At the start of this month I visited the warm, dry and sunny state of Texas for a conference. David Crowder’s Fantastical Worship Conference, to be specific. We were discussing some of the issues surrounding worship in the Church today, with the principle emphasis being on music. In fact, it was all based on one question: Why do we sing?
Several speakers answered this question and all of them gave very impressive arguments. I found Francis Chan’s response to be the most notable. Not because of the answer itself, which was a fairly obvious one, but the way he pointed out the discrepancy between the Biblical community of faith, and the Church of the west today.
So, why is it that we Christians sing?
We sing because God has saved us. Just as in Exodus 15, the Church today sings to celebrate God’s saving work. Singing is principally about a group of people responding to God, together. Simply put, we sing together because we met God together. It’s not about meeting God in the music, because God isn’t somehow ‘more’ present with music playing. It’s about remembering the story, and being touched by the story in the depths of our spirits.
Singing reminds us that God is the one to be enthroned.
Yet, in an ironic twist, in music we so often enthrone ourselves. I’m not even talking about the ‘worship leader’ or ‘lead worshipper’ or ‘guy who stands at the front crying and strumming a guitar’ (Sounds like a City and Colour gig). No, Francis Chan pointed out something far more absurd.
“I wasn’t getting fed”
“The drums were too loud”
“I don’t like organ music”
“I find it hard to understand the speaker”
“It’s all a ritual, there’s no room for the Holy Spirit!”
“It’s all show! Where is the discipline and order in worship?”
Have you ever heard these statements?
Have you ever seen them in the Bible?
I’ve heard people give these reasons as legitimate excuses for walking out of a church. Strangely enough, I’ve never seen them in the Bible. Yet, this has become normal.
Can you imagine seeing the Church today in the Bible? Between the pages of Stephens public lynching, and Paul’s beatings in the cities you have the dialogue of the worship leader and the pastor discussing how loud the bass is allowed to be? Peter and Paul’s dispute over the role of Jewish law in the new Church, followed by a massive church split because the associate pastor thought the book of Psalms was too outdated and they should sing newer songs?
It’s the mentality of self, that I am the highest authority and all things must bow to my wishes and appetites, I can get a cheeseburger at 3 AM. I can carry my entire music collection in my back pocket. I can do my banking without stepping foot outside my home. So why shouldn’t I leave a church because they have electric guitars (or don’t have them, depending on your preference)?
To me it seems our understanding of worship needs to be redeemed. I know mine does. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve disconnected with a communal worship gathering because I didn’t like a song. I think with that redeemed understanding, the transcendent mystery of God might once again permeate our consciences, and we might learn to fear and to love him like those Biblical saints before us.
Just a thought.