I’ll go ahead and lay it out there for you. I’m a happy-clappy, raise my hands in the air, and shout hallelujah kind of worshiper. I like to dance, wave flags in the air, and if I could find the tambourine my worship leader has hidden from me, I’d be Mr. Tamborine Man (err, Woman). I wasn’t always this “free” with my worship and praise, though. I actually grew up in a Southern Baptist church where an elderly woman led us in song each and every Sunday from a worn hymnal. With her thin, pointed finger she would wave it back and forth to the piano’s tune, smiling as she softly sang, “and He walks with me and He talks with me…”
I can still remember each and every word of each and every traditional hymn we sang back then, but my heart has changed since I left there. Back then I remember being bored to tears as the songs were sung, and I would pass the time trying to make sentences by stringing the title of Hymns together while placing the folded books side by side.
Of course now I’m the furthest thing from bored when I’m singing about Jesus. Now it’s like I feel the love of His Holy Spirit leap from the words and invade my soul. Worship brings me to tears, and sometimes I even laugh out loud with joy at the thought of how good my God is to me. What changed? Was it the style of worship that drew me closer to the Lord?
Well, I don’t think it hurt the process, but to place the act of worship as the sole contributor to my walk with the Lord would be like blaming the preacher if I didn’t get saved. We can no more state that our form of singing songs brings us closer to Jesus all on its own than we can say the flare with which it’s done distracts us from His glory. I’ve sorta seen articles alluding to both, and really that’s placing a little bit too much power in the hands of your worship leader. So while music is a great tool to bring us into the emotional presence of the Lord, I don’t think we should be sidetracking ourselves too much with how other people are doing it.
I can recall being on the mission field at nineteen years old. By this time I no longer tried to get through the music service at church like I had done as a child. Instead I usually wished it would last longer. That past year I had found a true, solid, personal relationship with Jesus, and that had changed everything. It transformed the way I saw time with God, and it had opened a doorway with which I could enter His presence. I found I didn’t need an elaborate worship service to do so, but contemporary worship was something I enjoyed. In my journey I had decided I preferred a Charismatic-type worship experience. That’s what worked for me. In choosing a mission organization I had found a nondenominational group that also participated in the type of worship environment I enjoyed. We used guitars and words on screens; things far different from my upbringing. I recall at one point our team visiting a local church in the area, and it so happened this church practiced a very subdued, traditional and routine music service. And you would not believe what I found in that apparently lackluster, non-spontaneous singing of Hymns.
I found Jesus.
He was there. Because He is always with us. The singing of traditional Hymns didn’t hamper the spirit of worship for me. In fact, they are wonderful testimonies to God’s goodness. Think It is Well With My Soul! At the time I realized I was madly in love with my Savior and the closeness I shared with Him could be found in an old song, a sunset, or the laugh of a child. My Lord had no constraints, but He also was not easily outshone. I’ve seen conversations against a more charismatic worship experience stating that it detracts from the Lord, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spotlight that shines brighter than His glory, heard a song that sings louder than His voice of love, or felt an emotion stronger that the pure joy that is being close to Abba Father. Nothing compares, and if we’re worried about something taking center stage in His place we might be better utilized to place that concern elsewhere.
Here’s the bottom line. You have to find what makes you comfortable. To start you have to find the heart of Jesus, and you won’t find it in a contemporary worship service or a more traditional, Sunday singing service. You’ll find Him when you seek Him, through prayer and meditating on His word. And once you’ve found Him you’ll see Him in all faucets of worship and life. You just might find a certain type of worship suits your personal needs best. Focus on what helps you find a spirit of worship, and let the next guy focus on what accentuates his personal walk most accordingly. Pretty sure God is happy with all songs, whether A cappella, with an organ, or with a kicking drum beat, as long as they are offered with a heart of worship that is singing praises of thanksgiving to His name.
In the end someone is no less spirit-filled if they don’t raise their hands or dance, and I am nowhere near unnoticing of His majesty simply because I enjoy an array of instruments singing His praise. The words written in worship of a Savior are sweet on all lips who sing with gratitude for His mighty, mighty work in us all. No matter if you sing them from a hymnal, or from a large, projected screen.
Psalm 71:23 ESV
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.