Most Sundays we will watch a TV program called Songs of Praise and most weeks have varying degrees of “enjoyment” – quite often I can get a rough idea of how the program is going to go depending on who the presenter is and the “topic”
Sometimes unfortunately I wonder what relevance the program has to Christianity at all when they decide to “celebrate” some person or thing or event in history so was excited to see a couple of weeks ago that they were visiting an organisation which was close to our heart. We watched eagerly and enjoyed the sections relating to our “friends” and the amazing work that God does there in changing lives, but we felt that the dynamic message was lost by the swapping backwards and forwards to other topics or a recording of a hymn which sometimes appeared to be being sung by people who were bored – probably because it was so rehearsed for the cameras with complex arrangements by a conductor that it was losing it’s meaning.
Some of the presenters we know have a shall we call it “strong faith” others, you wonder if they are just “presenting”.
As I said sometimes we wonder what the relevance of a song is, how is it considered to be worship? and sometimes it does not appear to have any meaning and it is merely a piece of music. Sometimes as in this weeks episode, we have what can only be described as the extreme opposite. Cut to the scenes of a large gathering with musicians jumping up and down, lots of flashing lights, graphics, and the congregation jumping up and down and this was being portrayed as “Modern Worship”
Now don’t get me wrong, jumping up and down and dancing and making loud music to worship God goes all the way back to the Old Testament when the Psalmist wrote:
Praise his name with dancing; play drums and harps in praise of him (Psalm 149 v 3)
Praise him with loud cymbals (Psalm 150 v 5)
I’m not sure if jumping up and down quite qualifies as “dancing” but then David danced and jumped around in 2 Samuel 6 v 16 (much to his wife’s disgust)
But this is not the reason in itself for my concern.
Many years ago (about 20+) my husband and I were involved in the music/worship team in our church (we still are now so know that it is impossible to please everyone with your choice of song or style of music) and one week someone else stepped in to lead as the person who usually led was away and we were in the congregation. I think it was the first time that this particular person had lead and he had another person working with him. Hubby and I were both shocked to realise that the congregation’s attitude appeared to us as “Oh!, X is not here today, so the worship is not going to be any good so I’m not going to bother”. I tell you, both of us sang as loud and hard as we could, not only to make up for what we perceived as a lack of effort from the rest of the congregation, but to encourage the two people who were nervously giving their best to try and lead in worship and bring people into God’s presence. We had been blessed previously with talented musicians and I had previously been in a much larger fellowship which had some “professional” level musicians, but we realised then that some people were worshiping the music and not God. Yes the skillful playing helps and we practice hard to try and do our best to make an acceptable offering to God and not damage peoples ears but that is not the focus.
When I watch some of these programs or perhaps visit another church, I sometime get the feeling that it is all about the music or the musicians, not God. You see some doing their “piece” in the middle of a song, and can’t help feeling that it’s “Look at me/us, aren’t we amazing musicians. Look at all the whizzy lights and graphics show.
Now sometimes these things are appropriate and are certainly attractive to a lot of people. I have enjoyed going to some concerts by some well known Worship leaders/Songwriters but that is what they are – a concert, and depending on the person you are sometimes lead into worship as they draw people to focus on God rather than them.
Similarly there are some other songs which I shall call “the look at me, aren’t I marvelous I’m going to heaven” songs. Again, there is a place for these.
I have been in “church” long enough to remember the “Hymnbook sandwich” format of Hymn, Prayer, Hymn, Reading, Hymn (offering), “Musical Item” or perhaps a couple of “modern” chorus’s (a bit of a sing song), Sermon and then Hymn and have watched the change in Worship format over all these years and yes I like many of the modern songs as well as some of the older ones. Even some of the old Hymns you wonder what they are talking about and of course they were “Modern” in their day.
Corporate worship as in singing Hymns together apparently was not common in English churches until around the early 1800’s. Previously there had been traveling singers who would travel round the different churches, so there are still comparisons today.
I have read blogs where people are questioning why congregations seem to have lost the art of singing together and this is possibly why – they don’t know the song, the song is not actually a worship song which is meaningful in drawing us to God. Is it scriptural? does it reflect how people are? Does the song still focus on God in a way which regardless of how people are feeling they can still worship Him for his goodness and grace?
I still remember a lot of songs which were based on scripture, they are a great way to get God’s word into you, and you can often remember a song more easily than learning a memory verse (except that you usually can’t remember the scripture reference)
As for me, worship has to be about Him, not us. We may occasionally sing songs rejoicing in what God has done and give thanks for where we are now but the essence is His Worth-ship
I’ll leave you with Matt Redman’s song – When the Music fades…It’s all about You Jesus