A few months ago, I was standing in church listening to a new worship song that in my opinion was so boisterous and 70s soul that it took all I had to keep from laughing out loud, and I couldn’t keep a grin off my face. In our normally fairly sedate church, one singer in front was turning circles and a musician was literally bouncing up and down off the ground. Maybe this describes your church services every week, and maybe what I’m describing is low-key in comparison. That’s ok–I don’t mean to knock anyone’s favorite style of worship music. I have no doubt the worship leaders at my church that morning were worshiping God with all their hearts, and I know many people followed in that worship.
My favorite fast beat worship songs might include a banjo or xylophone or one of the traditional Irish instruments one of my favorite bands Rend Collective uses, instruments someone else might find just as laughable. My other favorite worship songs have a much slower tempo: songs like “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United and “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. I love Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and Tim Hughes. I also love hymns like “Be Thou My Vision” and “How Great Thou Art.” I have friends, though, who are absolutely unimpressed with Gungor and others with Tomlin, and I know many can’t stand to sing a hymn, while others can’t stand any worship song besides hymns.
I have nothing against a churchgoer finding a church that plays music in a preferred style. It certainly shouldn’t be the only reason for choosing a church, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to worship God in a style that moves your heart. However, what do we do when we find ourselves standing in a worship service of our choosing (or not of our choosing) confronted with a style of music that is not exactly inspiring to us?
I think part of the answer comes from the verses I mentioned last week (Deut. 6:5,Deut. 11:13, Deut. 13:3, Deut. 30:6, Josh. 22:5, Matt. 22:37, Mar. 12:30, and Luk. 10:27). We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. With all our mental strength or might, we should focus our intellect on the words of the song (I believe we need to do this regardless of whether we like the song or not, of course). No matter what style is being used, what are the words saying about God and about who we are in relation to Him? If the words are biblical (and not all Christian songs are), we can spend the time of worship mentally assenting to the words. We can worship God in that time with our minds. We might need to close our eyes or even sit down when others are standing to better concentrate (as I had to do to avoid watching the bouncing musician). If the words are not biblical, or they just spend a lot of time on “Oh, oooohh, oh” like a lot of songs I’ve heard, the time could be spent praying our own words of worship to God or focusing our minds on Him. I think that’s what the “ohs” are for, anyway.
Either way, while choosing to worship God despite less than ideal music, we might find our hearts or emotions begin to engage despite ourselves. In fact, that is exactly what happened with me during the 70s song that Sunday morning. When I let go of my music prejudice and focused on worshiping God despite it all, I found my grin of derision turning into a grin of joy, and I was able to worship right alongside the others who had enjoyed it from the start.
Jesus once talked to a woman about worship. He said to her, “An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). I have to say He wasn’t particularly talking about worshiping God with music here, but music is one way to worship God. Part of what He was saying was that we worship God in our souls, not in a certain location.
I might be stretching this verse too much, but I think we can extrapolate from this verse that we don’t have to worship God in a certain location, including a certain church that plays the type of music we enjoy. We are to worship God with our whole beings (our hearts, souls, and minds) in our spirit no matter where we are. On top of that, we are to worship in truth; we are to truly worship Him without going through the motions of singing familiar songs without thinking of what the words are saying. If we follow this idea of engaging our minds thoroughly when we hear worship songs we don’t like, instead of hindering our worship, they can help our worship end up being true and meaningful.