reading responsibilities to take on another worship book at the moment.

What would you add to this list? What books have impacted you in such a way that it has shifted your worship leading paradigm?

Worship Is…

Worship is far more than singing for a few minutes on Sunday mornings. Worship goes far beyond a tune and some words. It goes deeper than a melody. It spans longer than a radio hit. Worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done for us, is doing for us and will do for us. Reading though Paul and Peter’s letters gives tangible evidence that worship is about more than song. It’s about gratitude and thankfulness. It’s about imitation and service towards one another. It’s about unity and togetherness. It’s about showing grace and mercy because of the grace and mercy shown towards us.  It’s about giving in our poverty, loving in our anger and serving in our pride.

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This blog post was adapted from a discussion board post in my Theology of Worship class

 

Experiential Worship

“The danger now is that we are so focused on the experience our worship can become self-seeking and self-serving. When all of our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we’re missing the point. There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible! ” -Stuart Townend

Debra, Akins. Crosswalk.com, “10 Questions With Stuart Townend.” Accessed September 17, 2013. http://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/10-questions-with-stuart-townend-1202207.html.

“What is Worship” from iHeart Revolution