I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately, mostly circulating through social media, of Christians criticizing the worship styles and methods of other believers. This saddens me, brothers and sisters, on many levels. If anything should be held sacred and apart from personal attack, it is our worshipful expressions toward our amazing God.
The trend seems to be specifically focused upon criticizing “modern” worship as “more like a concert than worship” and “just a loud, meaningless performance” and other such indictments. As though anyone can say for someone else that he or she cannot be worshiping as they make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Our church has five campuses spread over the Tampa Bay area, and all five have modern worship styles. I am blessed to know–at least on some level–many of those who are leading worship on all five campuses, some of whom are in my immediate family. I don’t know a single person who is up there for a self-glorifying performance. Any performing I see being done is for an audience of One and for the planned purpose of leading those among them to God’s throne in corporate worship.
I don’t see a flashy concert with a frenzied audience. I see people praising. I see hearts softening. I see brokenness mending. I see lives changing.
That blonde girl up there jumping around and shouting, “In the name of Jesus Enemy’s defeated! And we will shout it out!” is currently saving for a missions trip. That guy playing the guitar? He was called to worship ministry in sixth grade and has never looked back. The guy playing piano? He just lost his teenage daughter and is infusing his grief into using his talent to worship the God who holds her in Heaven.
And that silver-haired guy down there dancing all around in bare feet? That’s a man who loves his Lord with all his heart and recognizes that in all of his unworthiness he is worshiping the One who alone is worthy of the praises of unshod followers and young missionaries and broken fathers and all the others living out their God-calling in wild abandon dancing on holy ground.
One day into recovery from wisdom tooth surgery, I awoke this morning with the words to one of our currently oft-sung worship songs running through my head.
God is fighting for us! Pushing back the darkness! Lighting up the Kingdom that cannot be shaken!
It’s downright Scriptural. In a manner I’ve not seen in many other churches, we cover a variety of musical styles from country to hip-hop to pop to alternative to rock to classical to jazz and all in between. And believe it or not, we sing hymns. Sometimes we sing them in their original versions, often in beautifully blended a cappella harmonies. Sometimes the words are sung in a varied musical style, and sometimes parts of hymns are woven into more modern songs.
It’s okay to sing only hymns. Never mind that many of our original hymns were sung to bar tunes, because all music was God’s first, and what better place to sing God-songs than in bars? My point is whatever happened to worshiping the way you want to, and letting everyone else do the same? We don’t all have to be holding our hymnals like a scene from American Gothic droning out “Bringing in the Sheaves” with all the joyful enthusiasm of a geriatric sloth to be considered real worshipers.
The real worshipers are all of us, friends. However we express it, whatever songs we choose, whatever styles we employ, whether we sit or stand or jump around or dance barefoot. All of us whose hearts have been lit up by the Holy Spirit to pour out our worship to the God who makes all things new. The God Who heals the broken and delights in the dances of the gray-haired and the missionaries, and works His perfect will in and through the kid who said yes to His calling at 6th-grade youth camp.
We’re all in this together, believers. Let’s worship together, all of us, all over the world, in the ways and styles that suit us best as we praise the Creator of beautiful diversity and wide-open worship. Are you in? I am.