A while back, I had a conversation with a lady from another church. When she found out I was a worship leader, she asked what worship music I listen to during the week? It’s kind of a tricky question to answer. I find the hip-hop of artists like Lecrae and Thi’sl to be very worshipful. I find that I worship Jesus to heavy metal bands like August Burns Red and War of Ages. But I really doubt that this very nice older lady would find any of these artists helpful for her. I also doubt that the heavy metal or rap worship would go over well at my church.
Why? Because the question of what worship music I listen to is a question of personal worship. This is the music that I listen to on my own that helps me to worship Jesus and turn my heart and mind towards God. What about when it’s not just me, but a whole church full of people? What music and expression should we use towards the same ends. The problem we come to is when confuse personal worship with corporate worship.
WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER
I was at a church service a few years back where the worship leader said something that struck me: “It’s just you and God right now, no one else is here,”. Now to be fair, he might have been talking about how only we can come before God, and we can’t rely on the faith of others to go before God for us, and it’s true that I may be nit-picking at semantics, but I think what he was talking about was this mistaken idea that worship is always personal. The reality was that there were 100 other people in the room. We were not by ourselves. We were there together as a church, a community, a family of believers to worship the same God, and same Savior, Jesus. There was nothing personal about it. It was a corporate act of worship.
When I use the word Corporate, I’m not talking about a large business. But the literal definition which comes from the Latin word meaning “a large body of people”. The reason churches battle over musical expressions and styles in worship is that they don’t understand that what we are doing as a church is a corporate act. The individual is replaced by the community in this moment in time.
WORSHIP IN THE AGE OF THE GENIUS MIX
We live in the age of the genius mix. With one touch of a button we can have a playlist tailored to our tastes and preferences. Listening to Spotify or Pandora and don’t like a song? Just hit the “thumbs down” and it’ll go away. We can put our headphones in and tune out the rest of the world. Corporate worship doesn’t work that way. I’m not disconnected and it’s not all about me. It’s about Jesus and His church gathered together to praise His name.
At my church we recognize that we have a wide cross section of people. Old and Young. Guys and Gals. People who like the newest thing and people with more traditional tastes. People who like it fast and loud and people who prefer things a little bit slow and reflective. So we intentionally offer a variety in song worship. One week might be country. The next Modern praise music. The next blues/rock, or old Maranatha/Vineyard stuff. It’s all praising Jesus and giving preference and submitting one to another (Eph 5:21) in our expression of worship.
James 4:1 says “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?.” When we war with each other over personal preferences and our desires, we are living out these words, and these aren’t parts of the bible we want for our “life verse.”